Exit Enclosures

Q: I have been reading about stairwells and what the code addresses. I am interpreting that the AHJ’s are stringent of what can be placed in a stairwell. Is it permissible to install wireless access points (antenna) in the stairwell? We have no phone coverage in the stairwells because of the absence of these antennas. I believe without phone coverage creates a safety issue. If an emergency would arise in the stairwell we do not have access to contact anybody.

A: Well… section 7.1.3.2.1 (10)(b) of the 2012 LSC does say electrical conduits serving the exit enclosure are permitted to penetrate the exit enclosure, but the Annex section clarifies that the only electrical conduits permitted to penetrate the exit enclosure are those serving equipment permitted in the exit enclosure, such as security equipment, PA systems, and fire department emergency communication devices. Wireless access point antennas typically are not considered essential equipment in the stairwells and does not meet the intent of the list identified in the Annex section.

While you may get a local AHJ to approve such an installation, I think you will have trouble with national AHJs for accreditation. I suggest you install your antennas outside of the stairwell.

Fire-Fighter Emergency Phones

Q: Are firefighter emergency call phones still required in new construction? We have an existing hospital and management is wanting to add a whole new patient tower and the construction company is trying to say they are no longer required. I know the old system was the red phones and the new system is the plug in phones. Can you shed any light on this?

A: Generally speaking, two-way communications are only required in high rises according to section 11.8.4.2.1 of the 2012 Life Safety Code. However, section 11.8.4.2.2 allows for a fire department radio system installation in lieu of the fire-phones.  Most AHJs utilize these radios so the method of two way communications in a high rise hospital must be coordinated with the fire department.  Most will require the installation of a compatible radio system and will not require the fire-phones.