Fire Hose Valves

Q: Are we allowed to remove the 1½-inch fire hose valves in our hospital? The local fire department would not even have a means of using them?

A: Section 4.6.12.2 of the 2012 Life Safety Code does imply that you can remove the valves. This section says no existing life safety feature shall be removed or reduced where such feature is a requirement for new construction. Well, 1½-inch fire hose valves are not required in hospitals under new construction standards so the implication is you may remove them.

However, you really need permission from you AHJs in writing before you do. So, contact your local fire department, your state fire marshal, your state department with authority over hospital construction, your accreditation organization, and your liability insurance provider, and get it in writing from each before you remove the valves. If one of the five refuses to allow you to remove the valves, then you cannot regardless what the other AHJs say.

Fire Hose Removal

Q: We have an email confirmation from the State Fire Marshal that approves of our removal of the occupant-use fire hoses in our hospital. What exactly do we have to do with this email?  Do we have to let any other AHJ know?

A: Depending on your accreditation organization (AO), you may have to ask for their permission as well. I do know that Joint Commission used to have a policy that requires hospitals to ask them for permission to remove the occupant-use fire hoses, but I do not believe HFAP or DNV has the same requirement.

Contact your AO and your local AHJ to see if they have regulations that require asking them for permission to remove your occupant-use fire hoses

Strange Observations – Ceiling Gaps

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

Ceilings that contain smoke detectors and/or sprinkler heads have to resist the passage of smoke.

For ceilings that are constructed with acoustical tile and grid assembly, this can be challenging in electrical rooms, or IT rooms where there are a lot of penetrations.

Gaps between the ceiling tile and the conduit cannot exceed 1/8-inch.

Sprinklers in Patient Room Lockers

Q: Are sprinklers required in patient room lockers for existing facilities?

A: No… Section 8.1.1 (7) of NFPA 13-2010 says furniture not intended for occupancy is not required to be sprinklered.

Fire Hose Valves

Q: We recently had our fire sprinkler inspection and was informed by the vendor that with the new 2012 LSC updates, every fire hose connection valve weather it is 1½ inch or 2½ inch needs to be tested and operated annually to verify they are in working order. We have had our fire hoses removed quite some time ago per recommendation from our local fire department. Are these fire hose valves (which are not used) still required to be tested?

A: Yes… but not as you say. First of all, removing the occupant use fire hoses does not mean the fire hose valves will not be used. The fire department will bring their own hoses in to hook up to your standpipe system. Secondly, the fire hose valves must be inspected quarterly, and the fire hose valves that are 2½ inches are required to be tested annually, and the fire hose valves that are 1½ inches are required to be tested once every 3-years.

Take a look at NFPA 25-2011, section 13.5.6.1 for quarterly inspections and section 13.5.6.2 for annual/3-year testing requirements. Just because you removed your occupant use fire-hoses does not relieve you of the responsibility of testing, inspecting and maintaining your fire hose valves. You have them – then you must maintain them.

Mechanical Room Fire Extinguishers

Q: What are your thoughts on using CO2 extinguishers in an HVAC mechanical room, instead of an ABC type?

A: It likely would be a situation where you would be non-compliant with NFPA 10-2010, and therefore you would not be compliant with the 2012 LSC. A CO2 extinguisher carries a BC rating, meaning it is classified for use on flammable liquid fires and electrical fires. But what about fires in your mechanical room that are caused by normal combustibles (paper, cardboard, plastic, linen, etc.)? I’ve yet to see a mechanical room that did not have some level of combustibles stored in the room (filters, boxes of spare parts, trash bags, etc.).

I would recommend ABC fire extinguishers for all mechanical rooms, and the dry powder type is the most common and affordable to use. However, if the mechanical room has sensitive electronic equipment, then perhaps a Clean Agent ABC type extinguisher would be more appropriate.

CO2 extinguishers have a limited value, and should only be used in areas where you have flammable liquids in use and storage, such as laboratories, pharmacies, and perhaps a grounds garage.

Fire Extinguishers in Vehicles

Q: What is the standard on fire extinguishers in work vehicles? We have them in our transit vans to our home health nurses. Do we need them inspected and retagged every year like our buildings? Also do they need a monthly check as well?

A: I am not aware of any NFPA code or standard that requires portable fire extinguishers inside vehicles used/owned/leased by healthcare organizations. If there is a requirement to have them, it may come from your insurance provider.

However, the expectation is once you have them, you must maintain them. So that would mean you need to inspect them monthly, and provide maintenance service on an annual basis.

Missing Ceiling Tiles

Q: Do missing ceiling tiles in a suspended ceiling create a Life Safety Code deficiency in an existing business occupancy? Should section 4.6.12.2 of the 2012 Life Safety Code apply to require the maintenance of broken or missing ceiling tiles in a business occupancy?

A: The complete membrane that the ceiling forms is required if sprinklers or smoke (or heat) detectors are installed in the room or area served by the ceiling. The ceiling acts to trap the heat and smoke and allows the sprinklers or detectors to operate. Otherwise, if a ceiling tile is missing, or has excessive gaps around penetrations, or the ceiling tiles have holes, then heat and smoke can continue up into the interstitial space above and the operation of the sprinklers and/or detectors would be delayed, thus causing an impairment.

If there are no sprinklers or smoke (or heat) detectors in the room or area, then there may not be any Life Safety Code reason for the ceiling system, unless it serves as part of the fire-rated floor/ceiling system, such as UL-G227 or UL-G235. Section 4.6.12.2 would not apply if the ceiling is not serving a purpose of life safety. Now, the suspended grid and tile ceiling may serve an Infection Control purpose, and you would have to maintain it for that reason, but that is not a Life Safety Code purpose.

Yes… this would apply to business occupancies. It is not dependent on any particular occupancy.

Quarterly Test of Main Drain

Q: Has the frequency for the main drain testing changed from annually to quarterly?

A: Yes… but not for all the main drain test locations. The new 2012 LSC now references the 2011 edition of NFPA 25, and section 13.2.5.1 of NFPA 25-2011 requires once per quarter, one (not all) main drain test must be conducted on a system riser located downstream of the backflow preventer when the sole water supply is through a backflow preventer. This test must record the static water pressure, the residual water pressure, and the time required to restore water pressure to static pressure. This test is conducted with the fire pump off (if so equipped) and the jockey pump on.

You still must conduct an annual main drain test on all of the system risers.

Strange Observations – Part 35

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

This is pretty easy to spot… A sprinkler hanger used to support copper medical gas pipe.

Not permitted….