Non-Sprinklered Elevator Control Room

Q: In a physician’s clinic that is claimed to be fully protected with sprinklers, the building elevator control room is not sprinklered. Must I install or can I leave it that way?

A: A Business Occupancy building that is fully protected with sprinklers provides you with the ability to meet certain options in the LSC that allows you to take advantage of certain features, such as:

  • Delayed egress locks would be permitted
  • Less restrictions on egress capacity factors
  • Exits permitted to discharge through the interior of the building
  • Less restrictions on hazardous areas
  • Less restrictions on interior finishes
  • Increased travel distances

According to NFPA 13-2010, the standard for sprinkler installation, there are very few exceptions to not installing sprinklers, and allow the building to still be considered fully sprinklered:

  • 2-hour fire-rated barriers around an electrical room
  • Clean agent suppression system installations

However, the 2012 Life Safety Code does have an exception specific to elevator machine rooms. Section 7.14.4.2 says sprinklers shall not be installed in elevator machine rooms serving occupant evacuation elevators, and such prohibition shall not cause an otherwise fully sprinklered building to be classified as non-sprinklered. This is one situation where the Life Safety Code trumps NFPA 13 on the installation of sprinklers.

The 2012 Life Safety Code Handbook continues to provide insight on this prohibition:

The presence of sprinklers in the elevator machine room would necessitate the installation of a shunt trip for automatically disconnecting the main line power for compliance with ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, as it is unsafe to operate elevators while sprinkler water is being discharged in the elevator machine room. The presence of a shunt trip conflicts with the needs of an occupant evacuation elevator, as it disconnects the power without ensuring that the elevator is first returned to a safe floor so as to prevent trapping occupants.

So, no… you should not install sprinklers in the elevator machine rooms.

Sprinkler System Exceptions

Q: Are there any exceptions in NFPA 13 for smoke detectors in lieu of sprinklers in areas such as radiology rooms or other high tech equipment rooms and still be considered “fully sprinklered”?

A: No. There is an exception in Section 8.15.10.3 of NFPA 13-2010 that allows electrical rooms not be sprinklered, and the building can still be considered fully sprinklered, provided the room is dedicated to electrical equipment only; only dry-type electrical equipment is used; equipment is installed in a 2-hour fire-rated enclosure including protection for penetrations; and no combustible storage is permitted in the room.

And, you can install clean agent suppression systems in lieu of wet sprinklers and the building is still considered fully sprinklered, but there are no exceptions allowing smoke detectors in lieu of sprinklers in any type of room, and still consider the building “fully sprinklered”.

Sprinkler Inventory

Q: We are a life safety service company that provides consultation services for multiple hospitals. We had a hospital go through a survey recently, and the surveyor wrote them up for not having an inventory of sprinkler heads. Would you know where we could find this requirement for this inventory?

A: The surveyor may be looking at NFPA 13-2010, section 6.2.9.7, which does require the facility to have a spare sprinkler list, which is based on the different types of sprinklers in your facility and the quantity of those sprinklers. While this is not the same as saying an inventory of the sprinkler heads is required, you do need to know the types and quantities of sprinklers in your facility.

Or the surveyor may be looking at NFPA 25-2011 section 5.2.1, which requires an annual inspection of all the sprinkler heads. Usually, the hospital will contract this out to a sprinkler contractor and often the report simply says “All sprinkler heads inspected”, or something like that. The problem is, how does the hospital know that the contractor actually inspected every sprinkler head in the hospital? Did the contractor enter every room, every closet, every office, every OR, every equipment room, etc. in the facility? Without a detailed inventory or documentation (such as drawings of sprinklered areas) showing the heads were inspected in the respective areas, what assurance does the hospital (and the surveyor) have that every head was inspected?

But to be sure, there is no direct NFPA standard that says “Thou shalt inventory every sprinkler”, but it is well within the right of the authorities to request documentation that assures how the facility documented the spare sprinkler list and that the contractor inspected every head.

Sprinkler Obstructions

Q: My question is in regard to NFPA 13 sprinkler obstruction compliance…We want to install some surveillance monitors in our security office along a wall. How much vertical clear space is required between the monitors to the ceiling, if the monitors will be 30 inches away, horizontally from the sprinkler head?

A: Those monitors may extend vertically up to the ceiling as long as they are not directly underneath a sprinkler head, and they are attached to the wall. You said they were 30 inches away horizontally from the sprinklers, so you should be okay.

The Annex section A.8.6.6 of NFPA 13-2010 says the following:

“The 18 in. (457 mm) dimension is not intended to limit the height of shelving on a wall or shelving against a wall in accordance with 8.6.6, 8.7.6, 8.8.6, and Section 8.9. Where shelving is installed on a wall and is not directly below sprinklers, the shelves, including storage thereon, can extend above the level of a plane located 18 in. (457 mm) below ceiling sprinkler deflectors. Shelving, and any storage thereon, directly below the sprinklers cannot extend above a plane located 18 in. (457 mm) below the ceiling sprinkler deflectors.”

While the monitor may not be shelves, the concept is the same.

Strange Observations – Sprinkler Pipe Supported From Ductwork

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

This is another picture of sprinkler pipe supported from HVAC ductwork, similar to last week’s Strange Observations.

I include it here to emphasize that sprinkler pipe cannot be supported from anything except the building structure itself.

I suspect I see this problem in 75% of the hospital where I consult… but then, I’m looking for it.

There is one exception to that rule… Sprinkler pipe may be suspended from a hanger that also supports ductwork, provided the hanger is designed to support the weight of the duct, the pipe, the water in the pipe, and an additional 250 lbs. (see NFPA 13-2010, 9.2.1.5). If you ever see sprinkler pipe suspended from the same hanger that supports ductwork, ask the installer to provide documentation that the hanger can support that weight.

Strange Observations – Sprinkler Pipe Suspended From Ductwork

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

Some organizations fail to install sprinklers underneath the ductwork that is 48-inches wide or wider. This facility did not forget, but the sprinkler-fitter who installed this pipe for the sprinkler head attached it to the ductwork, which is not permitted.

The sprinkler pipe can only be suspended from the building itself (i.e. structural beams, joists, etc.), and not from anything else.

There is one exception to that rule… Sprinkler pipe may be suspended from a hanger that also supports ductwork, provided the hanger is designed to support the weight of the duct, the pipe, the water in the pipe, and an additional 250 lbs. (see NFPA 13-2010, 9.2.1.5). If you ever see sprinkler pipe suspended from the same hanger that supports ductwork, ask the installer to provide documentation that the hanger can support that weight.

Sprinkler Inventory List

Q: NFPA 13, 2010 edition, sections 6.2.9.7 & 6.2.9.7.1: Do I read this to mean every sprinkler in every room and hallway in a hospital should be on an itemized list?

A: Well… yes and no. If you are asking if every sprinkler in the facility needs to be on an inventory list that identifies the precise location of each sprinkler installed, then no, that is not the intent of NFPA 13-2010, section 6.2.9.7 (although, that’s a good inventory list to have).

But section 6.2.9.7 does require a list of sprinklers used (but not where they are installed) in the facility, that includes:

  • The sprinkler model number or identification number from the manufacturer;
  • A general description, such as upright or pendant; temperature rating; concealed; extended coverage; Quick-response; etc.
  • The quantity of each type to be sprinkler to be maintained as spares in the Spare Sprinkler Cabinet;
  • Issue or revision date of the list.

This information can be obtained from the “Contractor’s Material and Test Certificate” that was required to be submitted to the owner after the installation of the sprinkler system.

NFPA 13-2010, section 6.2.9 requires spare sprinklers to be maintained so there can be a quick replacement of any sprinkler that has operated or became damaged. You are required to maintain at least two spare sprinklers for each type of sprinkler installed in your facility, but never less than a combined total of six spare heads.

  • For a facility that has fewer than 300 total sprinklers, you are required to maintain a combined total of six spare sprinklers.
  • For a facility that has 300 to 1,000 total sprinklers, you are required to maintain a combined total of 12 spare sprinklers.
  • For a facility that has more than 1,000 sprinklers, you are required to maintain a combined total of 24 spare sprinklers.

So, for some hospitals that have more than 1,000 sprinklers, but only 4 different types of sprinklers are installed in the hospital, that would require them to maintain 6 spare sprinklers of each type. But understand, if the hospital has only two specialty sprinklers installed in the hospital (such as high temperature heads in the boiler room), then there is no requirement to stock 6 spare heads of that type. You may stock just the two heads. A wrench for installing each type of sprinkler is required, which mean if four different wrenches are required to install the four different styles of sprinklers, then that is what you need to maintain. Where dry sprinklers of different lengths are installed in the facility, then spare dry sprinklers are not required.

Strange Observations – Sprinkler in the Alcove

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

The good news is you have an alcove in the corridor where you can store linen carts. The bad news is a sprinkler head was installed in the alcove preventing you from storing linen carts.

In this photo, the top of the linen cart is too close to the sprinkler deflector. You must maintain at least 18-inches clearance underneath the sprinkler head.

I’m not an expert on sprinkler design, but I suspect they would not need a sprinkler head in the alcove, if another sprinkler head was in close proximity.

Strange Observations – Ceiling Penetrations

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

This picture was taken in an electrical room. Where the conduits extend upwards and penetrate the suspended ceiling, the gaps around the conduits are too large.

Most surveyors will use the NFPA 80 maximum 1/8-inch gap rule fire door clearance to frames as a standard for the maximum gap around conduit penetrations, where the ceiling is required to act as a membrane for smoke detectors or sprinkler heads.

In situations like this, the easiest and best solution is to remove the suspended ceiling from the electrical room, and relocate the lights in the ceiling to the deck above.

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.