Q: I was always under the impression that no storage was allowed in mechanical rooms within hospitals. Now I work at a hospital that allows ladders and supplies to be stored in mechanical rooms. Is this allowed?
A: All I can say is it is not a NFPA violation to store items in mechanical rooms, as long as it is done properly. Obviously, storing combustible or flammable items must be accomplished in approved storage rooms, and the typical mechanical room may not qualify for these hazards. But then again, perhaps a mechanical room could qualify to store combustibles. Sections 220.127.116.11 for new construction and 18.104.22.168 for existing conditions of the 2000 edition of the LSC describe the requirements for storing combustibles. It does not make sense to store a bunch of cardboard boxes full of paper filters in a mechanical room that also houses fuel-fired equipment. But why can’t you store those same boxes of filters in a mechanical room for air handlers that does not have any fuel-fire equipment, and qualifies as a hazardous room under the code sections referenced? The NFPA codes and standards do not prohibit it. Where hospitals get ‘pinched’ on this issue, is they don’t do their homework. A mechanical room that was never designed to double up as a storage room may not qualify as a storage room for combustibles. If you alter (or change) the use of a room or area, the room or area must comply with the requirements for new construction. This means if a hospital decides to start storing combustibles in an AHU mechanical (with no fuel-fired equipment), now the room must be protected with 1-hour fire rated barriers, and also be protected with automatic sprinklers. If the room in question does not meet these requirements, then the hospital is exposed for a citation. Another issue is access. Even if the same AHU mechanical room described above qualifies as a hazardous room, if there are so many items stored in the mechanical room that obstructs access to the mechanical equipment, then that is a problem and the hospital could be cited as well