Medical Gas Alarm Panels

Q: Is it a requirement to keep access to the medical gas alarm panel clear in a similar manner that access to medical gas shutoff valves must remain clear? These alarm panels seem to always be mounted in a crowded area.

A: The medical gas shutoff valve clearance which you are referring to is found in NFPA 99 (1999 edition) section 4-3.1.2.3 (d) which requires the zone valves to be readily operable from a standing position in the corridor on the same floor it serves. While it does not specify a clearance in inches or feet, this is frequently interpreted by many authority having jurisdictions (AHJs) to be 36 inches clearance in front of the valves, which is similar to the 36 inch clearance required in front of electrical panels. Section 4-3.1.2.2 (b) 2 of NFPA 99 requires the master medical gas alarm panels to be placed in two locations: 1). In the principal working area of the individual responsible for the maintenance of the medical gas systems, and: 2). In an area where the alarm panel is continuously monitored, such as a switchboard area. Section 4-3.1.2.2 (d) requires area alarm panels to be located at the nurses’ station or some other location that will provide responsible surveillance. NFPA 99 does not specify any clearance requirements for these alarm panels. So, as long as they can be monitored at the locations listed, then you are meeting the requirements of the standard.