Missing Ceiling Tiles Impair Sprinklers

Q: We have a medical office building attached to the hospital using a 2-hour fire-rated separation. Two questions: 1) Our 8th floor is under renovations for a new auditorium and is not always occupied in that area. They have suppression, but also the whole ceiling grid is now open with the tiles removed. Does this require a fire watch? Am I correct in saying either they have to turn the sprinkler system upright to 12-inches from the decking or conduct a fire watch? 2) Our lobby is under renovation and the majority is ceiling tiles but also in the middle it opens up to the 2nd floor. They put up a flame retardant plastic sheeting barrier on the sides but not the ceiling which extends to the 2nd floor. This is also not under negative pressure as there are patients walking throughout. Is this a problem?

A: Yes… you’ve got a problem. When you remove the ceiling tiles from an acoustical grid and tile ceiling, the sprinklers are now impaired. You must conduct a continuous fire watch which requires a qualified trained individual to patrol the impaired area constantly and that person cannot do any other work, and must stay in the area until the impairment is resolved or he is relieved by another individual.

The sprinklers must be within 12-inches of the deck to no longer be considered impaired, and the sprinkler heads must be the correct orientation (upright vs. pendant). Since the construction area is not protected with sprinklers, the temporary separation barrier must be 1-hour fire rated with all openings ¾-hour fire rated doors that self-close and latch. The 1-hour barrier used is typically steel studs with 5/8-inch gypsum board on each side that is taped, mudded and the screw heads covered.