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Life Safety Code - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it permissible to use electric wheelchairs with an attached small oxygen cylinder?

This is permissible. We are not aware of restrictions that would prohibit the use of small oxygen cylinders on electric wheelchairs. Due to a fire that occurred on a wheelchair while it was being recharged, oxygen cylinders shall be removed from the area when wheelchair batteries are being recharged.

Are residents allowed to have portable fans in their rooms?

There are no Life Safety Code issues concerning a personal fan. The fan shall be used in a safe manner. The fan should be placed so that power cord is not a trip hazard, and the cord and plug must be maintained in good condition. The cage around the fan blades must be of a design that prevents fingers from reaching the blades. Combination fan/heater units are prohibited by the Life Safety Code.

Are there any restrictions on computers on carts kept in the corridors?

The 2000 Life Safety Code prohibits obstructions or items placed in corridors serving as exit paths, as indicated in this excerpt from Chapter 7 of the Code - 7.1.10.1. Means of egress shall be continuously maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency. The use of wheeled carts such as you described is a violation of this Code requirement, unless the items are in continuous use by staff. Federal (CMS) policy is that such items in corridors must be used and moved by staff at least once every 30 minutes, or the items are considered to have been left or stored in the corridor. Parking them in the corridor to recharge batteries is definitely not acceptable.

What is the material requirements for the construction/repair of kitchen walls?

Materials for kitchen walls are dictated by our department's environmental rules, at Section 420-3-22-.25, Walls and Ceilings. This is the rule enforced by environmental staff from each county health department. If the kitchen wall is a fire rated wall, the construction needs to maintain the fire rating. Visit Environmental Services for more information.

Are bedspreads a furnishing that has to be fire retardant or is it considered bed linen?

Bedspreads are not regulated by the Life Safety Code. Section 19.7.5 gives requirements only for "loosely hanging fabrics" such as privacy curtains and draperies, mattresses and upholstered furniture.

What information does the State require to install an FM-200 fire suppression system in a hospital computer room?

This requires submittal to Technical Services for review and approval, including plans showing equipment, interface with existing building fire suppression and fire alarm, and any necessary equipment and design information.

Does the Life Safety Code prevent a resident in a SNF from having a lock on their closet door within their private room in order to secure certain valuables?

The Life Safety Code prohibits doors in a means of egress from being locked against exiting traffic: 7.2.1.5.1. Doors shall be arranged to be opened readily from the egress side whenever the building is occupied. Locks, if provided, shall not require the use of a key, a tool, or special knowledge or effort for operation from the egress side. Our view of this is that a closet large enough for a person to get into is one that they could get locked up in. If locks are provided, they need to be of a design that permits operation from the inside without a key.

Can a storage room door be propped open with articles such as boxes, chairs, etc. if the room is occupied?

Paragraph 19.3.6.3.3 of the 2000 Edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, permits hold-open devices only of a specific type on corridor doors in health care facilities. Propping doors open is not permitted. Annex A paragraph A.19.3.6.3.3 contains this sentence: A.19.3.6.3.3 Doors should not be blocked open by furniture, door stops, chocks, tie-backs, drop-down or plunger-type devices, or other devices that necessitate manual unlatching or releasing action to close. Doors to storage rooms, classified as Hazardous, must be self-closing, as required by this sentence from paragraph 19.3.2.1, "Hazardous Areas," - "The doors shall be self-closing or automatic-closing."

What are the requirements for residents keeping and using microwave ovens in their rooms?

The Life Safety Code does not address the use of microwave ovens in health care bedrooms. Microwave ovens should have a safe electrical connection. Otherwise they are acceptable. Regarding the health care issues, review Cooking Appliances in Resident Bedrooms. This article has application to food and cooking issues. There are no regulations on the health care side that apply specifically to microwave ovens.

What is the requirement for testing outside fire plugs and who is certified to do this testing?

Assuming that these hydrants are on the facility property, NFPA 25, "Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, 1998 Edition," requires fire hydrants on private property to be inspected and tested annually, and after each operation. This requirement is found in paragraphs 4-2.2.4 and 4-2.2.5, and in Table 4-2.1. This testing may be performed by the local fire department. You could ask them. Otherwise, the sprinkler contractor that does your maintenance and testing might be capable of doing the tests. There is no regulation regarding who does this testing.

Our fire alarm system is programmed to silence the bell and horns after two minutes. The strobes and all other functions of the alarm systems still work, just the bells and horns are silenced after two minutes has expired. Is this acceptable or should we reprogram the system not to auto silence?

Paragraph 1-5.4.8 of the 1999 NFPA 72, Fire Alarm Code, allows automatic turning off of alarm notification appliances only when permitted by the authority having jurisdiction, which would be our agency. We do not permit this, so the silencing of your alarm system must be manual, not automatic.

Our nursing home has a privacy problem in our patient shower and bathrooms. Can we put Simplex push-button coded locks on the doors and still be in compliance?

As long as residents can gain access to the bathroom when they need it, this should not be a resident care problem. As long as someone inside the room can freely exit the room at any time, there is no code issue.

Can I install automatic door closers to these rooms without violating any life safety issues?

There is no code problem with adding a closer to this door.

When adding an external aluminum/canvas awning to the outside of the building would the awning need to be sprinklered?

The 1999 NFPA 13, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems," contains the following paragraphs:
5-13.8.1 - Sprinklers shall be installed under exterior roofs or canopies exceeding 4 ft (1.2 m) in width. Exception: Sprinklers are permitted to be omitted where the canopy or roof is of noncombustible or limited combustible construction.
5-13.8.2 - Sprinklers shall be installed under roofs or canopies over areas where combustibles are stored and handled.
Sprinklers are not required when the canopy is noncombustible, per the exception to 5-13.8.1. If this is a fabric-covered canopy framework, it may meet the definition of "limited combustible" as found in section 1-4 DEFINITIONS. A limited combustible material must have a flame spread index of 25 or less, and not be "subject to increase in combustibility or flame spread rating beyond the limits herein established through the effects of age, moisture, or other atmospheric condition." However, if the fabric is subject to deterioration as described, it is considered combustible. Sprinklers would be required in that case.

Are there any special requirements for storing a helium tank inside a nursing home?

We are not aware of a prohibition against storing helium inside a facility, even in the same area as oxygen. NFPA 99 restricts combustibles in the area with oxygen. Helium is classified as an inert gas. Codes/standards require pressure storage cylinders to be protected from damage caused by falling over, or from other objects falling against them. Cylinders must be clearly labeled to indicate their contents.

We are currently replacing several doors that are required to be fire rated. Is it a requirement to have the metal plate on the door with the fire rating?

Paragraph 8.2.3.2.1(a) of the 2000 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, requires fire-rated doors to comply with NFPA 80, "Standard for Fire Doors and Fire Windows". Also, the 1999 Standard Building Code, paragraph 705.1.3.1, requires "approved listed and labeled fire doors" which comply "with the requirements of NFPA 80". Section 1-6 of NFPA 80, 1999 edition, "Types of Doors", states, "Only labeled doors fire doors shall be used". Section 1-6.2 explains further that the label indicates "the design and construction of the door". According to the definitions in NFPA 80, "labeled" refers to a product or assembly which has a label applied to it. Therefore, the codes require fire-rated doors and windows to have an appropriately applied label.


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