KEEPING HAZARDOUS SAFE

PREVENT fire barrier management

Keeping your facility’s hazardous areas compliant is essential for any healthcare facility. Like all fire barriers, hazardous rooms must be held to the standards outlined in NFPA 80, the book of codes that details specifications for fire barriers. However, with these areas, there is an additional layer of complexity – knowing which of your rooms and compartments are classified as hazardous in the first place –  that will inform your compliance plan.

According to the NFPA, a hazardous area is any room or compartment that is innately at greater risk of starting a fire within a facility. This refers to any room that contains a larger than usual amount of possible fuel for a fire, or some type of technology or device that could ignite a source of fuel. The NFPA 101 Life Safety Code states that hazardous areas include, but are not limited to:

  1. Boiler and fuel-fired heater rooms
  2. Central or bulk laundry rooms that are larger than 100ft2
  3. Paint shops
  4. Rooms containing at least 64 gallons of soiled linen materials
  5. Repair shops
  6. Rooms containing at least 64 gallons of trash or waste
  7. Rooms at least 50ft2 in size that are used for storage or combustible supplies and equipment in amounts that your AHJ deems hazardous
  8. Laboratories using flammable or combustible materials

The code further explains that storage for gasses, anesthesia rooms, and any room or space where cooking occurs can all be considered hazardous rooms at discretion of your AHJ inspector.

Because of the scale of most facilities, there are many areas – and a wide variety of of them – that could all be designated as hazardous. Trying to decide whether your AHJ would label a room hazardous is a slippery slope. It is far more prudent to treat any falling within the above parameters as if they are indeed hazardous. Life safety codes are constantly changing and becoming stricter; the best way to stay ahead of them is to be similarly strict with your facility.

For example, a space might be designed hazardous due to something as simple as a large pile of deconstructed cardboard boxes. According to item #7 above, your AHJ might determine this hazardous depending on his interpretation of the risk based on the room itself, and its contents. Nonetheless, if your fire barriers don’t meet the standard, you are immediately noncompliant. Conversely, if you judged that a large room with a pile of flammable supplies might be considered a hazardous room and maintained all fire barriers leading into and out of that room to the standard expected of a hazardous room, then you would most likely meet the inspection criteria. It’s a false economy to try to “save money” by deferring maintenance to rooms you’re not sure qualify as hazardous – if there is any doubt, take care of them ahead of your inspection. A proactive approach is your best friend in the world of fire and life safety.

STANDARDS

Once you have discerned where your hazardous areas are, you need to know to which standards those opening protectives will be held. This will depend on your fire suppression system, and the location of its sprinklers.

For example, if a fire barrier has sprinklers on both sides of it, then that barrier can be treated like a smoke partition. This means you can install a 20-minute fire door in that opening. However, if the barrier does not have sprinklers, it must be rated to at least 60 minutes. Be sure to check your life safety plans in these instances (and if you don’t have up-to-date plans, let us help you with that, too). There is a chance that the wall has an even higher rating.

In a smoke barrier, your fire door must be rated to at least 1/3 the time of the wall rating, and in a fire barrier, your doors must be rated to at least 2/3 of the wall rating. Both barriers, and the opening protectives set in them, need to be inspected and maintained to the standards mandated in NFPA 80.

WHICH CODE

Understanding and maintaining the fire barriers associated with your hazardous rooms will keep you knee-deep in two expansive, complex code books. You need to understand what the various sections of NFPA 101 expect from the fire barriers within existing healthcare environments, and how and when fire doors and dampers need to be inspected and repaired according to NFPA 80.

Add to this hundreds of other specialized tasks that you need to undertake in order to keep your facilities compliant, and it might be wise to get some advice and hands-on expertise. Give us a call and we’ll get a trained tech team onsite to assist.

PREVENT specializes in all aspects of fire barrier management; no one is better equipped to complete the necessary repairs, or to provide you with the documentation you need to support your compliance status. Hazardous designations are just one of the many considerations of your facility’s life safety compliance. Understanding what makes a room hazardous (and remedying it) can be confusing; let us help you find the clarity – and confidence – you need to keep your compliance on track.