An accurate, up-to-date set of life safety drawings is an asset that your facility cannot go without. This may sound like an exaggeration, because a life safety drawing is just a map of your facility with some extra notes about your walls, corridors, and fire ratings, right? What could be so special about that? You might think, “I have another map with all the same doors, corridors, and stairwells. Why would I waste time and money to create a yet another drawing?”
The answer is simple: because you absolutely need to.
A life safety drawing is more than another map with slightly different information. It is your facility’s detailed guide to correctly maintaining your fire barriers, smoke compartments, and smoke corridors, with precise information about each component. If you don’t know the rating of a wall, how do you know to which standards you must hold your doors and dampers? Even more importantly, how are you going to prove to your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that your facility is compliant?
Think of it this way: for your facility to comply with the NFPA issued life safety codes that it is required to follow, you must first know how to apply these codes to your facility. This is nearly impossible without a set of life safety plans that accurately reflect the current state of your facility—current being the pivotal word. In most facilities, staying compliant is an on-going process, especially with all the structural and remedial changes that happen to existing buildings. A heavily marked-up or outdated set of life safety drawings will not pass an inspection and be deemed compliant.
If you are working towards complying with all NFPA standards, you’ll need to review your life safety drawings, and have them updated by someone who specializes in life safety, fire barrier management and code compliance – as we do.
What is it that sets a life safety drawing so special? A life safety map is a floorplan of your entire building that conveys all the necessary information about your fire barriers, corridors, and compartments. A legend and a color code denotes the ratings of your fire barriers, where your smoke corridors are, where your suites begin and end, and where the compartments are separated. A good life safety drawing can, at a glance, give a technician or surveyor the information they need to inspect or repair accurately. Without it, they would need to set up a containment, pop a ceiling tile, and crawl along the fire barrier looking for markings, testing the material, and hope that the information they need can be found after detailed inspection. That becomes problematic – and costly – every time you need to know the rating of a wall. Now, imagine you could look at a single line on one page of a concise map and find the same information in a heartbeat. That, my friend, is why you have life safety drawings prepared by PREVENT.
Inspections and surveys by the AHJ aren’t the only reason you need to have accurate life safety plans. Regular maintenance of your facility (needed to comply with the codes) is made measurably more difficult without life safety drawings.
Whoever you designate to undertake the repair/maintenance work won’t be able to do the work correctly if they don’t know which codes apply to a door or damper. A door set in a one-hour rated smoke barrier has significantly different requirements than a door set in a two-hour fire barrier. An experienced and knowledgeable technician might be able to make an educated guess or pop a ceiling tile and try and find a marking on the wall, but guesswork has no place in proper building maintenance. You need certainty, because guesswork and deferred maintenance can jeopardize your accreditation.
When you need repairs done, you should always put an accurate life safety drawing in the hands of whoever is doing the work. Better yet, you can hire us – to not only draft new and accurate life safety drawings, but also to complete regular maintenance on your fire barriers.
Perhaps you already have a set of life safety plans. Great! You’ve already taken the biggest step – the heavy lifting is done, you think. Maybe the building isn’t that old, and the original architect and engineers had the wherewithal to generate life safety drawings while the building was being designed. This is a great start – but you aren’t totally in the clear yet. Ask yourself, “When were these plans drafted? Have there been any significant changes to my building since this map was generated? Have I navigated this building using this map and ever been confused or misguided by a detail in the map? Is there a door on this map that isn’t in my building?” These may seem like trivial questions, but we have inspected many healthcare facilities that have supplied life safety plans that almost seemed like they were from a different building. Having poor quality life safety drawings is only a minor step up from having none.
If your facility has undergone remodeling, and corridors and door placements have changed even slightly, it’s time to redo those drawings. And if you have no life safety drawings at all, then you don’t have any time to waste. It is a miracle that your AHJ hasn’t forced you to take action already. Whatever you are doing right now (including reading this), stop and schedule a facility review and new life safety drawings generated. (send us a note and we’ll quote it). We promise you, the cost of obtaining accurate life safety plans is dwarfed by the consequences of not passing an inspection by your AHJ.
WE CAN HELP
Yes, you might be opening a proverbial can of worms, but it is far better to discover this work needs to be done and complete it before an important inspection occurs than for the inspector to find the same problems and cite you. You run the risk of having your facility shut down if the problems are deemed serious and your documentation insufficient.
Let us take a good, hard look at your facility and its life safety plans. This is the first step in being prepared for the endless battle that is keeping compliant with NFPA codes. We’ll send a team of specialized, certified, professionals to take care of not only your life safety drawings, but also your entire facility’s fire barriers.
We’re here to help you stay compliant, and to save lives.