Fire Safety Code Requirements Update for Long-term Care Facilities
Fires at long-term care (LTC) facilities have made local headlines in recent months, causing injuries to residents, significant damage to buildings, and unwanted publicity. Short-term rehab, senior living, long-term care and healthcare providers are similarly faced with the compounded threat of fires to their less mobile patients and residents.
In an effort to modernize facilities and ensure the proper safety provisions are implemented, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final version that updates fire protection and life safety guidelines for healthcare facilities. The new safety regulations adopt updated provisions of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code.
It is critical that as healthcare companies offer more residential environments, they utilize the best fire safety technology available. The provisions cover construction, protection, and operational codes that are enforced to provide safety for patients and residents from fire and smoke. The complete details regarding the updates can be found at NFPA.org. Some of these changes include:
- An automatic sprinkler system is required to be installed within 12 years after the rule’s effective dateFor buildings over 75 feet.
- If the sprinkler system is out of service for more than 10 hours, the facility is required to facilitate a fire watch or evacuate the building.
- The provisions offer greater flexibility in what LTC facilities can place in corridors. Previously, benches or other seating areas could not be located in corridors because of fire code requirements limiting potential barriers to firefighters. Under the new code, corridor widths may be reduced to 5 feet where wheeled equipment and carts are in use.
- An additional amount of wall space that may be covered with combustible decorations is allowed. Under the new guidelines, LTC facilities will be able to include more homelike items such as certain decorations in patient rooms, pictures, and other items of home décor.
- The size of clean waste and record recycling containers has been increased.
- Direct vent gas fireplaces may now be allowed in smoke compartments open to the corridor. This is yet another opportunity for a facility to create a more homelike environment.
- Residents may now have access to residential-like kitchens in spaces open to the corridor, allowing supervision by the facility staff.
These new provisions will require more frequent inspections and maintenance. Providers should make sure that their vendors and contractors are carrying out work in accordance with the current version of the code. If you feel your facility may need a life safety code analysis or if you have any general questions regarding fire safety issues, contact us at 937-832-1150 or 513-655-2619.
Disclaimer: This content is intended to serve as a general guide and not a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of your architectural professional with any questions you may have regarding a building project.