NFPA Today

A hallway in a hospital

Basics of Suites in Health Care Occupancies

The use of suites in health care occupancies can provide significant flexibility in the design, construction, and functional daily use of a space. The term suites can be heard frequently when speaking with health care professionals and often very casually being tossed around. “Is it a suite? Can it be a suite? Have you designated it as a suite?” All of this is with great intentions but can certainly be overwhelming for someone just getting into their field or simply without experience in some more advanced life safety concepts. In terms of the Life Safety Code, a suite must meet very specific criteria. A quick google search for healthcare suite or hospital suite returns images of patient rooms that are much nicer than any hotel I’ve ever stayed in; not quite what we’re talking about here.  This blog discusses the definition of suites, the different types of suites, the benefits of a suite, and the requirements for their application.  What is a suite? For some life safety and fire protection topics a quick reference to a definition can give a user a good idea of what a code is talking about. This is not quite the case with suites. While there is a definition in NFPA 101 and it has been recently tweaked for the 2021 edition it’s not truly painting a full picture of all that encompasses a suite. Health Care Suite: A room or rooms sharing a means of egress separated from the remainder of the building by walls, doors, floors, and ceilings. (NFPA 101, 2021) While this gives an indication of what the concept is, it leaves a lot for a user to figure out beyond the simple definition. Instead of jumping directly to the requirements for suites, we need to first start by looking at the context that exists around their use. Without suites, what does the code require? The primary requirement to consider is that every habitable room in a health care occupancy is required to have an exit access door leading directly to an exit access corridor. This is demonstrated by the sleeping rooms in the bottom left of the image below. In providing life safety, corridors are protected spaces that come with their own set of requirements including a minimum width of 8 ft (2440 mm) in new health care occupancies, door operational requirements, and limited amounts of projections (more on these below). One exception to this rule for rooms opening directly to the corridor is for rooms within suites.   A common description of a suite that is often used is “rooms within a room.” This is because instead of requiring every room to open directly into an exit access the main door(s) from the corridor into or out of the suite is considered the exit access door(s) for that ‘room.’ Even if the suite is subdivided into more rooms, those are then permitted to open into a passageway within the suite. A further benefit of the suite provisions is that the passageway within the suite is not required to meet the requirements for a corridor, such as the minimum width requirements. Key Point: Suites allow larger areas to be treated as a single room permitting a single exit access door leading to an exit access corridor even if that space is subdivided into more rooms. Key Point: Suites are not easily described by a simple definition. Understanding the context in which they play a role in life safety is key to understanding what they are. What are the benefits of suites? In framing the context of suites within NFPA 101 one of the main benefits of utilizing the suite provisions has already been mentioned. The fact that there are no corridors within a suite provides multiple benefits. The first of these being added flexibility of the use of the space in between rooms that looks and feels like a corridor but is not subject to those requirements and should be referred to as “circulating space,” “passages” “halls” or some similar term to avoid confusion on life safety drawings. Where a corridor in new health care occupancies must have a minimum width 8 ft (2440 mm) and can only have a very limited amount of projections or wheeled equipment in them, the halls within a suite are only subject to minimum widths of exit access which is 36 in (915 mm) per NFPA 101, although it should be sized to be able to readily evacuate or relocate patients in the event of a fire and plans should be in place for prompt removal of any equipment reducing widths. Another benefit to not being considered a corridor is that patient rooms inside the suite can be open to the space and/or use a variety of different doors. If located directly off a corridor the requirements for the patient room door are much more prescriptive and include requirements for maximum clearances, and latching, among others. The doors, or lack thereof in some cases, that can be used in suites have the potential to improve clinical staff efficiency and patient care. Within suites there is no limit on the number of intervening rooms permitted provided minimum travel distances are met. In patient rooms not located within a suite exit access is permitted only through a single intervening room and only where the room has no more than eight patient beds.  Key Point: The space within a suite is not considered a corridor. This allows more flexibility with patient care equipment permitted outside of the rooms, permitting rooms open to the space, and opportunity to use different door types. What are the different types of suites? There are three subcategories of health care suites. Non-patient care suite - A health care suite that is not intended for patient sleeping or care.  Patient care non-sleeping suite - A health care suite providing care for one or more patients not intended for overnight patient sleeping. Patient care sleeping suite - A health care suite containing one or more beds intended for overnight patient sleeping. Key Point: Suites are designated by whether or not patient care is intended for the space and whether or not it is intended for overnight patient sleeping. Construction Considerations In order to take advantage of the benefits that suites offer they must meet a number of requirements including separation from the remainder of the building, size limitations, construction materials for internal walls, and adequate levels of staff supervision. Separation - Separated from the remainder of the building and from other suites by walls and doors meeting the requirements for those of corridor separation. Maximum Size Varies by suite type and some variables: Non-patient-care suite: in accordance with primary use/occupancy Patient care non-sleeping suite: 10,000 ft2, 12,500 ft2, or 15,000 ft2 (930 m2, 1160 m2, or 1394 m2) Patient care sleeping suite: 7500 ft2 or 10,000 ft2 (700 m2 or 930 m2) Internal walls - The subdivision of suites must be by means of noncombustible or limited-combustible partitions or partitions constructed with fire-retardant-treated wood enclosed with noncombustible or limited-combustible materials. The partitions are not required to be fire rated. Staff supervision - Patient care sleeping suites only must be provided with constant staff supervision within the suite.  Direct supervision of patient sleeping rooms is required if smoke detection is not provided in individual rooms or throughout the suite with total (complete) coverage automatic smoke detection. Key Point: Suites must be separated from the remainder of the building and from other suites by walls and doors meeting the requirements for those of corridor separation. Egress Considerations In addition to the requirements listed above there are a number of requirements that must be met in relation to the means of egress for a suite to be compliant. All patient care suites, whether sleeping or non-sleeping, must have at least one exit access to a corridor or to a horizontal exit directly from the suite. This allows for horizontal evacuation from the suite if needed. A second exit access door is required for patient care sleeping suites more than 1000 ft2 (93 m2) gross floor area and for patient care nonsleeping suites of more than 2500 ft2 (230 m2) gross floor area.  Exit Access - All patient care suites require exit access directly to a corridor or to a horizontal exit directly from the suites Additional Exit Access - An additional remotely located exit access door must be provided for patient sleeping suites more than 1000 ft2 (93 m2) and patient care nonsleeping suites more than 2500 ft2 (230 m2). Second exit access doors are permitted to be to one of the following: An exit stair An exit passageway An exit door to the exterior Another suite provided separation between suites is equivalent to corridor Travel distance - Not to exceed 100 ft (30 m) to an exit access door or horizontal exit door from any point in a patient care suite Not to exceed 200 ft (61 m) between any point in patient care suite and an exit [150 (46 m) in existing construction not protected throughout by approved electrically supervised sprinkler system.  Key Point: All suites must have at least one exit access directly to a corridor or a horizontal exit from within the suite. Larger suites require at least a second exit access door. Second exit access doors can be to a larger variety of exits/exit access. Key Point: The maximum travel distance to an exit access door or horizontal exit door is 100 ft. The maximum overall travel distance to an exit is 200 ft for sprinklered buildings and 150 ft for those without complete sprinkler coverage. Suites get a lot of attention in the life safety approach to health care occupancies for good reasons. While not a requirement, these provide a useful design option. They offer an approach that has appeals to architects and designers as well as health care engineers and clinicians. Understanding the context of suites within the overall fire protection and life safety scheme for a facility helps to ensure that the appropriate precautions are applied to ensure that the increased flexibility provided by their use is supported with compliance to the code provisions in place to make sure the environment remains safe.
A house burning

New Fire in the US report highlights factors that have reduced loss in the days since America Burning and areas where work is still needed

Much has changed in the nearly four decades since the America Burning report was issued in 1973 and revisited in 1980. The number of fires and fire deaths in the United States has reduced dramatically and that progress has unfortunately led to fire safety taking a back seat to other societal concerns that seem more pressing. To understand the headway that has been made and the challenges that remain, NFPA commissioned the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the association’s affiliate, to examine the current state of fire safety in the United States. The new seminal report, Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, is expected to be a key document with valuable insights that will help to advance fire and life safety. The report references success in several occupancies such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and hotels and really zeroes in on residential fires because they account for the largest share of reported structure fires and most of the civilian fire deaths and injuries. And although there have been fewer fires in the U.S. than in past decades, statistically, if a home fire is reported, occupants are more likely to die today than 40years ago. In fact, research shows that: Every 24seconds, a US fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the country Nationwide, a civilian dies in a fire every 3hours and 10minutes In the US, a home fire injury occurs every 43minutes The 63-page Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem report shows, in part, that: The most successful recipe for fire safety in the built environment has been the implementation of fire safety technologies through mandated codes and standards NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™ elements – government responsibility, development and use of current codes, and an informed public – have had an obvious impact on the fire experience Approaching fire safety as a system, and not individual bits and pieces, provides an opportunity to unravel the complex and ongoing fire safety challenge for society Smoke alarms are a huge success story Cooking remains the leading cause of home fires and injuries Smoking has the been the leading cause of home fire deaths for roughly four decades Fire deaths of children under fire have dramatically declined, but there has been little change in older adult death tolls States with higher fire death rates correlate with larger percentages of people who have a disability; are current smokers; have incomes below the poverty line; live in rural areas; or are either African American, Black, Native American, or Alaskan Native Wildfire is becoming the dominant type of fire that causes catastrophic multiple deaths as well as large losses The new study analyzed fire data and other research from the past 40years to provide a snapshot of what has influenced safety. Additionally, catastrophic multiple-death fires and fires in the wildland/urban interface (WUI) were looked at because they have the potential to cause significant human loss. As the report name suggests, the new benchmark research was conducted with the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem in mind. NFPA introduced the Ecosystem in 2018 so that professionals, practitioners, and the public had a framework that identified the key elements that play a critical role in fire, life, and electrical safety. The eight components are government responsibility, development and use of current codes, referenced standards, investment in safety, a skilled workforce, code compliance, preparedness and emergency response, and an informed public. When all the Ecosystem elements work together, the result is a fully functioning system that can benefit everyone. If one or more of the components fails, the system breaks down and tragedies can occur. To download the full report today, visit here and be sure to check nfpa.org/fireprogress for related content and resources in the months to come.

Fire Break

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

Wildfire preparedness is in the cards…the social media cards, that is!

May 1 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and people all over the country are organizing projects and activities for that day and throughout the month. One great way to help people get excited for what kinds of activities they can do to reduce their wildfire risks is to share the great examples highlighted on our social media cards.  The “cards” are images with a message about a wildfire preparedness or pre-fire action someone can take that will make a real difference around their home and in their community.  To use them, simply click to open and save, or right-click on the image to save, and post them on your Facebook or other social media platform. Then, include the suggested link that goes with each image so when your friends and neighbors click on the image, they can learn from pages on NFPA’s website that provide more detailed information. These key tips to prepare for wildfire include: Clear and dispose of debris in your yard, as well as lawn cuttings, to reduce fuel for a wildfire. Move firewood piles at least 30 feet from any buildings. Know two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place before wildfire threatens your area. Protect from embers by installing metal mesh screening in attic and crawl space vents. Remove needles or leaves from roofs, gutters, porches and decks to prevent ignitions. Pets are part of the family. Make sure your evacuation plans include your pets. Using social media is a great way to spread the word about wildfire preparedness. When you post them, be sure to also include the social media hashtag #wildfireprepday to help spread the word!
A wildfire burning at night

Burn Survivor Shares Her Story About Importance of Being Prepared for and Living Safely with Wildfire

In just the past few years, the U.S. has seen the average number of acres burned in wildfires rise exponentially. The country has watched as 40,000 structures have been destroyed, 100 lives were lost, and countless families were impacted as a result of a wildfire event in their community. Allyson Watson knows first-hand what it means to suffer at the hands of a wildfire. Forced to evacuate her home during one of the worst wildfire seasons in the history of southern California, Allyson was involved in two separate car accidents trying to flee her family home when a wildfire engulfed her community. Suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 85 percent of her body as a result of the accidents, Allyson spent years recovering from her injuries. The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors recently shared Allyson’s story on their website. As a burn survivor her journey is one of perseverance and resilience, and she credits her family and friends with helping her through the emotional and physical aspects of her recovery. As she grew stronger, Allyson’s bravery and passion spurred her on to advocate for wildfire safety, raising awareness and educating others in wildfire-prone areas about the importance of being prepared for a fire including having an evacuation plan and initiating retrofits and maintaining ignition-resistant properties. Allyson’s story is a powerful reminder about the need for better policies if we want to lower community wildfire risk. NFPA recently launched Outthink Wildfire™, an initiative that aims to drive more policy change across all levels of government to stem the tide of losses from wildfire. With so much loss, it is time for the country to take a stand, demand a new approach, and pursue a better course of action that will help us live more safety with wildfire. NFPA believes if the policy actions laid out in Outthink Wildfire are followed, we can end the destruction of communities from wildfire in the next 30 years. We are grateful to Allyson for sharing her story with us.  Read more about her journey and Outthink Wildfire on the Phoenix Society’s website.

Safety Source

2021 FPW theme art

Planning for 2021 Fire Prevention Week

It’s never too early to get ready for Fire Prevention Week™ which is celebrated October 3-9 this year, featuring the theme “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety™.” Fire Prevention Week (FPW) is NFPA’s signature fire prevention awareness event and the oldest continuously running U.S. Public Health Observance, launched in 1922.  This year’s theme grew out of the increased attention received of alarm notifications being heard in the background of people’s homes during remote learning and work.  Recognizing the different sounds alarms make, and the action needed based on that sound, is critical to preventing injury and death from fire.  This year’s theme also pays particular attention to smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and alert devices that meet the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  These includes strobe lights, low frequency alarms, and bed/pillow shakers which activate at the sound of the alarm.  Every year throughout North America, Fire & Life Safety (FLS) educators, classroom teachers, injury prevention professionals and other community education professionals plan and implement a myriad of in person and virtual activities to celebrate Fire Prevention Week.  The FPW Toolkit on the firepreventionweek.org website provides plug and play social media cards, FPW activity ideas, templates for press releases and event flyers, and campaign logos for use in a variety of settings.  Let NFPA be your guide to a successful Fire Prevention Week by visiting www.firepreventionweek.org and using the toolkit and online catalogue to plan your public education events and activities to help your community "Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety," and know what to do! Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.
2021 FPW theme art

NFPA announces “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” as theme for Fire Prevention Week 2021

As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week™ for more than 95 years, NFPA has announced “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety™” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week 2021, October 3-9. From beeps to chirps, this year’s campaign works to better educate the public about the sounds smoke alarms make, what those sounds mean, and how to respond to them. According to the latest NFPA “Smoke Alarms in the U.S.” report, working smoke alarms in the home reduce the risk of dying in a reported fire by more than half. However, almost three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms (41 percent) or smoke alarms that failed to operate (16 percent); missing or non-functional power sources, including missing or disconnected batteries, dead batteries, and disconnected hardwired alarms or other AC power issues, are the most common factors when smoke alarms fail to operate.   People tend to remove smoke alarm batteries or dismantle alarms altogether when the alarm begins to chirp as a result of low batteries or the alarm is no longer working properly, or when experiencing nuisance alarms. These behaviors present serious risks to safety that can have tragic consequences in the event of a fire. This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” helps people better understand the reasons smoke alarms may sound and provides the know-how to effectively address them. The campaign also addresses special considerations for the deaf and hard of hearing, along with information about carbon monoxide alarms. Key messages for “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” include: When a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide (CO) alarm sounds, respond immediately by exiting the home as quickly as possible. If your alarm begins to chirp, it may mean that the batteries are running low and need to be replaced. If the alarm continues to chirp after the batteries are replaced, or the alarm is more than 10 years old, it is time to replace the alarm. Test all smoke and CO alarms monthly. Press the test button to make sure the alarm is working. If there is someone in your household who is deaf or hard of hearing, install bed shaker and strobe light alarms that will alert that person to fire. Know the difference between the sound of a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm – three beeps for smoke alarms; four beeps for carbon monoxide alarms. For more information about Fire Prevention Week, October 3-9, 2021, and this year’s theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” along with a wealth of resources to help promote the campaign locally, visit fpw.org.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

HFSC Video Series: FM Global Discusses Beneficial Environmental Impact of Home Fire Sprinklers

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and to help celebrate, HFSC developed a weekly video series featuring interviews with industry professionals and practitioners who share stories of their commitment to advocating for home fire sprinklers in communities across the country. Last week, HFSC president Lorraine Carli was joined by Shane Ray, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and Vickie Pritchett, NFSA executive officer, as they discussed NFSA’s role as a founding member of HFSC, its partnership with the American Fire Sprinkler Association and NFPA, and their continued efforts to educate local officials, the fire service and first responders, home builders, developers, realtors, and consumers about the value of sprinklers. If you missed that video, check out our blog on it here. This week, HFSC board member and FM Global assistant vice president and fire service programs manager Mike Spaziani discusses FM Global’s full-scale fire test on the effectiveness of home fire sprinklers, the beneficial environmental impact of sprinklers, and FM Global’s partnership with HFSC in educating the public on home fire sprinklers. In the video, Spaziani discusses FM Global’s environmental impact report from 2010, which can be found. In 2021, FM Global took another look at the impact of sprinklers, and found that in homes with fire sprinklers: Greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 97.8% Water usage was reduced between 50% and 91% Fewer persistent pollutants, such as heavy metals, were found in sprinkler wastewater versus fire hose water The high pH level and pollutant load of non-sprinkler wastewater are an environmental concern Learn more about the study and check out the full video below: This year, help us celebrate HFSC’s 25th anniversary by sharing the facts about the affordability, reliability, and effective protection of home fire sprinklers. For additional information, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative websites.
Sprinkler monument

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