Author(s): Chip Carson. Published on January 1, 2012.

Paradigm Shift
A pair of game-changing health care provisions for the Life Safety Code

NFPA Journal®, January/February 2012

Major changes to the health care chapters in the 2012 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, include provisions for furniture in corridors and allowing limited cooking open to the corridor.

There has always been a prohibition against items in the corridors of health care occupancies, with a few caveats. For years the code specified the corridor width had to be 8 feet (2.4 meters) clear for new construction in most circumstances. Conversely, the code also acknowledged in an annex note the presence of certain wheeled items in use in corridors, such as medical crash carts, clean linen cars, and food carts. Recognizing the operational reality of modern hospitals, these provisions for wheeled items are now included in the body of the code and have expanded to include “patient lift and transport equipment.”

The 2012 edition also permits furniture in the corridor provided it meets certain criteria. The fixed furniture must be attached to the walls or floor, cannot reduce the corridor width to less than 6 feet (2 meters) and is to be located on one side of the corridor only. In addition, the grouping of furniture cannot exceed 50 square feet (4.6 square meters), with individual groupings separated by at least 10 feet (3 meters), and the furniture cannot obstruct building service or fire protection equipment. The corridors throughout the smoke compartment where the furniture is located must be protected with smoke detectors, or the furniture grouping must be directly visible from a nurse’s station or similar space. These details are found in Section



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Three new sections address cooking in health care occupancies. Section 18/ states that residential cooking equipment used for food warming or limited cooking does not require protection in accordance with Section 9.2.3, which requires compliance with NFPA 96, Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.

Section 18/ allows cooking to be open to the corridor where the smoke compartment has no more than 30 beds and when several supplemental protection features are provided. The range hood must be at least as wide as the range, must have a minimum airflow of 500 cfm, and, if not ducted to the exterior, must have a charcoal filter. A fire extinguishing system that has a manual release and is arranged to turn off all fuel and electrical power to the cooking equipment is required. The system must either comply with UL 300, Fire Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Commercial Cooking Equipment, or show that it has been tested and meets all requirements of UL 300A, Extinguishing System Units for Residential Range Top Cooking Surfaces. Deep fat frying is prohibited, and a portable fire extinguisher is required.

Another important feature to control the use of a cook top or range is required: a locked switch or a switch in a restricted location that will deactivate the cooking equipment. This switch must be on a timer with a maximum time of 120 minutes to deactivate the cooking equipment. In addition, two AC-powered smoke alarms with a silence feature must be installed in the area but not closer than 20 feet (6 meters) to the cooking surface.

Section 18/ permits cooking for no more than 30 persons to be located in a smoke compartment where it meets all of the requirements in Section noted above, except for the two smoke alarms. The cooking must also take place in a room separated from the corridor.

The intent of these significant changes is to recognize the operational and health care treatment methods now in use and to make the design of long-term care facilities more home-like and improve the quality of life of the patients and residents.

Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy.  He is a former member of NFPA's Board of Directors.