Author(s): David Hood. Published on May 1, 2012.


Eye on Health Care
A comprehensive look at the health care–related offerings at the conference, including a preview of the ever-popular ‘Health Care Hot Topics and AHJ Interpretations’

NFPA Journal®, May/June 2012 

By David Hood

The health care industry was particularly engaged in last summer’s NFPA Conference & Expo, when two of the industry’s most important compliance documents were on the cusp of being approved by the NFPA membership: the 2012 editions of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, and NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code.



Health Care Ed Session Roundup
Beyond the focus of code adoption, a number of presentations during the conference will highlight the 2012 Life Safety Code.


Health Care Hot Topics and AHJ Interpretations
Wednesday, June 13, 8–9 a.m.

  Learn more about the 2012 NFPA Confernce and Expo

Those codes will also figure prominently in this year’s conference, but the conversation among representatives of the health care industry is no longer about the development and finalization of the documents, but rather their adoption. It has been nine years since the adoption of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and in that time, there have been four new editions of the Life Safety Code, culminating with the 2012 edition.

Adoption of the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code will permit users to apply all the advances in the code that have occurred overly nearly a decade. For example, suite requirements have gone through numerous revisions. With adoption of the 2012 edition, health care facilities can take advantage of criteria allowing for larger suite sizes and more flexible suite exiting arrangements. In addition, the code has expanded its health-care-specific door locking provisions in recent editions. Current criteria that address door locking arrangements necessary for patient safety and security reasons were not addressed in the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code. 

With the industry abuzz that CMS, The Joint Commission, and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs)intend to adopt the 2012 edition, this year’s NFPA Conference & Expo will serve as an information portal on the code adoption status, process, and timelines.

The always-popular session “Health Care Hot Topics and AHJ Interpretations” — previously known as the “Health Care Town Hall Meeting” — will address these issues, among others. I’ll moderate the session, which will include George Mills, director of The Joint Commission’s Department of Engineering, and James Merrill, life safety specialist for CMS. You can expect the following hot topics to be addressed:

Adoption of the 2012 Edition of the Life Safety Code
Both CMS and The Joint Commission will outline their intention, process, and time frame for adopting the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code. This has historically has been a lengthy process for CMS. The time frame will be particularly important for those looking to build or renovate health care facilities in the next few years.  

When CMS adopted the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code, they included some CMS-specific amendments. This session will allow CMS to share their initial thoughts regarding content, particularly as it relates to key new provisions of the Life Safety Code, including egress corridor projections, alternative kitchen cooking arrangements, installation of fireplaces in patient sleeping compartments, and revised provisions regarding combustible decorations. 

Pre-adoption Application of 2012 Provisions
Both CMS and The Joint Commission will outline how they may permit certain provisions of the 2012 Life Safety Code to be applied before its formal adoption. CMS will outline its use of the “waiver” process, including a Survey & Certification letter issued in March concerning the 2012 edition, while The Joint Commission will review its “equivalency” methodology and process. The ability to apply certain provisions is particularly critical if the adoption timeline is going to be a lengthy process, especially since users and designers are looking to apply new provisions and best practices as soon as possible. 

The Joint Commission’s Department of Engineering
The Joint Commission will discuss its new Department of Engineering and explain what it means both within and outside the organization. Health care facilities were accustomed to working with the Standards Interpretation Group in the past to address life safety issues and questions. George Mills will clarify if and how this change will affect future communications or interaction with The Joint Commission. 

CMS Long-Term Care Sprinkler Initiative
The CMS August 2013 deadline for existing nursing homes to become fully sprinklered is quickly approaching. Hear about the progress nationwide and how CMS will address facilities that don’t meet the deadline. Since adoption of the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code includes a retroactive sprinkler requirement for nursing homes, the adoption time line could also affect long-term care providers.  

Question and Answer
Arguably the most valuable component of this session is the open microphone question and answer period. This is your chance to ask the AHJs your questions, and it may be your only opportunity to ask both CMS and The Joint Commission to answer a question in a single forum. While there is a significant amount of information to cover in a single hour, we will certainly set time aside for
your questions.

David Hood is president of Russell Phillips & Associates in Rochester, New York. He serves on the NFPA Health Care Section Executive Board and chairs the Health Care Section Education Committee.


Health Care Ed Session Roundup
Beyond the focus of code adoption, a number of presentations during the conference will highlight the 2012 Life Safety Code.

NFPA 101, 2012: Changes for Health Care Occupancies (Monday, June 11, 8–9 a.m.) will provide an overview of the key changes to health care requirements found in the 2012 code. Some of the discussion points in this session will focus on suites, hazardous areas, and corridors. Using NFPA 101–2012 for Compliance with NFPA 101–2000 in Health Care Facilities (Tuesday, June 12, 2:45–3:30 p.m.) will focus on strategies for addressing common compliance issues by using provisions of the 2012 code even before it is adopted. NFPA is also offering NFPA 101 Health Care Update, 2000–2012 (Saturday, June 9), a one-day, pre-conference seminar on the health care–related updates to the 2012 code.

While code adoption and education are certainly at the forefront of this year’s conference, the NFPA Health Care Section is sponsoring a host of additional education sessions highlighting a variety of prominent topics.

One notable session is the Health Care Section Codes and Standards Meeting. This year, the meeting format will differ from years past. The Codes and Standards Committee will provide an educational session titled Health Care — Looking into the Future of Regulations (Tuesday, June 12, 11 a.m– 12:30 p.m.). This session will differ from other document-specific presentations by focusing on key elements, interpretations, and trends relative to health care–related regulation in a single, all-inclusive session. The session will address more than a dozen health care–related documents and provisions of interest to those responsible for health care regulatory compliance.

Another consistently popular topic is the testing, inspection, and maintenance of fire protection systems in health care facilities. To manage and comply with these items effectively requires knowledge of the myriad requirements found in a variety of NFPA codes and standards. These requirements will be covered in Testing, Inspection, and Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems in Health Care Facilities (Tuesday, June 12, 4:15–5:15 p.m.).

With all the focus on the Life Safety Code, emergency management is an important topic that should not be ignored. In Hospital Emergency Communications Interoperability (Tuesday, June 12, 9:30–10:30 a.m.), representatives of one hospital will discuss how they address the critical need for communication interoperability. The presenters will also discuss communication both internal and external challenges during a disaster and outline suggested best-practice mitigation efforts. Another session, Managing Hospital Electrical Shutdowns in 2012 and Beyond (Monday, June 11, 11–noon), will address full-building electrical shutdowns and discuss how one can plan, communicate, train, and conduct them safely and effectively.

The conference will host additional presentations that circle back to the topic of compliance. Methods of code equivalency will be covered in NFPA 101A Fire Safety Evaluation Systems (FSES) as an NFPA 101 Equivalency Tool (Tuesday, June 12, 9:30–10:30 a.m.), which will focus on the use of NFPA 101A, Alternative Approaches to Life Safety, as an equivalency tool. Another session, Interim Life Safety Measures (ILSM): Your Facility’s Multi-Function Pocket Knife (Monday, June 11, 11 a.m.–noon), will address interim life safety measures (ILSM) and how they can be an effective tool in addressing construction and code-compliance issues.

NFPA’s Health Care Section is dedicated to finding effective speakers on topics that are current and relevant to those in the industry. While these educational sessions are obviously pertinent to health care professionals, they should also be beneficial to those in enforcement, first responders, and anyone who acts as a consult to the health care industry. Fire marshals and firefighters that work with health care facilities should find these educational sessions equally informative.

Providing effective education is an ongoing process, and the NFPA Conference & Expo staff has already begun planning for next year’s conference. The Health Care Section Education Committee would like to solicit your thoughts on future education topics, presentations, and speakers. The committee will meet during the conference on Monday, June 11, from 7 to 8 a.m. The location will be identified in the conference program guide. You can also email your thoughts to me at