Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on July 1, 2016.

Health Care Reset

Starting in July, health care facilities must comply with the 2012 editions of NFPA 101 and NFPA 99. Are you ready?


Beginning July 5, thousands of health care facilities across the United States must comply with the 2012 editions of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, and NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code. The move comes after a four-year effort by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to update the safety codes and standards for the facilities it oversees, which include all hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical centers, and related facilities that accept federal Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement. CMS can levy severe financial penalties and even shut down facilities that do not follow the code.

CMS’s update to the 2012 version of NFPA 101 “ensures that patients and residents are provided the level of fire and life safety protection expected today,” said Robert Solomon, the NFPA division manager for Building Fire Protection and Life Safety. CMS has used various versions of NFPA 101 since 1970 to ensure safety for patients, staff, and visitors, but the July move to the 2012 edition marks the first time in more than a decade that its safety codes have been updated. Previously, hospitals were required to follow the 2000 version of NFPA 101, five cycles behind the current book.

There are a number of significant differences between the 2000 and 2012 versions of NFPA 101, many of which reflect a decade of cultural changes in how patients expect health care to be administered, Solomon said. Hospital and nursing home rooms are now larger and better decorated with more furnishings and amenities. Gone are the days where patients are wheeled from their hospital rooms to the X-ray room—now the X-ray machine comes to them.

“These were just the sorts of things that the code had always said ‘no, no, no,’ but we stepped back and acknowledged that this is a different era, so we should figure out how to bring some of that new awareness into the code,” Solomon said. As a result, many of the updates provide facilities more functional flexibility in how they design buildings and offer care to patients.

CMS began allowing hospitals to apply or waivers as far back as 2012 to begin using the 2012 version of NFPA 101, so for many the transition won’t be difficult. For others it might be more of a challenge, Solomon said. NFPA has a range of resources available to aid in the transition, such as comparison tools, trainings, and webinars. Those and a host of other resources can be found on the NFPA resource webpage for CMS.

JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: iStockPhoto