Weekly tip: Changes to the fire watch

Hospital Safety Insider, July 12, 2012

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Fire watches are required to be implemented whenever a fire alarm system or a sprinkler system is out of service for four or more hours in a 24-hour period. This requirement comes from the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code® (LSC), section and, and has been adopted by every accrediting organization, including The Joint Commission, HFAP, and DNV.

But these code references do not explain key issues concerning fire watches. One burning question: How often do the affected areas need to be inspected? In other words, how frequently does someone have to walk through the areas under a fire watch looking for signs of fire?

One answer came from a representative from The Joint Commission Standards Interpretation Group, who spoke at an American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) annual conference a few years ago. When asked by a member of the audience, that representative indicated The Joint Commission would accept a frequency of twice per shift, or not exceeding once every four hours. Other authorities have their own regulations concerning the frequency of a fire watch, such as once every two hours, and some local and state authorities actually have a more restrictive requirement-in fact, one local community in Massachusetts required the hospital to hire off-duty local firefighters and have them sit in the affected areas constantly until there was no longer a need for a fire watch.

But the average fire watch frequency across the country is somewhere between two and four hours. That frequency is now under serious challenge.

This tip was excerpted from the July issue of Healthcare Life Safety Compliance.


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