Safety

Sprinkler system douses basement fire in Ill. hospital

Hospital Safety Insider, May 18, 2017

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Case reminds safety managers to keep systems in compliance, even if enforcement loosens

A basement fire this week at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., shuttered the facility’s cafeteria—but it didn’t result in severe damage or even an evacuation, thanks to the building’s sprinkler system.

Patients will rely on “boxed lunches” until the kitchen is up and running again after the blaze broke out Monday in a mechanical room inside the hospital’s surgery building, the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported, citing firefighters and hospital staff. An initial investigation suggests the fire, which was contained within one room, may have been electrical.

Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, lauded the building’s fire suppression system for keeping occupants safe.

“This is another success story that demonstrates the importance of following the codes,” Lia said in a statement. “Without fire sprinklers, this fire could have had a major impact on the operations of the hospital and potentially threatened the lives of staff, patients, and visitors.”

Sprinkler systems are widely accepted as a worthwhile investment to keep small fires from quickly becoming big problems. Even so, violations related to sprinkler systems rank high on the list of common shortfalls across American hospitals, HCPro’s Healthcare Life Safety Compliance reported late last year.

“My experience is that most hospitals don’t do all of those items on the list, mainly because their accreditation organization does not always enforce every requirement,” says Brad Keyes, CHSP, owner of Keyes Life Safety Compliance. “They can count on the state agency surveying on behalf of CMS to want to see evidence that all of those items are conducted.”

Common sprinkler-related issues include the following:

  • Leaving less than 18 inches of vertical clearance between the sprinkler head and objects below it, such as storage
  • Missing escutcheon plates (the flat metal piece that belongs around the base of a sprinkler)
  • Caulking between sprinklers and ceiling tiles to reduce an oversized hole in the tile.
  • Sprinklers covered in dust
  • Sprinklers with painted deflectors
  • Sprinklers with damaged or bent deflectors
  • Sprinklers piping supporting conduit or wires

Remember: Electric motor-driven fire pumps must be churn tested for at least 10 minutes each month (See NFPA 25-2011, 8.3.1). All sprinkler system control values must be visually inspected each month (See NFPA 25-2011, 13.3.2.1.1). And all sprinkler system pressure gauges must be visually inspected each month to ensure that they are not obstructed or leaking (See NFPA 25-2011, 13.2.7.1).

For more coverage on implementation of the 2012 Life Safety Code® and related topics, be sure to subscribe to Healthcare Life Safety Compliance.



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