The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released an additional resource as part of its ongoing effort to provide guidance to health care providers working to establish and maintain adequate fire and life safety levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Compiled from input received by various sources including NFPA’s Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF), the latest white paper, “Considerations for Temporary Compliance Options in Health Care Environments During COVID-19” reflects feedback from authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), federal, state and local officials, health care industry professionals, and others who have identified multiple compliance challenges and issues that health care facilities are currently facing. The paper discusses ongoing challenges not only in purpose-built hospitals, but also in the alternate care sites such as convention centers and hotels.
As fire and life safety issues and concerns have continued to emerge and evolve over the course of the pandemic, NFPA has been working to provide information that will help facility managers, engineers, designers, AHJs, and others assess the common scenarios and challenges they are seeing against what is normally required, recognizing that each situation has its own unique variables.
“When health care facilities are operating under the conditions like the ones the U.S. health care system is facing right now, stressors are placed on everything, including physical space, staffing levels, available supplies, and the level of care being provided,” said Robert Solomon, P.E. fire protection engineer at NFPA. “Everyday code-based solutions simply will not work in many circumstances.”
NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code and NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® include a range of requirements that are primarily applied through the prescriptive criteria contained in each document. However, each document also permits the use of equivalencies to determine if the level of prescribed safety can be achieved with other means or measures, including the use of risk-based approaches, performance-based approaches, or other concepts. The new white paper provides an overview of these compliance options. It also uses portions of NFPA 550, Guide to the Fire Safety Concepts Tree, highlighting the fundamental “decision tree” that can be used to achieve the fire safety objectives of a building, structure, or process under virtually any configuration or scenario imaginable.
“The examples of compliance challenges and considerations for addressing those issues can help provide the level of fire protection and life safety intended by the prevailing codes and standards, as well as the broad guidance put forth by CMS,” said Solomon. “While they don’t satisfy all of the provisions that are normally required, the intent of the document is to make sure that these safety issues are not overlooked during the accelerated construction phase related to the current public health emergency.”
NFPA will continue to provide resources and support for health care facilities as new information is put forward. As soon as the pandemic begins to subside and facilities return to a normal level of care, these interim or temporary measures should be withdrawn, and facilities should resume their normal operational processes and procedures.
NFPA provides key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 epidemic. Check the site for regular updates.
For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research, and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.
As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, we remain committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.