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Top Fire Code Violations in Hospitals

Posted on: December 23, 2013

With all the bustle and commotion common to most hospitals, staying within fire code guidelines can be a struggle. But with so many lives on the line and with so many people who may not be able to move themselves, it’s extremely important that you make sure your facility stays compliant at all times. Common violations include burned out exit signs and missing ceiling tiles, but we’ve seen much worse!

Common Hospital Fire Code Violations

Excessive Use of Extension Cords

One of the biggest problems we see in hospitals is the overuse of extension cords, especially when power strips are connected to other power strips or extension cords to extension cords. Improper use of extension cords is a huge electrical hazard and is responsible for many of the fires that occur both at home and in the office. Similar issues include obstructed electrical panels, open junction boxes, mislabeled electric circuit boxes, and the use of portable heaters without tip-over switches.

Improperly Used Fire Doors

Working fire doors are highly effective for controlling the spread of fire and containing it within a small area. Steel or wood fire doors are designed to hold back fires for at least 20 minutes when properly shut. The problem occurs when these doors are unable to close and latch properly, or when the doors are wedged or propped open, usually by hospital stadd.

Unfortunately, many times the doors don’t close and latch properly, which completely defeats the purpose! A wall that can physically stop a fire is an extremely valuable asset during an emergency. Other problems we often see include the fire doors being wedged open with doorstops or propped open with equipment by hospital staff. We have even seen supposedly fireproof doors with holes in them, allowing smoke and fire to escape and defeating the purpose of the door.

Obstructed Fire Exits

Easily accessed fire exits are the single most important piece of your hospital’s fire safety. Fire code dictates that all exits must be clear of furniture, equipment, decorations, and anything else that could prevent people from easily exiting the building during an emergency. Make sure to keep hallways clear as well—cluttered corridors can be impossible for patients in wheelchairs and beds to be wheeled out safely.

Hand Sanitizer—the Hidden Danger

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is ubiquitous in almost every hospital. But as you may know, alcohol is highly flammable, meaning the germ-killing stuff can be very dangerous in large amounts! According to fire codes, hand sanitizer dispensers cannot be located near possible ignition sources such as electrical outlets, light switched, and circuit boards. The code also says that corridors where hand sanitizer is located must be at least six feet wide so if one does ignite it won’t block the hallway. Finally, make sure you keep no more than 10 gallons of hand sanitizer in any particular area.

Gas Cylinders and Medical Oxygen Storage

Hand sanitizer isn’t the only fire hazard hidden in plain sight in a hospital setting. Gas cylinders and medical O2 tanks, some of the most common medical equipment there is, are very dangerous as well. These tanks are often filled with flammable gas, and if too many are stored near each other during a fire they may turn into a massive explosion.

Portable Fire Extinguishers

For things as basic and critically important as fire extinguishers, it’s always surprising to see how many times we’ve found hospitals not in compliance. Common fire extinguisher violations we see frequently include:

  • Missing or obstructed extinguishers
  • Fire extinguishers that have been improperly mounted
  • Previously discharged units
  • Extinguishers past due for inspections or improperly signed
  • Not enough fire extinguishers

Other Violations

Other problems we’ve seen in hospitals include:

  • Insufficient sprinkler coverage, either from missing or broken sprinkler heads
  • Burned out exit lights
  • Mislabeled emergency exits
  • Gaps around pipes
  • Fraying cables
  • Missing ceiling tiles

Fire safety inspections may seem like a nuisance, but they’re incredibly important—both for keeping your staff, patients, and visitors safe and for avoiding fire marshal fines! For hospital fire safety inspection in New Jersey, Delaware, or Philadelphia, call Confires today!

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