How Does Fire Protection Fit into Healthcare Facilities?
Updated: Apr 6
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that healthcare facilities are the lifeblood of our society. RAN Fire Protection Engineering has completed designs for medical facilities serving a wide variety of needs and uses. We are cognizant of the fact that services cannot be interrupted during design and construction, so the projects revolve around the operations of the facility.
Healthcare facilities have specific obstacles that are not apparent in other markets. To understand the hazards and unique fire protection solutions for healthcare facilities, we turned to Doug Nadeau, PE who has decades of experience working with healthcare facilities.
1. What are some of the main differences between designing for healthcare and designing for other types of buildings?
The design of fire protection systems for healthcare building has to be an integrated systems approach. Everything from the fire resistance ratings, sprinkler coverage, fire alarm zones, travel distances, to notification of building occupants needs to take a different approach than the typical building. It is the intent of the codes to make sure that the fire protection system is a holistic system that operates as one. These type of occupancies do not lend themselves to the design/build approach unless there is a consensus between the contractors and engineers, rather than just the typically seen low fee/cost approach.
2. Are there different egress requirements for facilities like hospitals due to the condition of the patients?
Since a hospital and other similar healthcare buildings inherently have occupants that may be incapacitated and incapable of self-preservation, it is imperative to incorporate any needed defend in place areas of the building. This is different than the regular egress distance and occupant load calculations. The architects and engineer have to make sure they recognize where and how a defend in place strategy may be required. These types of areas need to be coordinated with the first responders to they can make sure to incorporate into their standard operating procedures a plan to provide rescues assistance.
3. Is there a difference in how sprinkler systems are designed?
The main difference with sprinkler system for healthcare occupancies is that a greater level of coordination is required. Typically, the space above ceilings in healthcare occupancies are stuffed full of HVAC, lighting, plumbing, gas systems, nurse call systems, etc.… Coordination prior to installation is key to make sure that any required field changes do not adversely affect the hydraulics of the sprinkler system causing non-compliance with NFPA 13.
4. Is there a different type of system used in areas with high tech equipment such as MRI machines to minimize damage?
There are actually special type of sprinklers that are used with MRI machine areas because the magnet of the machines can interact with the sprinkler system causing severe damage to the surrounding area or injury to patients and medical technicians if proper safety precautions are not followed.
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