How do National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 99 codes get developed code cycle to code cycle, and how do many of the codes make it through the process? The first stage of the process is the public input stage, which is when NFPA issues a public notice asking for revisions to particular codes. This notice can be found on NFPA’s website at www.nfpa.org/doc99.
Once the public input stage closes, the Technical Committee will meet to review and discuss the public input submitted. The committee either accepts it as-is, recommends edits, tables it for further discussion, rejects it, or assigns a task group to write new verbiage or a new section to address it.
Once the process is complete, the committee votes on each item, and the results are posted for the public to review. This process repeats itself one more time before going to the final stages. As a Technical Committee member for the NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code, I am honored to collaborate with many individuals to create a code that many look to for guidance.
It is the time of year when this committee begins laying the groundwork to start the code review and revision process all over again. Leading into this process, the Correlating Committee will request the Technical Committee to review common questions it receives on a regular basis to see if there is anything technical members can do to provide clarity. Each member of the Technical Committee is required to join a task group they have interest in and extensive knowledge about. This time around, I joined the task group assigned to review zone valves.
At first glance, it did not look like it would be too difficult to review and move on. But as we held our first conference call to discuss the common questions posed to the NFPA 99 correlating committee, we found out quickly this would take a little longer to prepare something presentable for the NFPA 99 (PIP) August committee meeting.
Something as simple as where to place a medical gas zone valve is not as straightforward as one might think. For instance, you have to consider the safety protocols in case a fire is in the area. Who will shut off the zone valves associated with the room being impacted?
The operating room is one of these areas that presents a unique situation because you have a fire triangle. The fire triangle consists of four factors that must be present at the same time in order to produce a fire:
The oxygen that would sustain combustion would result from the patient mask supplying higher levels of oxygen from the anesthesia machine. The heat to raise the material to ignition would come from the cauterizing knife the surgeon uses to make a cut on the patient. The fuel or combustion material can be the skin-cleaning agent that may contain flammable chemicals such as alcohol.
In this case, the zone valve has been placed outside of these types of rooms. It allows someone outside the fire zone to safely shut off the medical gases to the room. The anesthesia machine still has some oxygen flowing through it until it’s depleted, so it may take a few moments for it to be completely reduced. Shutting off the zone valve is not necessarily just to protect that room but all the rooms around it. The thought is to contain the fire in this room. The surgical staff is trained on what to do in case of a fire if it were ever to occur.
Now we have to determine where this zone valve should be located outside of the room. The code states it is to be placed immediately outside of the room. During a normal operating day, you will notice there may be a patient bed or other equipment up and down the hallway. Needless to say, many obstacles can be in the hallway.
The other area receiving attention regarding placement of the zone valve is the Pre-Op/ PACU department. The code talks about Category 1 space now in lieu of critical care space. With this in mind, we discussed where this zone valve should be located, inside or outside the space.
These spaces can be quite large and cover a good distance from the exiting door to the farthest point in the space. The group discussed placing the zone valve at the nurse’s station since it’s at a midway point and is easily accessible but it still could be inside the fire zone, theoretically. For now, the group has left it outside the space and will continue to evaluate this decision.
The next item in placement of this zone valve is, can anything be in front of the zone valve? Some of us said no and some said it depends. As we continued to discuss the topic, we made our way into another code to determine what the life safety code provides some guidance regarding exit corridors and obstructions. We ended up tabling this part of the discussion to take a closer look at the life safety code.
As we work through the issues to determine the updates for the next code release in 2020, we look to those reading this article to submit your ideas for code changes and to provide substantiations to support your recommendation. This is your opportunity to be heard and your recommendations considered.