Security Business

JUL 2019

Find news and information for the executive corporate security director, CSO, facility manager and assets protection manager on issues of policy, products, incidents, risk management, threat assessments and preparedness.

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40 Security Business / www.SecurityInfoWatch.com / July 2019 Fire & Life Safety BY GREG KESSINGER, SET, CFPS, IMSA, CDT, ICC Group B Occupancy Conundrum The tricky case of a manual fire alarm system in a planned healthcare clinic The owners of a new outpatient clinic have been told by their local fire chief to have a manual fire alarm system installed in accordance with the ICC for their use group. The planned clinic has a B-Business Occupancy classification, with a maximum occupant load of 39 persons. It is not an “ambulatory care facility” – as the plans specifically show on the title page that no one will be rendered “unable to self-rescue.” This catchy phrase means that patients may be given a local anesthetic, but no one may be sedated. Now, skip to the unhappy electrical contractor who thought he had this job in the bag and called to ask me to design a system meeting the requirements of the building/fire code under the section for business occupancies. I asked how many smoke detectors I should add and suggested nine as a starting minimum. He said the customer only wanted the minimum, and I said, “That’s easy, they don’t need anything” – and I referred the contractor to the minimum requirements for a B-Business occupancy as regulated by the building code under 907.2.2: A manual fire alarm system shall be installed in Group B occupancies where one of the following conditions exist: 1. The combined Group B occupant load of all floors is 500 or more. 2. The Group B occupant load is more than 100 persons above or below the lowest level of exit discharge. 3. The fire area contains an ambulatory care facility. By code, since there should be no more than 39 occupants at any one time, the business should not be seen as anything different than a small corner store or a large gas station, and the minimum requirement, in fact, did not call for a manual fire alarm system at all. “Yes”, the contractor said, “but it is a medical facility with patients and stuff!” I explained that a B-Business occupancy is defined by law and that you can’t just make up rules as you go. When this revelation was communicated to the doctors who owned the planned facility, they questioned the fire chief about this B-Business requirement – since the occupant load was only 39 persons and no sedation of patients would, or could, be performed. Suddenly, the manual fire alarm design seemed to be negotiable. The chief then stated that in lieu of having two manual pull boxes (one for each exit), eight horn-strobes, and nine strobes, he would accept the building having “just one pull and two horn-strobes – one near the front of the building and one near the rear.” He did say he still wanted a “sketch” of the system to be turned in for review. When I hear this, I become unhappy. At any other time, turning in plan submittals for such a manual "By code, since there should be no more than 39 occupants at any one time, the business is no different than a small corner store or a large gas station, and the minimum requirement, in fact, did not call for a manual fire alarm system at all."

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