By Billy Findley
Long-term care facilities are a reality for many seniors nationwide. In fact, by 2050 the number of individuals living in long-term care facilities will likely double to 27 million people. With so many loved ones living in these residences, many families worry about safety, and regulatory compliance within the facilities is essential.
Long-term care facilities must meet numerous regulations to keep their doors open — from staff training to building to safety codes and everything in between. However, there is one category of regulations that many are unaware of and can often overlook. Cooking in long-term care facilities is a vital part of the NFPA Life Safety Code and includes multiple standards. The NFPA recently updated the codes that long-term care facilities must meet. What are these new codes and how should facilities adapt? Let’s take a look.
The first section that was updated by the NFPA states that when food warming equipment is being used, it does not require that the area is protected in the same manner that a hazardous area would be. This includes compliance regulations near residential cooking equipment. When residential cooking equipment is used for warming food, or other limited functions, it does not require protection. To sum it up, this section is in regards to cooking equipment such as hot plates, toasters, and microwaves which are used for limited functions.
This next section is a little different. Rather than focusing on cooking equipment, it factors in the general cooking facilities. For example, one change states that when cooking meals for 30 or fewer people in a smoke compartment using residential or commercial equipment, the facility may open to the corridor if fire regulations are met. However, there is a condition to this change. The health care facility must be limited to 30 beds and the cooking facility must be separate from other parts of the facility by a smoke barrier. Additionally, there are also cooktop, hood, smoke detectors, and other conditions which must be met. All are listed below.
Cooktop or range compliance:
- An interlock to provide shut down to all sources of fuel and power if the suppression system is discharged.
- A switch that is locked or restricted to deactivate the cooktop when not under supervision. This switch must also be on a timer not exceeding 120-minute capacity that will automatically deactivate the cooktop.
- Protection by a UL300 or UL300A suppression system
- A manual release for discharging the fire protection system
- Must cover 100 percent of the range cooking surface with grease collecting and clean out capability.
- Must have a charcoal filter if it’s not ducted to the exterior.
- A minimum of 500 cfm airflow
Smoke detector regulations:
- Must be at least two AC-powered photoelectric smoke detectors installed no closer than 20 feet from the cooking equipment
- Smoke detectors must be interconnected and equipped with a silence feature, and in compliance with NFPA 72
- Smoke compartments must be equipped with an approved and automatic sprinkler system
Other conditions to be met:
- Portable extinguishers in accordance with NFPA 96 must be located in the kitchen area
- Procedures for the use, inspection, testing, and maintenance of the cooking equipment are in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions as well as Chapter 11 of NFPA 96
- No solid fuel for cooking is allowed
- No deep-fat frying is permitted
This final update from NFPA may look similar to Chapter 18.104.22.168.3 and that’s because it is. This chapter states that when preparing meals for 30 or fewer people, cooking equipment is allowed within the smoke compartment as long as the facility is separated from the corridor by partitions. For example, the cooking space cannot be a sleeping space.
Chapter 18/22.214.171.124.3 and Chapter 18/126.96.36.199.4 together state that multiple cooking facilities may be used to prepare meals for 30 people or less within a smoke compartment, but only one of these cooking facilities can open to the corridor.
While these updated regulations and codes may be confusing at first glance, they are essential to the safety of residents in long-term care facilities.
Billy Findley is Koorsen VP of General Products.