Existing Medicare and Medicaid health care facilities more than 75 feet tall will have 12 years in which to install fire sprinklers throughout.

CMS Adopting 2012 Life Safety Code

The agency has set a 60-day comment period for the proposed rule it published April 16. A new provision for existing health care occupancies will require buildings more than 75 feet tall to have automatic sprinkler systems installed throughout the building.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published a proposed rule that will change the fire safety standards for Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals, critical access hospitals, long-term care facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, ambulatory surgery centers, hospices which provide inpatient services, religious non-medical health care institutions, and programs of all-inclusive care for the elderly facilities. The rule would adopt the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code, eliminating references in CMS' regulations to all earlier editions, and also would adopt the 2012 edition of the Health Care Facilities Code, with some exceptions.

In the rule, the agency states that the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code "includes new provisions that we believe are vital to the health and safety of all patients and staff. Our intention is to ensure that patients and staff continue to experience the highest degree of fire safety possible."

There is no exemption for the smallest facilities; all Medicare and Medicaid health care occupancies that provide care to one or more patients would be required to comply with the relevant requirements of the 2012 LSC.

A new provision allows for larger sleeping suites for patients, with new construction sleeping suites not to exceed 7,500 square feet – and suites not exceeding 10,000 square feet may be permitted where there is direct visual supervision and a complete smoke detection system. Previously, sleeping suites could not exceed 5,000 square feet.

Sections 18.4.2 and 19.4.2, Sprinklers in High-Rise Buildings, is a new provision for existing health care occupancies. It requires buildings taller than 75 feet (generally, greater than 7 or 8 stories) to have automatic sprinkler systems installed throughout the building. Because the 2012 LSC allows 12 years from when the authority having jurisdiction officially adopts the 2012 edition of the LSC for existing facilities to comply with the sprinkler system installation requirement, CMS' rule states that facilities that are not already required to do so would have 12 years following publication of its final rule adopting the 2012 LSC to install sprinklers. "We propose to adopt this new provision because high-rise buildings require more time to evacuate, and sprinklers would very likely allow additional time to safely evacuate a facility," the rule states. "We believe that this provision would mainly affect hospitals. However, we are specifically soliciting public comment to determine if other provider types are, or may be, located in a high-rise building. We would also like to solicit public comments regarding the phase-in period of 12 years, including if 12-years is enough time for the installation of sprinklers in high-rise buildings."

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