#101Wednesdays: Means of Egress in Health Care Suites

Blog Post created by jsisco Employee on Dec 11, 2019

At NFPA, we receive a lot of questions about health care occupancies. In particular, one area that I receive frequent questions about is the application of means of egress requirements in health care suites.

To understand the means of egress requirements within suites, it can be helpful to review the overall occupant protection strategy utilized in hospitals and other health care occupancies. Due to the potential difficulties of evacuation of occupants in health care occupancies a defend-in-place strategy is often utilized. The defend-in-place strategy must account for a plan to relocate patients, should the need arise. The features and floor space arrangements, including the configuration of suites, must also be factored in. NFPA 101 recognizes two types of patient-care suites in health care occupancies: sleeping suites and non-sleeping suites. The Code also has permissions for non-patient care suites, but those suites do not have suite-specific means of egress requirements and are not addressed in this blog.

Suites are a unique feature to health care occupancies and have some original means of egress requirements. To fully achieve the convenience and benefits afforded by suites it is important to understand the differing means of egress requirements.

In general, the means of egress requirements for sleeping suites and non-sleeping suites are similar. Both types of suites are required to have at least one exit access door from the suite either to a corridor or a horizontal exit. Since the protection strategy in health care often relies on the horizontal movement, the use of stairways or other vertical openings is generally used as a last resort for the relocation of occupants.

A second exit access door is required to be provided for sleeping suites greater than 1000 sq. ft. or non-sleeping suites greater than 2500 sq. ft. The second means of egress is permitted to include exit stairway doors, exterior doors, or an exit access door to an adjacent suite.

Suites are required to meet two separate travel distances: (1) travel distance to the nearest exit access door from the suite and (2) travel distance to the nearest exit.

Travel distance from any point within a suite cannot exceed 100 ft. to the nearest exit access door from the suite. Only exit access doors leading to a corridor or adjacent suite, or horizontal exit doors are given credit for this travel distance measurement. As previously discussed, since health care relies upon the horizontal movement of occupants this measurement only applies to exit access doors to areas where occupants can be relocated. Where exit access from a suite goes through an adjacent suite, the 100 ft. travel distance should be applied to each suite individually.

The second travel distance is exit travel distance. Travel distance from any point within a suite cannot exceed 200 ft. to the nearest exit in sprinkler-protected buildings (or 150 ft in non-sprinkler-protected buildings). This measurement is permitted to be to any exit door including an exit stairway door, a horizontal exit door, or an exterior door. This requirement aligns with the overall exit travel distance for the remainder of the health care occupancy.

The use of  suites is just one tool within NFPA 101 that can be applied to hospital design to deliver effective health care and  treatment. However, when using suites, it is important to understand the unique means of egress requirements.

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.”