by Bob Armbrister, on Aug 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM
Q: Are hospital gift shops required to be treated as hazardous areas? We had a survey recently and the inspector said the entrance door to our gift shop needed to have positive latching hardware.
A: This is one of those “it depends” answers. Section 188.8.131.52 of the 2000 Life Safety Code clearly states that gift shops are required to be treated as hazardous areas if they contain combustible items in quantities considered hazardous. Most hospital gift shops do contain items that are considered combustible, such as greeting cards, stuffed animals, clothing, and other items. The question is: Are they in sufficient quantities to be considered hazardous? This is a question that only an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can answer. If an accreditation surveyor were to consider the combustible items in sufficient quantities to be a hazard, then the gift shop must be treated as a hazardous area. However, please be aware that there are more than one AHJ, and in most cases, an opinion of one AHJ does not have much bearing on the opinion of another AHJ. Therefore, I suggest that you be very conservative on this issue, and if your gift shop has any combustible items, then treat it as a hazardous room and all corridor doors must be positive latching. This would require either automatic sprinkler protection with smoke-resistant self-closing positive latching doors, or 1-hour fire rated walls with ¾-hour fire rated self-closing positive latching doors, or both if new. When a gift shop does not have combustible items on display or in storage, and does not exceed 500 square feet, and is fully protected by sprinklers, then it does not have to be treated as a hazardous area, meaning it could be open to the corridor.