Area of Refuge in a Hospital
by Brad Keyes, CHSP, on Oct 28, 2020 12:00:00 AM
Q: We ask staff this question when we do Environmental Rounding: "Can you identify the closest area of refuge?" The answer we have used is "shelter-in-place," but I believe this may be misleading. Can you please provide a more accurate answer?
A: According to section 3.3.22 of the 2012 Life Safety Code, an Area of Refuge is one of the following two things:
- An area that is a story in a building where the building is protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system and has at least two accessible rooms or spaces separated from each other by smoke-resistant partitions (i.e. corridor walls).
- An area of refuge is a space located in the path of travel leading to a public way that is protected from the effects of a fire, either by means of separation from other spaces in the same building or by virtue of location, thereby permitting a delay in egress travel from any level.
- Each elevator landing must be provided with a two-way communication system for communication with the fire command center or a central control point approved by the AHJ.
- Directions on use of the two-way communication system, instructions for summoning help, and written identification of the location must be posted.
- Audible and visual signals must be included in the two-way communication system.
- Accessibility requirements regarding exits and elevator access
- Illuminated signs identifying AREA OF REFUGE
- Two-way communication system at the AREA OF REFUGE
The problem is, this does not seem to fit the mold of healthcare occupancy, where there is adequate staff to attend to the needs of the patients. Most patients cannot egress on their own, let alone travel to the AREA OF REFUGE. I don’t recall ever seeing a finding from an accreditation survey or a CMS state agency survey involving the AREA OF REFUGE in a healthcare occupancy. In a business occupancy…? Yes, but that is an entirely different animal because the expectation is the occupants can egress themselves and there may not be anyone around to assist them.
Personally, I would suggest you stop using the words ‘AREA OF REFUGE’ in your rounding, and just encourage your staff to egress into the adjoining smoke compartment.