Stan Szpytek

As skilled nursing facilities around the nation rise to the challenges of managing this current infectious disease outbreak, providers must remain focused on maintaining a safe environment of care within their buildings. Complying with Life Safety Code requirements is the first step in helping to promote safety for all building occupants. Here are some points for skilled nursing facilities (SNF) to consider:

  • Currently, there are no waivers in place allowing a SNF to vary from the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101, 2012 edition) or the Health Care Facilities Code (NFPA 99, 2012 edition).
  • Fire drills are required to be completed on all shifts as per regulations — one drill, per shift, per quarter.
  • Some providers use a fire safety consultant to conduct their fire drills. These consultants may not be allowed into a SNF so alternate ways of conducting these required drills with internal staff will need to be identified and implemented.
  • Inspection, testing and maintenance (IMT) of fire protection and life safety systems may need to be deferred as service contractors (fire alarm, fire sprinkler, emergency generator, kitchen fire suppression, etc.) may not be allowed inside of a SNF.
  • Storage practices must be maintained in a compliant manner inside of rated storage rooms with doors closed; not propped open for convenience purposes.
  • Storage items should not be placed within means of egress (exits, hallways, common assembly areas, etc.) as this will compromise evacuation capabilities.
  • Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) dispenser must be installed in a compliant manner and away from all potential ignition sources like electrical outlets and electrical switches. Here are some additional points of consideration:
  • Maximum individual dispenser capacity is 0.32 gal. (0.53 gal. in suites) of fluid and 18 oz. of Level 1 aerosols
  • Dispensers shall have a minimum of 4-foot horizontal spacing
  • Not more than an aggregate of 10 gallons of fluid or 135 oz. aerosol are used in a single smoke compartment outside a storage cabinet, excluding one individual dispenser per room
  • Storage in a single smoke compartment greater than 5 gallons complies with NFPA 30
  • Dispensers are not installed within 1 inch of an ignition source

Here is a link to all of the K-Tags associated with life safety within a federally regulated skilled nursing facility. 

         A building that complies with requirements of The Life Safety Code and the Health Care Facilities Code is a safe building from a fire and life safety perspective. Please understand that I am not simply promoting compliance for “compliance sake.” Directly stated, Life Safety Code compliance equates to a safe environment of care. 

         As a fire safety professional with many years of experience, I know that if it looks unsafe, it likely is unsafe and noncompliant. Don’t turn your hallways into obstacle courses full of boxes of sanitation supplies. Don’t create a fire hazard by installing an ABHR dispenser directly above a light switch. If your team maintains a strong focus on compliance, you will be able to keep your facility’s occupants safe from the threat of fire and other life safety risks.

Stan Szpytek is the president of consulting firm Fire and Life Safety Inc., in Mesa, Arizona, and is the Life Safety/Disaster Planning Consultant for the Arizona Health Care Association and California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF). Szpytek is a former deputy fire chief and fire marshal with more than 40 years of experience in life safety compliance and emergency preparedness. For more information, visit or email Szpytek at