NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 36

"They're worried, obviously, about
infection control right now, but there's
some relaxation going on around regular inspections for things like fire and
life safety," Jon Hart, an engineering
technical services lead at NFPA, said of
the CMS announcement on an NFPA
Journal Podcast that aired March 21.
While the need to expand patient
capacity to meet the surge caused by
coronavirus was clear, the need to roll
back regulations to achieve it generated some concern among building
fire and life safety professionals. But it
was, for the most part, a risk they were
willing to take-an unprecedented
action taken in an unprecedented
time. And in interviews with NFPA
Journal, they stressed that under such
extraordinary circumstances, facility
managers, designers, and authorities
having jurisdiction (AHJs) can still
take steps to achieve an adequate level
of safety in existing and newly created
health care facilities without adhering
strictly to codes and standards like
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, and NFPA
99, Health Care Facilities Code.

"Everybody's concerned, but we have
to play with the hand that's been dealt,"
Robert Solomon, director of the Building and Life Safety Division at NFPA,
said in late March. "You can still make
these facilities safe, to a degree, without
adhering to every bell and whistle in
the codes and standards-at least on a
temporary basis."

'GRANTING RELIEF'
By April 3, the number of confirmed
COVID-19 cases in New York City had
topped 50,000. More than 1,500 people
had died from the virus. The city's hospital system was overwhelmed, with
officials rushing to convert nearly every
square foot of patient care areas to
intensive care units (ICUs), and to establish temporary hospitals in convention
centers, parking lots, and hotels.
Less than 200 miles away, in Rhode
Island, Keith Burlingame hoped his
state wouldn't become the next New
York, but he and other state code officials were preparing for the worst. That
preparation included relaxing certain
state building code regulations to allow

not only for increased patient capacity,
but also for housing the state's homeless
population and a number of prisoners
who were set to be released during the
coronavirus pandemic, said Burlingame,
executive director of the Rhode Island
Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and
Review. But while the state had agreed
to relax-or as Burlingame referred to
it, "grant relief from"-passive code provisions related to things like occupant
loads and hallway widths, it didn't do
the same for active provisions related to
systems like fire alarms.
"If we had, for example, an old
hospital building from the 1950s that
had been converted into a business
and we wanted to repurpose it back
to a hospital, it might not meet the
requirements for a new hospital in
Chapter 18 of NFPA 101, but it could
very likely meet the requirements for
an existing hospital in Chapter 19,"
Burlingame said. "The corridor width
might not be compliant now, but we
think that would be a reasonable
relief provided it has a fire alarm and
sprinkler system."

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a temporary hospital for coronavirus
patients was erected inside a stadium. GETTY IMAGES

36 | NFPA JOURNAL * M A Y / J U N E 2 0 2 0

feature COVID_05.20 V4 FINAL DCS.indd 36

5/4/20 4:29 PM



NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

Contents
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover1
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover2
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 1
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 2
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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Contents
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 5
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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover3
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover4
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