Medical Center’s Proactive Barrier Management Program Solves Firestopping Challenges

Oct. 2, 2006

The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore has a long and distinguished history of service and medical excellence. Founded in 1773, it is one of the oldest, continuous health care systems on the East Coast. In December 2003, the center was scheduled for an inspection by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO). JCAHO accreditation is a nationwide seal of approval that shows that an organization meets high performance standards. One of those standards requires that any penetrations above the ceiling must be properly sealed in order to maintain the integrity of the fire-rated walls.

Firestopping Challenges
At the time, the medical center’s facilities and maintenance department was facing a number of firestopping challenges and approached Specified Technologies Inc. (STI) of Somerville, NJ. Any compromise to fire barriers constitutes a major problem. STI is a firestop products manufacturer with a strong understanding of the unique needs of the healthcare industry.

Developing a Program
Bayview and STI worked together for about a year and a half developing a Barrier Management Program to track where all the penetrations are made. “It’s basically a standard operating procedure, or methodology, and reporting system to ensure fire barriers are always compliant,” explains STI Vice President of Sales and Marketing Raymond Bruno. “It consists of such things as a database of restricted space access areas. This restricts access to fire barriers. Internal personnel as well as external personnel, or subcontractors, must request a permit prior to construction or modifications. Their work is checked when completed to make sure it is firestopped (and/or firestopped properly). Only then is the permit signed and closed. This also provides a record-keeping system that provides documentation and helps JCAHO inspections to go more smoothly.”

How the Process Works
There are approximately 60 employees in Bayview’s facilities and maintenance department. FM teams continuously conduct floor-to-floor checking to ensure penetrations are firestopped. Employee training was an essential component of the STI program. They received their training at the STI facility in New Jersey and had to pass a difficult test. STI also went to the Bayview campus to do in-house training and has continued to support the facility.

Fire-rated Pathway a Viable Solution
During the period that Bayview was working with STI on developing the program, STI introduced a new product for firestopping cable penetrations called the EZ-Path™ fire-rated pathway. Because the firstopping is built into the pathway, STI professionals believed this would eliminate concerns about firestop being reinstalled following cable changes. Additionally, with a 100 percent visual fill rating, concerns about overfilling conduits and being out of compliance are eliminated as well. Center professionals saw it as a way to eliminate punched holes in the wall once and for all.

Units Incorporated into Program
Bayview decided to make an initial purchase of 100 EZ-Path units. The FM department will meet with all construction workers before every project starts as well as those running cabling through the fire-rated or smoke-rated walls to determine the extent of wall penetration. If there is going to be a substantial number of cables, Bayview will install an EZ-Path unit and mark up drawings indicating where the unit is located. EZ-Path units are installed in all the mechanical spaces, telephone closets, data closets, TV closets, and anywhere bulk cables are being brought through fire-rated walls. The idea is that for future use, contractors can go through the EZ-Path pathway instead of knocking new holes in the wall. If there is no EZ-Path in a needed location, Bayview can install an EZ-Path for them. The plan is that in a 1- to 5-year period Bayview will have installed enough EZ-Path units to hopefully eliminate the need to knock holes in the wall.

Supportive Administration
Bayview’s administration was exemplary in giving the FM department the resources needed to comply with the JCAHO standards. They gave them the budget to purchase what was needed to meet their goal. The department placed an order for another 200 cable pathway units.

Successful Survey is Critical
The 18-month long partnering effort with Bayview was instrumental in the medical center passing the JCAHO inspection. Bayview had a successful inspection. In fact, the JCAHO surveyor for the Environment of Care area complimented the center’s president and said that Bayview was one of the only hospitals he had surveyed that had been as proactive with regard to firestopping.

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