Assisted Living (AL) communities, by design, are safe and comfortable living spaces for aging adults. Principal among the design features that ensure the safety of residents are the fire suppression systems, fire alarms, and fire barriers throughout the building.

Annual inspections of assisted living communities by the State Fire Marshal ensure that fire-related life safety issues are mitigated. Periodically during construction Haren invites the Fire Marshall to walk the site and advise our team on how to best construct the building to meet NFPA 101 and meet the needs of the AL staff and residents.

Recently, the Missouri-state Fire Marshal, along with John Knox Village staff, visited the VAL 400 project for a tour of the job site. Discussed throughout the tour were some items specific to the VAL, such as locating fire alarm display panels so they can be easily read from the nurses’ station. To ensure future annual inspections run smoothly, the Haren team established access panel locations that enable observations of fire separations and fresh air intakes in the resident rooms. The annual and final inspections can be a stressful event, which is why the Haren team involves the Fire Marshall in the construction process.

Annual fire inspections and building according to fire codes ensure the safety of residents and employees. The inspections also provide benefits including a safer working environment, a better-maintained building with an improved resale value, a possible reduction in insurance premiums, and a safer building for unfamiliar occupants. The Haren team views the process as an opportunity to ensure that they are providing the safest space possible for AL residents.

While preparing for final inspection contractors, senior living community staff should be on the lookout for the following common inspection fails.

Common Final and Annual Inspection Deficiencies:

  1. Smoke detector locations too close to sources of air movement.
    • In the event of a fire, HVAC vents and ceiling fans can prevent smoke detectors from functioning properly.
  2. Attic insulation on sprinkler heads.
    • This can easily be remedied by using a can of compressed air to gently blow insulation from the sprinkler head.
  3. Firewall penetrations in the attic.
    • A common deficiency on annual inspections, this can be avoided by ensuring that all conduits passing through firewalls are properly fire sealed.
    • These are often created after construction by maintenance staff or other contractors who are installing phone, data, alarm, or other systems in the building.
  4. Improper fire alarm system programming.
    • Check with your fire alarm company that they are regularly servicing the system
    • Discourage maintenance staff from adjusting settings without consulting your fire alarm company
  5. Combustible wastebaskets are prohibited.
    • This was a requirement from when residents could smoke in their rooms.
  6. Resident items stored too close to sprinkler heads.
    • According to NFPA, objects must be stored a minimum of 16″ from sprinkler heads.

The health and safety of residents are what your Haren team values the most when working in Senior Living communities. The above listed items are meant to aid your facility while preparing to pass your next annual inspection. Ensuring that all fire-related safety systems are in place, and the building is user-friendly for staff and the resident is a measure of quality for the Haren team.