CMS Updates Fire Safety Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a final rule to update healthcare facilities’ fire protection guidelines to improve protections for all Medicare beneficiaries in facilities.

The new guidelines apply to a variety of facilities including hospitals; long-term care (LTC) facilities; inpatient hospice facilities; and programs for all inclusive care for the elderly.

This final rule meets healthcare facilities’ desire to modernize their environments while also ensuring the necessary steps to provide patients and staff with the appropriate level of safety. The provisions in this final rule cover construction, protection, and operational features designed to provide safety for Medicare beneficiaries from fire, smoke, and panic. Some of the main requirements laid out in this final rule include:

  • Healthcare facilities are required to have a fire watch or building evacuation if their sprinkler systems is out of service for more than ten hours.
  • The provisions offer LTC facilities greater flexibility in what they can place in corridors. Certain home-like items will now be permitted.
  • Fireplaces will be permitted in smoke compartments without a one hour fire wall rating, which makes a facility more home-like for residents.
  • Cooking facilities now may have an opening to the hallway corridor. This will permit residents of inpatient facilities such as nursing homes to make food for themselves or others if they choose to, and, if the patient does decide to make food, facility staff is able to provide supervision of the patient.
  • For Assisted Living Centers, all doors to hazardous areas must be self-closing or must close automatically. Hazardous areas are to be separated from other parts of the building by smoke partitions.

Healthcare providers affected by this rule must comply with all regulations within 60 days of the publication date of the final rule, which was May 4, 2016.

View the final rule at


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