Q: We sometimes take patients into the stairwells for physical therapy. Does the NFPA codes restrict this activity? If we can continue to use the stairwell, can we have emergency pulls or some other type of emergency notification device in the stairwell when a therapist is in the stairwell with the patient?
A: You did not say what occupancy your facility is… Are you a hospital? A nursing home? A Clinic? Or an Ambulatory Surgical Center?
The quick answer is you cannot use an exit enclosure (i.e. stairwell) for any purpose that has the potential to interfere with its use as an exit (see section 18.104.22.168.3 of the 2012 LSC). A physical therapist assisting a patient with therapy in a stairwell would be considered an impediment to other people trying to egress if a fire emergency were to break out, and is definitely a problem and should not happen.
No, you cannot install emergency notification devices in the stairwell because section 22.214.171.124.1 (10) is very limited and are not permitted if they do not serve the stairwell. You need to find a better place for PT activities involving stairs, and not in the corridor either.
Brad Keyes, CHSP, is the owner of KEYES Life Safety Compliance, and his expertise is in the management of the Life Safety Program, including the Environment of Care and Emergency Management programs.