Life Support and Life Safety Code

There has been some confusion about the definition of “life support”, specifically related to the type of generator required. Life support refers to any function performed by equipment, which if stopped, could result in loss of human life or serious injuries. NFPA 99, 2012 edition: 3.3.42 defines Electrical Life Support Equipment as an electrically powered equipment whose continuous operation is necessary to maintain a patient’s life.

Life support is not limited to a ventilator. For example, it can be a BiPAP or suctioning machine. Facility staff should receive clarification from the physician prior to admission as to whether or not the equipment is necessary to maintain the resident’s life.

If a facility accepts a resident who requires life support, it is important to ensure all the following requirements are met per NFPA 99 and 110:

  • The facility must have a definition of life support;
  • The admission agreement must state the facility will accept a resident on life support;
  • The generator must comply with the standards of a Type 1 Essential Electrical System (ESS) (a Type 1 EES has the most stringent requirements for providing continuity of electrical service – the Acceptance Testing paperwork will show the type), complying with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA);
  • Testing and maintenance must be maintained as outlined in the NFPA;
  • Depending on the generator, the power must be split into two or three branches, that would include critical care, life safety and mechanical;
  • There must be plans to show which rooms/areas are supported by the life support electrical system;
  • All outlets must be marked (such as a red outlet cover) to show which plugs will support life support functions.

NFPA 110, 2010 edition:

4.4-Level. This standard recognizes two levels of equipment installation, performance, and maintenance.

4.4.1-Level 1 systems shall be installed where failure of the equipment to perform could result in loss of human life or serious injuries.

4.4.2-Level 2 systems shall be installed where failure of the EPSS to perform is less critical to human life and safety.

4.4.3-All equipment shall be permanently installed.


 Electrical Systems – Essential Electric System Categories

Critical care rooms (Category 1) in which electrical system failure is likely to cause major injury or death of patients, including all rooms where electric life support equipment is required, are served by a Type 1 EES.