Often, many people assume that since their facility has an active fire sprinkler system in place, they can ignore their passive fire protection systems like fire dampers, fire doors, and fire barriers, However, there are several reasons why inspecting and testing your passive fire protection system is still required by code. While fire sprinklers are an important part of active fire protection, sometimes they just aren’t enough. Maintaining your passive life safety systems along with a fire sprinkler system is crucial in protecting a building and its occupants. These fire protection systems are designed to work together to minimize loss in the case of a fire. Below are three reasons why the passive side of the system is just as important as the active fire protection systems.
1. Sprinklers Can Only Stop Flame
Sprinkler systems are important and, when functioning properly, sprinklers can immensely help a life-threatening situation. However, sprinklers are only responsible and capable of suppressing the flame and are not able to contain the fire. Passive fire protection systems such as fire/smoke dampers, fire doors, and fire barriers contain the fire to one compartment in the building, and stop the spread of smoke and fire throughout the facility. Fire/smoke dampers prevent smoke spread through the air ducts, while fire doors and fire barriers prevent smoke and flame from traveling to the next area of a building. If your facility only maintains the active fire protection systems and sprinklers, you could be at risk for extensive smoke damage and injuries in the event of a fire.
2. Sprinkler Fail Rate is High
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) conducted a survey that showed approximately 1 in 6 sprinkler systems failed when tested or used in a real emergency. Some of the reasons these systems failed were: water shut off, inadequate water supply, inadequate maintenance, and obstruction to water distribution, etc. Another main cause of fire sprinkler failures is Microbial Induced Corrosion (MIC). MIC will clog the pipe and sprinkler, which will cause it to fail during an emergency. In any of these cases, the facility would have to depend on the passive life safety systems in place to contain the smoke and flame until the fire could be extinguished. If your fire dampers, fire doors, and firestopping are not functioning properly and your sprinklers fail, you are at an extreme risk for extensive damage and injuries.
3. Overwhelming Fire Intensity
Depending on the intensity of the fire, sprinklers may not be able to defend against a very large fire. During the September 11th attacks, fires that broke out in the World Trade Center building were much too large and the building’s fire sprinklers weren’t able to produce enough water to put out the fires. This caused the collapse of the buildings. Although these fires also overwhelmed the passive fire protection systems eventually, these systems delayed the collapse, protected egress routes, and allowed many occupants and first responders to evacuate the building beforehand.
Maintain Your Passive Systems
It is important for facility managers to inspect and maintain ALL of their life safety systems in order to provide a safe environment for their building occupants and minimize damage in the event of a fire. Maintaining your passive life safety systems is just as important as testing and maintaining your active life safety systems. Try not to look at your passive life safety systems as just a “back-up” plan. The best fire protection and suppression comes from a fully-functioning, integrated system. The old saying goes “the more the merrier,” which rings true with any life safety systems in your facility—don’t settle for just one, maintain them all.
PREVENT can help you maintain your passive fire protection systems and help to ensure code-compliance with fire and smoke damper inspections, fire door inspections, firestopping installation, and photoluminescent egress systems. Give us a call at 877-392-6074 to get a quote or visit us online at www.prevent-lss.com for more information.