Your facility has recently undergone some IT changes, which means penetrations and wires are running through walls that hadn’t previously. Now you face the challenge of figuring out how to go about firestopping these penetrations, or even if it’s really that important. If you’re stumped on your next move, we’ve put together some questions you might have and went ahead with answering them.
Q: What is firestop?
A: Firestop is a life safety system that is designed to protect the integrity of fire-rated barriers and floors by filling in any penetrating voids that have been caused by new construction of reconfiguration in a facility.
Q: How does firestop work?
A: All buildings are designed to compartmentalize smoke and flame when a fire occurs. The compartmentation allows for the fire and smoke to be contained in the room of origin to allow safe evacuation of the rest of the building. However, this will not work if there are penetrations in fire-rated barriers because even the smallest of holes can allow smoke or flame into the adjoining room.
Q: Who regulates firestopping in my building?
A: Firestop is regulated by The Joint Commission (TJC) and Firestop Contractors of America (FCIA). Other Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AJH) may also regulate firestopping.
Q: What are different types of firestop?
A: Firestop products range from caulks or putties, intumescent collars and pillows. However, there are over 3,000 UL system options, which can vary depending on the type of penetration.
Q: Can I use any kind of caulk or putty?
A: No. Caulks and putties used in firestopping must be fire-rated and follow UL specifications.
Q: What is “intumescent?”
A: Material that is classified as intumescent indicates that the material has an expanding capability when exposed to fire or heat. Intumescent sealants are used on penetrating materials that could burn or melt away during a fire. When exposed to heat or fire, intumescent pillows or collars expand to fill the void that is created by the melting penetrant to seal off the spread of smoke or fire.
Q: Is firestop needed if a sprinkler system is already in place?
A: Sprinkler systems are a great form of active fire safety, however sprinklers only put out the flame. Sprinklers are unable to stop smoke or toxic gas from spreading during a fire. Firestopping is needed to contain the fire, while also preventing smoke from travelling through the facility. Considering that smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires, it’s vital to keep the smoke from spreading and inhibiting occupants from reaching the exit.
Q: What product should I use for my facility?
A: Choosing a firestop system for your facility could be dependent on a few things such as: construction of the barrier, size of the penetration, and size and material of the penetrating item. After you’ve determined the penetration and collected the necessary information, you can consult the UL Fire Resistance Directory to determine with UL system is appropriate for the penetration.
Q: Why is firestop important?
A: Firestopping is mandatory by building code, and more importantly, it can protect your facility and occupants in a fire. Firestopping aids in preventing the travel of smoke from room-to-room, which is the number one cause of fire-related deaths. Even a pencil-sized hole can allow smoke to fill the adjacent room in less than 4 minutes. With proper firestopping, injuries and fatalities could be prevented.
Q: Can I do firestopping myself?
A: In-house firestop maintenance is possibly in most facilities. However, hiring an outside contractor will eliminate the chance of using the wrong products, and ensure the job is done correctly and timely. Firestopping contractors are more familiar with codes and UL systems, and can easily determine which system is acceptable for your facility. A facility employee may not be as educated in UL systems, and it can take a lot of time and resources to figure out which one works for the situation.
Fire-Barrier Maintenance Saves Lives
The most important thing to remember when it comes to firestopping is that protection it adds to the facility and occupants. Preventing the spread of smoke throughout a building with proper firestopping could be the difference of life or death. It is important for facility managers to know what is going on in their building, and to keep an eye out for any changes in fire-rated barriers that may lessen the integrity or inhibit their ability to protect during a fire.
With so many things to consider, deciding on how to manage your fire barriers could be overwhelming. Contacting a specialty firestop contractor will help you decide on which of the 3,000 UL system choices is right for your facility. PREVENT Life Safety has over 18 years of experience in selecting the proper UL system and applying it in facilities across the nation. Call us at 1-877-392-6074 to discuss your fire barrier compliance or get a free quote online.