How does firestopping work?
All buildings are designed and built to compartmentalize smoke and flames if a fire occurs. This separation keeps the fire contained in the room of origin, allowing for safe evacuation of the remainder of the building. This design is compromised when holes are made in the fire-rated barriers, firestop systems are used to restore the integrity of the fire barrier.
Firestop products work by filling the void around penetrating items in fire-rated walls and floors.
There is a large variety of different firestop products, each having their own benefits. Some products expand in the presence of heat (intumescent), this action seals the penetrating item and prohibits the spread of flames and smoke to other rooms. Intumescent materials are ideal when the penetrating item may burn or melt and fall apart. Non-intumescent sealants are more suited for construction joints, where movement of the joint is expected.
There are also endothermic products which absorb the heat from the fire and release water, to slow the transfer of heat and help protect critical electrical and structural components from fire.
How to determine which firestopping product is best
When it comes to firestopping you have to consider numerous factors to determine which firestop system is correct for each penetration. The construction of the barrier, the size of the penetration, as well as the size and material of the penetrating item all play a role. These variables along with firestop materials together create a firestop system. Each individual system requires a specific product.
Once you have examined the penetration and collect this information, you can consult the UL Fire Resistance Directory to determine which UL system is appropriate for your specific penetration. If you do not have the time to identify the correct UL system from the 3,000 available, you can contact a specialty firestop contractor who can help you ensure the correct system is used.
Why is firestopping Important?
Though sprinkler systems protect your facility from the spread of flame, sprinklers cannot stop the spread of smoke. Firestop systems work in conjunction with both active (sprinkler and alarm systems) and passive(fire doors, fire dampers, etc.) fire protection systems in your facility, to suppress the spread of smoke and flame to extend time for a safe egress from the building.
Here are a few statistics that highlight the importance of proper firestop:
- 75% of all fire related deaths are a result of smoke inhalation
- Approximately 57% of people killed in fires were not in the room where the fire originated.
- Smoke can fill a 20x20x20 foot room through a pencil sized hole in under 4 minutes.
When applied correctly, firestop can help to reduce the numbers mentioned above by slowing the spread of smoke.
The bottom line is that firestop systems save lives, protect property and allow for continuity of building operations in case of a fire. 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 the fire-rated barriers that may weaken their integrity and inhibit their ability to protect the building in the face of a fire.
PREVENT Life Safety has over 15 years of experience in selecting the proper UL system and applying it in facilities across the nation. Contact us today if you have questions regarding firestop or the passive fire protection system in your facility.