What Makes Firestop So Difficult?
Running wire and cable is crucial to the operation of any building, but in turn sealed penetrations are crucial to the safety of building occupants. This is a persistent battle. A battle that takes knowledge, time, and funding. According to the article The Best Prognosis For Firestop Value, “It’s a double hit. Enforcement is getting stricter, financial resources tighter, and healthcare facility managers are caught in the squeeze” But the buckling down of code enforcement and unwavering financial issues are not the only components that make barrier management problematic. There are also education and manpower issues. Covering every penetration in larger facilities can be a full-time job and with over 5,000 UL systems for properly installing firestop, maintaining barriers can be a daunting task.
3 Ways To Tackle Firestopping Challenges
1. If you are unfamiliar with firestop installation techniques, seek the help of a specialty contractor. Specialty firestop contractors are trained experts in the installation of firestop systems and maintaining assembly ratings. They can not only help you choose the correct materials and UL systems to address penetrations, but are faster and more efficient with the installation process. The Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA) offers education on firestop installation. Finding an FCIA member contractor is your best bet on addressing your fire barrier penetrations quickly and easily.
2. Make sure the installation techniques you are using are approved and tested. Improperly addressing fire-barrier penetrations can be a waste of time and resources. The requirements for maintaining assembly ratings are published in UL directories and by other testing agencies. There are certain UL systems that can become increasing complex depending on the assembly rating, the penetrating item, the brand of firestop material you are using, and several other factors. Following these UL systems specifications to completion will help you ensure compliance and maintain the fire-rating of your assembly. There are several resources that can help guide you such as the IBC code, NFPA code and the UL directories mentioned above.
3. Have a set plan to deal with penetrations. A ceiling permit program can ensure that you are aware of any activity in the building that may compromise the integrity of your fire barriers. Knowing where work is happening in the facility and where penetrations are located saves time and allows fire barriers to be addressed on an as needed basis. If this is not possible in your facility, setting up a firestop maintenance program may be a better option. Addressing different floors, buildings, or zones of your facility on a monthly or quarterly basis allows your fire barriers are maintained on a regular basis and ensure that previously unidentified penetrations are addressed. This is also a great option for facilities with neglected fire barriers where an entire sweep of the facility would take up too many resources. Spreading the cost and effort out over a year can make it much more affordable and realistic.
Want help maintaining penetrations in your fire barriers? PREVENT Life Safety is a specialty contractor and active member of the FCIA. Learn more about firestopping services or get a free quote.