As a facility engineer, you know that maintaining fire barriers keeps smoke and other toxic gases from spreading throughout the building and allows occupants to evacuate safely. According to the Life Safety Code, NFPA 101, any penetrations must be treated without delay. The compartmentalization of smoke during a fire in a building could mean life or death for building occupants. Even an opening the size of a pinhole in a fire-rated barrier can fill a room with smoke in a matter of minutes.
What is the best way to ensure your fire barriers are maintained?
Above-Ceiling Permit Programs
When work needs to be done in areas where there are fire-rated barriers, it’s important to set specific procedures and requirements for hospital personnel and contractors to follow. Establishing an above-ceiling permit program can help facilities managers keep track of work that could potentially penetrate fire and smoke-rated assemblies. If you’d like more information about above-ceiling permits contact ASHE (American Society of Healthcare Engineering). This way they know, and you know, when and where any penetrations in fire barriers may need to be firestopped.
Firestop Maintenance Programs
Another great way to ensure that your fire and smoke barriers are compliant is to set up a firestop maintenance plan, especially in facilities where there are a lot of unaddressed or unknown penetrations. By addressing certain zones or floors on a quarterly or monthly basis, you keep your facility continuously on plan for code-compliance. This not only establishes a plan for compliance, satisfying most AHJs (authorities having jurisdiction – fire marshals, The Joint Commission, etc.), but also saves you time and money by breaking up the work over a period of time.
Either way, it’s important that you maintain detailed reporting of any firestop work, including before and after pictures with locations noted or maps and floor plans if possible. This will allow you to review work that’s been completed in the past and also serves as documentation when it’s time for your life safety inspection.
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