With many of us facing freezing temperatures, a facility’s sprinkler systems, water lines as well as other fire and life safety systems will freeze and may not perform the way they were designed. Not to mention, icy roads prove to be an issue when first responders are trying to make their way to the scene of the fire. And whether you are a commercial, healthcare, industrial, or educational facility, it is critical make sure your buildings fire and life safety protection systems are regularly maintained. Otherwise, while firefighters work against the icy conditions, the fire could continue to spread throughout the building causing more structural damage and threat to occupant life.
Compartmentalizing a facility is one of the best ways to help contain fire and smoke to its point of origin while waiting for first responders. One of the many ways to compartmentalize a facility is through the use of the building’s fire barriers.
Fire walls, partitions, and smoke barriers are designed to help prevent the spread of both fire and smoke in the event of a fire emergency. Firestop materials are used to seal off any gaps and holes surrounding penetrating items in those particular walls, floors and ceilings. Some firestop materials will swell up or expand in the presence of heat due to penetrating items, such as plastic pipes or wires that can melt or change shape during a fire. This swelling action prevents a small gap or hole from becoming a larger gap or hole, which allows the spread of fire and smoke to spread through a building. That’s why NFPA requires that any items that can damage, alter, breach or penetrate a building’s structure needs to be firestopped with the approved UL system. However, firestop materials are manufactured in various types and it is important to make sure that the right firestop system is being used.
Unfortunately, one of the most common firestopping issues is improperly installing firestop materials. If a building’s fire barriers have not been properly maintained, then fire and smoke will spread quickly causing unnecessary property damage as well as putting people’s lives in danger. To help, here is a list of the most common firestop systems and how they are used to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke.
Choosing the Best Firestop System for Your Facility
Sealants (Silicone, Latex, Intumescent) – are used in combustible penetrations, such as plastic piping, multiple cables, and sleeved piping.
Wrap Strips – are “rolls” or “strips” of intumescent material preformed in thick, thin, wide, or less wide strips. These strips expand 10 – 20 times their original state.
Putties – are hand applied intumescent sealants, which are great for hard-to-reach areas, but typically limited to metal piping and cables.
Pillows – are typically made from unexpanded vermiculite, mineral wool coated with an intumescent spray, and packaged in “bags/pillows”. These firestop products might be protected with stainless steel mesh, in some cases. They also must be stacked to the exact dimension shown in the tested and listed system drawings.
Firestop Mortars– are perlite, foam or vermiculite concrete mortars that expand upon curing to lock themselves in place.
Composite Sheets – 3’ x 4’ sheets of 28 ga. sheet metal, coated with intumescent material, laminated to aluminum foil and wire mesh. Used for large openings, these sheets are excellent for multiple penetrating item systems.
Firestop Bricks / Plugs – are made of urethane foam with graphite filler as the intumescing agent, and are used as blocks in a large and small openings.
Pre-Fabricated Kit Systems – are very detailed, with a special insert for each penetrating item. The multiple inserts are surrounded by a steel perimeter cabinet, compressed with steel assemblies. They are great systems for the client who wants both aesthetically pleasing and practical application.
Spray Products – are used to increase protection over sealant systems in joint systems such as “top of wall” and perimeter fire containment systems. These systems are applied very thin, to about 1/8” thick for an effective seal.
Making sure that you choose the best firestop system for your facility is critical to the integrity of your building as well as the safety of its occupants. Each firestop material is specifically designed to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke through fire barriers. When using the proper equipment in the proper areas, firestopping can help to seal off and stop the spread of fire and smoke in the event of an emergency.