Once again I am back at the office, after walking through a building that has gaping holes and improper firestopping. Telecom and electrical closets had no firestop. Above the doorway to the exit access corridor, half of the wall was missing. Intumescent firestop was used around the dampers. Cabling ran through a rated wall, and the hole was large enough to drive a Smart Car through.
Actually, this one surprised me, since it was an otherwise well maintained property. The last one was a new facility that was not firestopped “because no one said they had to.” The building inspector did not point out the holes in the fire walls. Did they escape the notice of the fire marshal, as well? They got their Certificate of Occupancy. Now they can run more wires and piping through the wall and not worry about it -- until a fire, anyway. Another facility used top-of-wall spray -- not only for the top-of-wall, but for every penetration, as well. The inspector thought it was fine.
What happens when a building is not properly firestopped? Fire, smoke, and fumes travel from room to room and floor to floor. Lives that could have been saved, are lost; property that could have been preserved, is damaged. Who is held accountable? Everyone. And there is no statute of limitations for life safety. Everyone involved is responsible for paying the monetary award. This could mean ten, fifty percent, or more -- whatever the judge decides.
The code is specific. Barriers must be complete from outside wall to outside wall, from floor slab to ceiling slab. All penetrations and joints must be sealed with tested U.L. systems. How do you know if proper firestop systems were installed? Ask if they used tested U.L. systems. If the installer gives you that 'deer in headlights' look, chances are, the hole was just mindlessly filled with sealant. Document the systems the installers use.
You want inspectors to catch these items. You are paying for construction that includes proper firestopping. These passive systems save lives by giving occupants time to get out of a building or move to a safer location. They limit the damage that can be caused by smoke, toxic fumes, and water from sprinklers or hoses. By controlling the spread of fire, passive systems give firefighters more time to get to the location. The fire is contained, limiting the areas needing reconstruction, reducing down time and business loss.
We all know the issues. But usually nothing is done until a tragedy strikes.
When it does, who will pay the Piper?
UL Qualified Firestop Contractor
Factory Mutual 4991 Approved