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January 2017 Bulletin 214

Posted by Firepoint on 2017-01-12 13:07:19 EST

Effectiveness of Building Fire and Smoke Barriers

In most buildings over time, the fire and smoke-resistant assemblies may be affected by renovations. The walls or a floor may be penetrated by pipes or cables thus impeding the originally-listed design to safeguard adjacent areas. Building operators must develop an effective fire safety strategy to routinely inspect the designated safe egress routes and the constructed barriers to fire and smoke.

They must also review the adequacy of fire resistance ratings to which the entire structure was designed and built. Often overlooked are the day-to-day concepts of operability and functionality which are so very important for developing and maintaining a continuous level of fire safety within the building. This includes the integrity of fire door assemblies which, given extensive usage, become worse for wear and subsequently inoperable. It is to be noted that each type of fire door has varying characteristics and was installed based on the hazard classifications of the building. This goes hand-in-hand with verifying the level of fire protection provided by door frames, latching devices, and swinging / sliding hardware components. It is critical to maintain the effectiveness of the entire assembly as a fire barrier, which could be compromised if any component is omitted or substituted with one of sub-standard quality.

Fire codes require that all fire exit doors and their hardware be labelled as meeting the requirements for fire safety and life protection. These identification markings indicate either an hourly rating designation or alphabetical letter designation. Despite the fire safety provisions of fire doors, they are only designed to fully protect when closed, as well as being clear of materials on both sides. When combustible materials are piled against the door, the level of protection is reduced and potential egress is impeded. For this reason, combustible material should be kept well away from openings.
To guide building operators with the ongoing task of ensuring the integrity of fire barriers within the building, the approved fire safety plan lists the required frequencies of inspections and the associated maintenance to be performed.

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