Steps that can be taken to protect buildings and the people within them in the event of a fire.
Fire is one of those things that we don’t want to think could happen to our homes or our businesses, and it’s understandable to shy away from thoughts of it because it is a terrifying prospect. However, fire is a risk that can happen to anyone, so steps need to be taken to help protect buildings and the people within them, should the worst happen.
What is fire stopping?
Fire stopping is a series of safeguards put in place to slow or stop the progress of a fire through a building to preserve as much of it as possible, and making sure that residents or employees are safe and can easily exit the building.
Fire stopping is a passive type of fire protection, as opposed to an active type, like sprinklers or similar.
To visualise how fire stopping works, think of a building, and each room is a compartment in its own right. If a fire were to break out in one of these compartments, then it is the job of the fire stop to stop or delay the spread of the fire to another room or area by several different means.
Why is fire stopping important?
Fire is a scary thing, it can ruin buildings, and cause severe injuries and even death, so anything that we can do to reduce the impact of a fire is helpful.
Fire stopping measures, when installed correctly, should be able to contain a fire for up to four hours. This should give you plenty of time to fully evacuate the building, and allow the fire service to arrive on site. It is far better to have a fire destroy only one room, than to watch an entire building burn and for people to be trapped inside, and put the firefighters themselves at risk.
Fire stopping is one of the most important parts of a building, and should not be taken lightly or not installed properly, always consult a professional.
How does it work?
Fire stopping involves using different methods to seal any openings, from large to tiny, between areas of a building, this will stop or greatly delay the spread of the fire. It is important that the walls of each area are of an industry approved fire resistance, and the fire stopping methods come into their own by stopping the spread of fire, smoke and heat to another area.
There are several different types of products to help with the fire stopping, and we’ll go through some of them now.
A fire collar is fitted around any pipes, ducts, cables or anything else that may be going through walls or ceilings, and it is fire resistant. A fire collar contains a material that swells when exposed to extreme heat, and in this way the material will fill any gaps, and stop the fire and smoke moving into another room. As it is heat resistant, it will also protect the adjoining area from excessive heat. When inert, a fire collar will usually allow for a little bit of expansion and shrinkage of pipes and similar when they heat up or cool down in a normal day to day way.
There are different types of fire collar for different applications, and to match different styles of rooms also.
These methods are used to seal any gaps between rooms or areas that fire or smoke would otherwise be able to travel through. They come in many different forms and what you would need depends on the area you are sealing.
There are silicone types, acrylic and foam, and will be suitable for different areas. Some allow for some degree of movement in the building, whilst others don’t. These are useful for protecting joints in the walls, ceilings or floors, and for partitions.
Fire sleeves are exactly what they sound like, they are a sleeve like tube that is designed to fit around pipes, cables or hoses that move through a wall or a ceiling. They protect what is inside them from fire, so other parts of the building will remain operational.
There are some fire sleeves that are designed to not protect what is in holding. In these cases, the fire sleeve is around something like a plastic pipe, when exposed to extreme heat, the sleeve will grow and expand, which will squeeze the plastic pipe and eventually strangulate it so that fire, smoke and heat cannot move through it.
Ceilings should always have fire resistant ceiling tiles installed, but of course lighting is also needed. When a ceiling tile is removed to place a light fitting, you will need a fire cover, also known as a luminaire cover, to cover the back of the light. This cover keeps the integrity of the fire-resistant ceiling intact, offering further protection.
These are only some examples of fire stopping, and there are lots of other materials that can be used, including but not limited to, gypsum plaster, cement mortar, ceramic, glass fibres and many others. It is important therefore, to employ builders who understand all the fire regulations, and who to reduce the risks of fire spreading through your building.
If a building is older, built before the newer fire regulations then it is worth having a fire stop survey conducted by an approved tradesman.
Remember, if you are in a building where a fire breaks out, even if you have the best fire stops installed, leave immediately. Do not stop to collect your personal effects, leave the building, but don’t run. The last thing you want to do is fall down the stairs.
Leave via the stairs never the lift, in case the electricity cuts out, move as far away from the building as you can, most companies will have a designated meeting point, and call the fire brigade.
Make sure everyone is out, whether this be doing a head count if you are a family or small business, or checking people off against a signing in book.
Be safe, and make sure your building is properly protected.