LSS Life Safety Services®

How Fire Barrier Management Protects You & Your Building During A Fire

Above Ceiling

Compartmentalizing your facility is one of the best ways to help contain fire and smoke to its point of origin while waiting for first responders. Compartmentalizing is simply taking a building and dividing it into sections that can close off from the rest during an emergency. From dampers hidden within the ductwork of a building to fire walls, there are various ways of preventing the spread of fire and smoke through fire barrier compartmentalization. But how exactly does compartmentalizing your facility help protect its occupant while also preventing future property damage?


Fire and Smoke Dampers

Each type of damper is designed and used in the ductwork to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke within the ventilation system of a facility. Fire dampers are used to prevent the spread of fire within the ductwork through fire-resistance rated walls and floors. They work when the heat from the fire causes the normal temperature of a room to rise to about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat causes the fusible link, which is holding the damper open, to melt and allows the damper to be closed.

Similarly, smoke dampers are used to resist the passage of air and smoke within the ductwork. They are typically operated by a smoke detector, which would also be located in the duct. Once smoke has been detected, the smoke detector sends a signal to the dampers actuator, which uses the jackshaft and linkage to open and close the blades of the smoke damper.

Combination dampers, are used in areas where both fire and smoke barriers are located to prevent the passage of both fire and smoke.


Fire and Smoke Doors

These types of doors are specifically designed to prevent fire and smoke from spreading through fire barriers, while providing an easy access for evacuation. These doors serve as a regular door under normal circumstances, but will allowing your guest an easy exit during a fire. However, fire doors must be kept shut with no objects blocking access to the door.

Keeping fire doors closed is critical in the event that a fire is to occur. Fire uses oxygen to burn, and a closed door with proper clearance dimensions around the perimeter of the door will help limit the oxygen flow to the fire. By being denying oxygen, the fire isn’t being fueled with energy to continuing to grow. This will help keep the fire contained, which will help limit property damage as well as allowing occupants a safe evacuation route.


Firestopping Fire Walls and Barriers

Firewalls are exterior wall that extends continuously from the base of the building all the way to the roof. They are designed to remain standing even if the adjacent structure collapses. To do so, firewalls are built thicker than normal walls with significant structural stability under fire conditions. Sometimes buttresses or pilasters may also be required in order to provide adequate lateral stability. Firewalls will typically have a 3 to 4-hour fire-resistance rating.

Fire barriers are interior walls that extend from the floor‐to‐floor or floor‐to‐roof, including concealed and interstitial spaces. They are designed to sub‐divide portions of the building, and can be supported by structures, such as roofs, columns or floors. All support structures should have a fire-resistant rating no less than that of the fire barrier they support. Fire barriers restrict the initial flow of heat within the area of origin, which provides building occupants with adequate time to evacuate to safe areas. These walls will typically have a 2 to 3‐hour fire‐resistance rating.

Lastly, smoke barriers are a continuous membrane that is designed and constructed to restrict the passage of smoke. They can either be vertical, like a wall or horizontal, like a floor or ceiling. Smoke barriers will have a minimum of a 1-hour fire-resistance rating.

Firestop materials are used to seal off any gaps and holes surrounding penetrating items in those particular walls, partitions and barriers. Some firestop materials will swell up or expand in the presence of heat, which prevents a small gap or hole from becoming a larger gap or hole, and allowing for fire and smoke to pass through. However, firestop materials are manufactured in various types and it is important to make sure that the right firestop system is being used.


Each system is specifically designed to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke through a building, and are important to the building’s overall fire safety. However, in order for a building’s fire barriers to do their job correctly, they must be properly maintained according to the required code for each system. So don’t wait until it’s too late to get your facility’s barriers inspected and repaired!

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