With many of us facing the first winter storm issues of the year, 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. As a healthcare or long-term care facility, keeping your patients as well as your faculty and staff safe during an emergency is important. Not to mention, many patients or residents are too sick to move quickly, or are tied to a lifesaving machine and can’t be easily evacuated. Therefore, properly compartmentalizing your facility with fire and smoke barriers can help patients and residents who can’t be moved during a fire by allowing them to remain in one place and still be protected.
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 fire and smoke dampers to fire doors, there are various ways of preventing the spread of fire and smoke through fire barrier compartmentalization. One of the many ways to compartmentalize a facility is through the use of a building’s firewalls, fire partitions and smoke barriers, which are used to contain the spread of fire and increase the means of evacuation.
Firewalls – 3 to 4-hour fire-resistance rating.
An exterior fire-resistance-rated wall designed to contain a fire within the area of its origin for a set amount of time. According to the International Building Code, firewalls extend continuously from the base of the building all the way to the roof. They are built with significant structural stability under fire conditions, which allows for fire walls to remain standing if the rest of the construction were to collapse.
Fire Partitions – 1 to 2-hour fire-resistance rating
An interior walls that subdivide areas on a particular floor within a building. Fire partitions are vertical assemblies that extend from the floor only to the ceiling. However, they may be attached to the ceiling or floor for support.
Smoke Barriers – Minimum of 1-hour fire-resistance rating
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.
Compartmentalizing your facility's fire barriers with fire walls, partitions, smoke barriers will give a building the ability to protect those who can’t be easily evacuated. It allows for patients in hospitals and residents in long-term care facilities to stay in one place while continuing to receive medical care. Unfortunately, the biggest cause of failure in fire barriers is unprotected or improperly protected openings from penetrations. To maintain the integrity of a wall, proper firestopping will seal off any holes and gaps and help minimize the spread of fire and smoke.