One of the main purposes of a building’s fire barrier protection system is to help contain both fire and smoke to one location by preventing it from spreading from barrier to barrier. In a building, there are various systems, such as, fire and smoke dampers, fire doors, and firestopping to help minimize property damage, while also providing a safe evacuation route for those building occupants. However, fire walls, fire partitions, and smoke barriers are also a huge part of a building’s barrier management system. In fact, firestopping is simply the maintenance of holes and gaps of penetrating items through these systems. However, you might be wondering what is the difference between each and how do they help prevent the spread of fire and smoke throughout a building.
A fire wall is 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, fire walls 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 walls are also usually thicker than a normal wall and will typically have a 3 to 4-hour fire-resistance rating.
A fire partition is 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. Typically, fire partitions will only have a 1 to 2-hour fire-resistance rating.
Finally a smoke barrier is 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.
Over all, each system compartmentalizes a building into sections that can be closed off from the rest of the building during a fire emergency. Compartmentalizing a building with fire walls, fire partitions, smoke barriers, along with fire and smoke dampers, and fire doors will help guarantee the building will be prepared during the event of a fire. Therefore, the maintenance of each wall, partition, and barrier with the proper firestopping materials will seal off any holes and gaps and help minimize the spread of fire and smoke.