About 57 percent of people killed in fires are not in the room of the fire’s origin, according to the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook.
Firewalls are designed to protect against the spread of fire from one room to another, but if there are holes in the firewall, such as a hole drilled to install fiber optic wire for example, the wall becomes compromised.
These holes need to be fixed with a firestop product specially designed to prevent a breach the firewall. The problem is these firestop systems are often non-existant or inadequately installed.
Pete Ielmini, Executive Director of the Mechanical Insulators Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT), joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the importance of firestop protection systems and why more must be done when it comes to building safety inspections.
The importance of firestop safety systems
Fire containment is extremely important because it prevents fire and smoke from spreading throughout a building, Ielmini said. This can substantially lower property damage and prevent injuries or death.
Fire-rated walls are designed to prevent fires from spreading to other areas of the building. These walls contain joints, openings or breaches that must be addressed, as fire can penetrate these areas. Like a chain, a firewall is only as strong as its weakest link, Ielmini explained.
Any holes in these walls should be filled with special firestop products designed to contain smoke, fire and extreme heat. These products are designed to withstand the intense pressure caused by a fire or high pressure hoses attempting to put out the fire.
Ielmini said firestop products should be installed by trained and qualified personnel. All too often, they are purchased and installed ineffectively — and the problem becomes obvious when disaster strikes.
Why thorough inspection of firestop safety systems is needed
Inspection is the remedy for improperly installed fire suppression measures, but it is the Achilles’ heel of the fire safety industry, Ielmini said. He was careful to point out he was not criticizing fire departments who do these inspections. They have an extensive list to check and firestop safety measures often get overlooked, he explained.
Ielmini said the Mechanical Insulators LMCT is actively trying to educate the public and facility inspectors about the importance of proper firestop measures. He said his organization wants to sit down with officials and detail what needs to be inspected and why these issues are often overlooked.
The goal of providing training in firestop systems is to save lives and reduce property damage caused by fire, Ielmini said.
The LMCT also wants to educate insurance companies about how they can incentivize proper inspections of firestop systems, Ielmini said. Insurance companies could perhaps offer discounts to property owners who have the proper firestop measures in place and are properly inspected, he suggested.