Posts Tagged ‘Fire Resistant’

Passive Fire Protection

To better understand passive fire protection we need to firstly understand the concepts of “Compartmentalization” and “Flashover”.

Compartmentalization is the process of dividing large areas into smaller areas such as rooms within a level of a building. Each room may have a different function. You may have a plant room, an office space, a toilet area, and amenities area etc. In dividing large spaces into smaller areas we can then minimize the effects of one area on another area within the same space (e.g. two rooms on the one level of a building).

Flashover is the point at which there is the near simultaneous ignition of all combustible material in an enclosed area such as a room or the floor of a building (see the link at the end “Living Room Flashover). When certain materials are heated they release flammable gases. Flashover occurs when the majority of surfaces in a space are heated to the ignition temperature of the flammable gases. Flashover normally occurs at 500 °C (930 °F) for ordinary combustibles.[i]

If we look at a Time/Temperature curve[ii], you can see that for a fire to reach a temperature of 500 °C can take less than 10 minutes. From the “Living Room Flashover” video you can see that this occurs in the simulation in less than two minutes.

Passive fire protection measures ensure a building’s structure remains stable during fire, keep escape routes safe, limit the spread of fire, heat, and smoke from one compartment to another, so people have time to get out and fire officers have time to get in.[iii]

If we look at a room like a balloon, the objective of passive fire protection is to keep the air in the balloon for as long as possible. If we have a hole in the balloon the air escapes. If we have a hole in a compartment and there is a fire within the compartment, the fire can move from the compartment through the hole to an adjoining compartment and spread or alternatively the hole can provide additional oxygen to fuel the fire and accelerate the progression of the fire.

Plug up the holes, the obvious and the not so obvious

Passive fire protection is the process of “plugging up the holes”. For a room to be useful you have to be able to get in and out of it. For this to occur you have to create a hole in the wall into which you put a door so you can get into and out of the room.

Now we are in the room we need air so we run an air conditioning duct through the ceiling to the room. If we pump air into the room we have to allow air to leave the room so we leave a hole in the wall above the ceiling to allow the air to circulate through the room.

We want a drink so we go to the sink in the room and pour a glass of water. The pipes carrying the water and the waste from the sink go through the floor to the underside of the roof of the room below.

We plug our laptop into a power point. The cable for the power point runs through the wall and across the ceiling of a number of other rooms to the electrical distribution board.

So for our simple room we have a few holes which during normal activities are required to be there but in a fire can allow fire to spread quickly from one room to another if they are not adequately addressed;

  1. Doorway (Access and Egress Provisions)
  2. Air Conditioning Duct Work and Openings (Mechanical Services)
  3. Electrical Cabling through Walls and Ceilings (Electrical Services)
  4. Pipe Work through Floor Slabs (Hydraulic Services)

Passive fire protection is used to address these issues. The most obvious hole, the doorway, can be protected by the installation of a fire door with an automatic door closer so the door remains closed at all times and does not rely on people to close it.

The air condition supply ducts and return air ducts’/openings can be fitted with fire dampers which activate in a fire to close off the duct or opening and minimise the spread of fire and smoke. Fire dampers are not so obvious and are often installed incorrectly or not installed at all.

The walls can be fitted with fire resistant lining materials (such as fire rated wall sheeting) so a fire in the wall (possibly from electrical cabling) can be contained within the wall and not spread into the room. Fire rated pillows can also be installed in opening made through walls above the ceiling level to run cabling from one room to another.

Pipe work penetrating through the floor can be fitted with fire collars which act as a barrier around the pipe work to minimise the spread of fire through the floor into the ceiling of the room below.

The illustration below gives an idea about the various passive fire protection systems you may find in your facility.

Example of a fire and smoke compartment showing passive fire and smoke protection systems[iv]

 

 

Legend

  1. Fire and smoke barriers
  2. Structural fire-resistant elements–Beams, columns, trusses
  3. Fire-resistant doorsets
  4. Smoke doors
  5. Fire-resistant shutters
  6. Fire-resistant glazing
  7. Access panels and hatches
  8. Ducts and dampers
  9. Fire stopping of service penetration and control joints

Passive Fire Protection measures are intended to contain a fire in the fire compartment of origin, thus limiting the spread of fire and smoke for a limited period of time. This limited period of time is the time needed for people to safely evacuate the building. Fire protection is provided for life safety. Property and financial loss prevention is a by product of keeping people safe and having effective fire systems protecting our buildings.

Passive fire protection as with all fire protection systems and equipment should be installed, serviced and maintained regularly by trained, and where required, certified personnel.

To visualise the importance of passive fire protection the following photo[v] shows passive fire protection in action. The photo is an aerial photo of a brewery fire. You can clearly see how effective passive fire separation can be in protecting the lives of the people in the adjoining space and also the additional benefit of the protection of the structure of the adjoining space.

Looking for further information

The links below are provided purely for your convenience. They do not imply endorsement of or, association with any products, services, content, information or materials offered by or accessible to you at the target site.

http://www.pfpa.com.auPassive Fire Protection Alliance
http://www.nfpa.orgNational Fire Protection Association
http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/Institute for Research in Construction/NRC
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/682670/from_living_room_to_inferno_in_under_2_minutes/-Living Room Flashover Video
http://www.firetactics.com/FLASHOVER.htmRapid Fire Progress & Flashover related fire development
http://afscc.org/Alliance for Fire & Smoke Containment & Control
http://www.eapfp.com/European Association for Passive Fire Protection
http://pfpf.org/Passive Fire Protection Federation (PFPF)
http://www.l-com.com/multimedia/video_clips/video.aspx?ID=13100Videos showing flammability of cables based on jacket rating
http://www.fpaa.com.auFire Protection Association of Australia
https://rfidams.wordpress.comPeter Mole’s Blog Page

References
[i] NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, 2-106
[iv] Australian Standard 1851-2005 Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment (Page 163, Figure 17.1)
[v] Technical Guide TG-005 (Page 15), John Rakic
Disclaimer This article was written by Peter Mole General Manager at Taylors Doors and Frames and while every care has been taken in the compilation of this information and every attempt made to present up-to-date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that inaccuracies will not occur. All copyright and trade marks accessible via the links in this article are owned by the respective website owners, or their licensors.

 

 

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Fire Door

One of the main issues with fire doors is identifying what a door is when the only information you have available is the door itself, no records and no compliance tag. This problem exists for the manufacturer trying to counter a warranty claim, a service company wanting to undertake repairs, a building/facility owner needing to provide certification to an authority etc.

In relation to passive fire protection, such as fire doors, data is king. Knowing what a door is provides the essential information needed to certify and properly service and maintain the fire door throughout its life.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is a very flexible technology which in essence provides a truly unique identification to an individual item. Having a means to uniquely identify items then allows us the power to then follow this item throughout its usable life and beyond.

This means that not only can we follow an item but we can also maintain an accurate audit trail of the item and all things which have occurred to it during its life. These things could be original manufacturing details, warranty conditions, approvals, service visits, photos of modifications etc.

Through the utilization of a central data store we can associate any amount of information against the unique identification of an item and not only associate any amount of data against it but also recall the information as and when required.

The ability to combine RFID technology with central data stores is further expanded with the use of an internet based portal providing access to the central data store. This ability then gives rise to information being readily available around the world regardless of location through a standard internet browser or via a portable mobile device.

Examples of what we can achieve with RFID

The following are examples of the application of RFID technology for the fire door industry. This is only a short list of the possibilities of this technology for not only the fire door industry but any industry.

Proof of product
  • Identify an item with a RFID Tag containing a unique identifier
  • Through an internet portal upload documentation relating to each product type
  • Through a portable hand held device, scan the RFID Tag and enter the manufacturing details of the product
    • E.g. Type, size, colour, shape etc
  • Write data directly to the products RFID tag
  • At any time, scan the product RFID tag and retrieve the data relating to the product as referenced against the unique identifier
  • Allow authorities access to read data directly contained on the product RFID tag e.g. manufacturer, compliance details etc
Product Certification
  • Prior to installation scan the product RFID tag and obtain the details of the product and ensure they are correct for the intended installation
  • As details are held in the data store automate the generation of certificates and schedules relating to product evidence and compliance
Proof of Attendance
  • Using portable devices to record the undertaking of inspection activities, the inspection can be designed to only occur if a successful scan of the product RFID tag is undertaken which by default requires the technician to be in close proximity of the products RFID tag
  • If a product RFID tag is not scanned the system can allow the technician to proceed with the inspection but will send a status back to the central data store detailing that the product was not scanned to initiate the inspection activity
Remote data capture and data transfer
  • Individual product maintenance requirements can be provided for each individual product or type of product and held in the central data store
  • By scanning a products RFID tag the device software can communicate with the central data store and display the maintenance requirements for the specific product scanned
Monitoring activities
  • Establish routine inspection dates for a product and have the central data store advise when things should be done or when things are not done when due
  • Get alerts when warranties are due to expire so you an pro actively contact the client and see if they want ongoing service post warranty
Automated reporting and notifications
  • Let the central data store crunch the data so you don’t have to
  • Generate inspection reports based on data captured in the field
  • Generate door schedules based on data held in the data store
  • Automatically generate a report every time an event happens e.g. on warranty expiry send an automated email to the client advising them the warranty period is over and for any future issues contact company x, y or z

Is RFID an answer for the fire door industry? I believe it is.

RFID technology is a way we can finally and comprehensively address identification issues in relation to fire doors and further provide added benefits to all stake holders who are involved with the manufacture, supply, installation, services and certification of fire doors by providing a comprehensive product history from manufacture to disposal.

Through the use of RFID technology we can build further integrity into the industry and protect the safety of people in buildings and facilities and also minimise the risk of premature product replacement.

 


If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in the fire door industry is people unknowingly installing a fire door upside down, back to front or both upside down and back to front.

It’s just a door isn’t it? Does it really matter which way it is installed?

Well, for those of you out there who work on, or install fire doors, here’s a little tip.

“You can install a fire door upside down and back to front, so make sure you know what you are doing when working with fire doors”.

Here is a picture to help me explain.

The internal core of a fire door does not necessarily have the strength to hold fixings such as screws. For this reason, metal reinforcing plates are installed which wrap around the internal core and provide a way for fixings to hold in the door. Fixings such as screws fix through the metal reinforcing plates which hold the hardware to the door (i.e. the door closer, the hinges and the lock).

As you can see, the closer plate is located on the top left where the door closer would be installed. Now think if we turn the door upside down where would the metal reinforcing plate be, the metal plate needed to ensure a firm fixing of the closer to the fire door?

Along the same lines, imagine we put the hinges on the right of the the door instead of the left. Same thing, the hinge screws would be fixing into a internal core which most probably could not hold them.

A simple check when installing a fire door is to look for marks identifying the “TOP HINGE” (usually stamped or written on the hinge side of the door). If we know where the top hinge is then we know which way the door needs to be hung.

Another way manufacturers use to identify the top hinge is to drill a small hole approximately 5mm-8mm diameter into the top edge strip on the side of the hinge plates.

If you don’t find any markings indicating the top hinge and you cannot locate the hole identifying the top hinge you have one more trick you can use to identify where the top hinge side of the door may be. The plates are metal and what can we use to identify metal? A magnet. The facing on the core is only 3mm to 4mm thick so if you have a relatively strong magnet and slide it across the face of the door you will feel when the magnet comes across the metal plates. By scanning the door face with a magnet, and knowing what the door looks like behind the facing, you will in most cases me able to identify where all the plates are installed (i.e. closer plate, lock plate and hinge plates) and which way the door needs to be hung.

A Little Problem I Have Seen

If you come across a door and see the door closer coming away from the door, two things could have occurred. Firstly the door make be installed incorrectly so there is no plate there for the closer to fix to so over time it works it’s way loose (big problem probably requiring the replacement of the door) or the second thing could be that over time the screw fixings have just worn away and no longer hold in the metal plate.

If this is the problem (usually identified by trying to tighten the screw with the screw just turning without tightening) think about it.

If we put a longer screw in (a quick fix I have seen more times than I can care to remember) will it make a difference? Probably not. The original hole the screw was in has most probably worn over time and is now wider so a longer screw will not solve the issue. Initially it may hold in the core of the door but it to will come loose. As the hole in the plate is most probably wider, you will need to replace the screw with a bigger gauge screw (i.e. a thicker screw, not a longer screw). Using a screw with a bigger gauge allows the new screw to bite into the metal plate again and give a firm and strong fixing for the closer.

So we have decided to put a new screw in, what screw do we use?

A common issue I see is the use of the wrong type of screw. Now you know the screw is fixing into metal not timber we need to use a metal thread screw, not a timber thread screw.

Metal Thread Screw

Timber Thread Screw

As you can see in these pictures, there is a big difference between a screw for timber and a screw for metal.

If we consider that the facing on the door is only 3mm to 4mm thick and the metal plate is only in general 0.6mm to 0.9mm thick, any screw which does not have a thread for the first 5mm will not engage in the metal plate and is useless for this application.

You will also note that the metal thread screw has far more rotations of the thread which in effect means that it will bite into a much thinner material (e.g. the metal plate as opposed to a block of timber).

If you have these screws in your work place or at home just have a look at the way the screw is constructed, the spacing between the threads and the fact that you know what is inside a fire door and you will see how useless a timber thread screw is when it comes to fire doors.

In summary, a fire door is there to one day possibly save your life or the life of someone you know by allowing them to get safely out of a burning building. If you don’t understand what a fire door is and how it is constructed we may inadvertently undertake repairs on them which are not capable of working. If a closer is not fixed properly to the door and there is a fire the risk is that door may not close. The last thing people are thinking about in a raging fire is closing the door behind them.

The little things like the type of screw we use seem so insignificant but can have a devastating outcome. I hope you understand a little more now than you did before you started reading this entry and as always if you don’t agree with something I have written by all means let me know.

Have a great day and thanks for dropping by.


If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.