Penetrations in your fire barriers can often be out of sight, out of mind. Penetrations can fall through the cracks, leaving your facility vulnerable and at risk for citations. Here are some tips to help you avoid citations and stay compliant year round.
1. Focus on Problem Areas & Hotspots – Know which areas of your facility are the most at risk for multiple penetrations and be on the lookout for open penetrations in these areas. Take an inventory of these locations, and perform regular inspections to ensure they remain firestopped at all times. These locations can be areas where:
There are a lot of “through penetrations”, holes that go through both sides of the barrier, generally for cables and pipes.
Membrane penetration which goes through only one side of the barrier.
Joints, where wall-to-wall meets, or floor-to-wall, or floor to floor.
Openings, where equipment may have been removed.
2. Label Your Barriers – a simple way to save time and ensure the correct UL systems are utilized is to label your fire barriers. You can stencil “2-hour fire barrier” on the wall, to allow staff, vendors, and contractors to easily identify the fire barrier itself, as well as help identify which UL system is required to treat the wall penetration. Labeled barriers can help prevent unnecessary or unknown wall penetrations and avoid the incorrect use of UL systems. This effort will save time in the long run identifying the barrier type, and ultimately help to lessen penetration problems.
Another option is to utilize a Tagout System, this method is similar to OSHA’s lockout/tagout requirements. You can utilize a tag on penetration risk areas, and when contractors or workers see the tag it will warn them to be cautious penetrating this barrier. And if they do penetrate the barrier they will be sure to properly treat the opening.
3. Issue Barrier Permits (e. Above Ceiling Work Permits) – Another option is to require contractors and workers to obtain a permit before creating any penetration in your facility. Above ceiling work permits provide facility managers with a method to track the work that is performed in their facility, and who is performing it. Utilizing this program will hold contractors and in-house workers accountable and increase the likelihood they will firestop each penetration they make.
4. Talk with Manufacturers & Vendors – Identify which firestop products you utilize in your facility and contact those manufacturers with questions. They can provide you with instructions for installation, and potentially training. It is also important to let your vendors know that you would like to inspect all penetrations to ensure they are up to code before paying the vendor. If they know this policy ahead of time they will be more careful when applying firestop systems, and will track any penetration made during their work.
5. Hire a Specialty Firestop Contractor – Hiring a specialty firestop contractor can help to ensure your facility is treated and addressed properly at all times. Utilizing a specialty firestop contractor allows you the opportunity to set up a quarterly or monthly firestop maintenance program, where they stop by and check for penetrations on a regular basis. Another option is to have the specialty firestop contractor work with the contractors performing work in your facility. The firestop team can follow the contractors through the building and seal the penetrations as the contractor creates them, ensuring all penetrations are firestopped “without delay” as required by NFPA code.
Questions? Contact PREVENT Life Safety and we can help you reduce the number of unprotected penetrations in your facility. Here at PREVENT our technicians receive ongoing training and we are active participants in FCIA (Firestop Contractors International Association) to ensure we stay on top of the latest industry products and advancements. We can help you get your facility code compliant.