When and Where Is a Fire Barrier Used?
The primary purpose of a fire barrier is to compartmentalize a building in an effort to prevent fire and smoke from spreading. This protects the structure, interior property, and, most importantly, human life. Any risk of fire is serious. As a business owner, you have the right and the legal obligation to take the appropriate protection measures.
Although a fire barrier benefits virtually all industries, it is especially critical for companies that deal with volatile materials and those with a large number of occupants. For a company with volatile materials, the spread of fire creates the risk for an explosion. In the case of high-volume occupants, the barrier optimizes escape time. Especially for hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities with bed-ridden patients, extra time is the difference between life and death.
To determine the right type of barrier your local building codes, and possibly your insurance company, will have specific requirements for the type and level of fire rating.
Commonly Used Barriers
Although there are many options for barriers against smoke and fire, the following are those most commonly used.
- Fire Wall – For fire resistance on the exterior of the building, a fire wall contains a fire within the area of origin. The amount of time the fire is contained depends on the rating of the fire wall and is usually between three and four hours. For optimal protection, fire walls are designed to extend continuously from the bottom of the building to the roof. For extreme conditions, fire walls have incredible structural stability and integrity. Therefore, even if the rest of the construction collapses, the fire walls remain standing.
- Fire Partition – The partition is another type of fire barrier. In this case, partitions are walls on the inside of the building. These walls subdivide areas on a specific floor. As a vertical assembly, partitions extend from the floor to the ceiling. For added support, partitions can be attached at the floor and/or ceiling. In most situations, a fire partition provides between one and two hours of protection.
- Smoke Barrier – This type of fire barrier works by restricting the spread of smoke. As a continuous membrane, the smoke barrier can be either vertical or horizontal. Regardless, the amount of fire resistance is a minimum of one hour.