Fire compartmentation is the division of a building into smaller subsections using fire-resistant construction materials. Its goal is to slow down and contain the spread of fire and smoke.
Fire compartmentation is a form of passive fire protection, meaning the function works without the need for people and machines, unlike fire alarms or a fire extinguisher.
Why is it Important?
First and foremost, fire compartmentation saves lives. This form of fire safety can create more time for people to evacuate a building by slowing the spread of fire and smoke. It can also offer a safe way to escape for building occupants by preventing exit blockage. Fire compartmentation also protects firefighters as it makes containing and stopping a fire much easier for them.
Beyond saving people’s lives, fire compartmentation potentially decreases the amount of damage to your properties. For example, instead of a fire spreading to the entire building, this fire safety method can limit the damage to small subsections of a building. Fire compartmentation can protect specific rooms or areas in a building. For instance, a library may make their special collections room into a separate compartment.
The same can be done for rooms that contain hazardous materials, like the chemical storage closet in a science classroom.
How to Implement Fire Compartmentation in Your Building
The best time to do this is during the construction of the building, however, additional components can be installed after the build. For a room or space to be considered a compartment, all the materials used to construct it must be fire-resistant.
This is a general term applied to any structure within a building that has a one-hour fire-resistance rating. The term is often used interchangeably with fire partition. However, fire partitions are different because they can have a fire-resistance rating of just 30 minutes.
Cavities refer to an enclosed space within the walls, floors, or ceilings of a building. These function as breaches in a room you are trying to make a compartment because they provide a route for fire and smoke to escape the room and spread to other areas.
Cavity barriers take care of this issue by plugging up the cavities, making it impossible for fire and smoke to infiltrate the gaps. They are made of fire-resistant material or intumescent material (a substance that expands when temperatures reach a certain level).
These are fire-resistant doors that also have seals capable of withstanding high temperatures. These doors are heavy, which can lead to people leaving them propped open for convenience. The doors should always remain closed so that they form a fire barrier. Additionally, Fire Doors should also receive regular inspections to ensure effectiveness. Read more on fire door regulations.
These are ducting fittings that prevent the spread of a fire through ducting vents. There are both vertical and horizontal dampers, and there are three main types.
- Dynamic fire dampers are suited to areas where the fan will keep blowing even when the fire alarm goes on.
- Static fire dampers cut off all the airflow in a duct when the fire alarm goes off.
- Smoke dampers prevent smoke from travelling through the ducts.
Find out more about Fire Dampers & Maintenance
These are fire-resistant curtains stored in ceilings that drop down during a fire, forming a fire barrier.
Fire curtains are ideal for buildings with open floorplans since they remain hidden until there is an emergency. They are also useful in buildings that don’t have proper fire compartmentation installed.
There are also varieties of curtains that focus on smoke resistance and others that are both fire and smoke resistant.
Fire Compartmentation Guidelines
In England, you can find the building fire safety regulations concerning fire compartmentation in Approved Document B. While you should examine the document for all the specifics, here are some points from the document:
- Every floor of the building must be a compartment if the building’s top storey is more than 30 meters high
- Every wall that separates two separate businesses should be a compartment wall
- The ground floor of a building does not need to be a compartment floor unless the building has a basement
- If two buildings share a wall, it must be a compartment wall and run the entire vertical height of the buildings
- Compartment walls and roofs must be fire-resistant
The fire-resistance rating required for compartment walls and roofs can vary. The minimum rating required ranges from 30 minutes to two hours.
Have Your Building Assessed
Fire compartmentation is only one part of fire safety. There are many other factors to consider in ensuring that your building is safe for workers.
But how can you know whether your building is safe and compliant with current fire safety legislation?
The solution is simple: have a professional come out and perform a fire risk assessment. You can book your fire risk assessment with us today to ensure that your building is safe.