Fire-Rated Barriers: The Importance of a Fire Damper

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The last thing you want is the building you live or work in being consumed by fire. Although a fire may occur, there are a few essential items that will help determine the extent of the fire and whether or not the building is salvageable. Buildings must have a variety of fire safety products to keep occupants safe, such as fire-rated barriers, firewalls, and fire dampers. What are these products, and why are they important? Let’s find out.

Fire Systems 101

For industry professionals, the difference between a fire barrier, a firewall, and a fire damper may be common knowledge. However, for home and business owners, the difference may be a bit more elusive. Thankfully, the team at Lloyd Industries is here to clarify the critical differences between the three materials.

  • Fire Barrier: A fire barrier is an interior wall that extends the entire length of the space vertically and horizontally, including concealed and storage spaces. These walls are designed to create division within an area to restrict the flow of heat and allow occupants to evacuate safely. A fire barrier can be supported by structures such as roofs, columns, or floors, but the supporting materials must have a fire-resistant rating greater than or equal to the fire barrier it supports. Typically, fire barriers are made with a 2- to 3-hour fire-resistance rating.
  • Firewall: Unlike fire barriers that work internally, a firewall is an exterior structure that extends from the base of the building to the roof. These walls are engineered to remain standing even if the structure next to it collapses. This is done by creating a wall that is thicker than average and has added stability to stay structurally sound under pressure generated during a fire. The standard fire-resistance rating of a firewall is three to four hours.
  • Fire damper: While fire barriers and firewalls make up the structural components of a building, a fire damper works within ductwork to prevent the spread of fire throughout the heating and air conditioning systems. Frequently a fire damper is designed to close when the heat from a fire melts the link that holds the fire damper doors open. When the link melts, the doors close automatically. Without a fire damper, home or office is still at risk from fire damage, regardless of whether or not it has a firewall or fire barrier.

Fire Dampers: For What? 

When we picture a home or office on fire, we often imagine something that is fully involved. In fire terms, this means things aren’t looking too good, and the whole structure is likely in flames. But scale back a moment. Imagine an office building with multiple floors, offices, and storage rooms. If a fire breaks out in one place, what happens next?

If the building has a firewall and fire barriers, you’re safe, right? Not necessarily. In addition to electrical wiring and plumbing, metal heating and air conditioning ducts run throughout the ceilings to help spread warm and cold air to each office. This keeps things warm in the winter and cool in the summer — at least that’s the goal. Now imagine that fire. If flames manage to break through into the ductwork, what’s stopping the fire from spreading through the ceiling to other offices in the blink of an eye? Hopefully, products like those manufactured by Lloyd Industries.

By installing a fire damper, as well as a variety of other ventilation products made by Lloyd Industries, the flames, smoke, and toxic gasses from a fire can be stopped before they spread throughout a home or office. A fire damper, or combination smoke and fire damper, can be installed to help give occupants enough time to evacuate safely.

A Matter of Life and Death

During a fire, seconds can be a matter of life or death. Knowing the capacity that your building has for protecting you and your employees is your responsibility. Although it makes sense for nearly every industry to have a structure built with fire barriers, an HVAC system with a fire damper, and firewalls, it matters most for companies that store volatile materials or that have a large number of employees or occupants — think hospitals and nursing homes, companies that deal with explosive materials, and apartment buildings.

Lloyd Industries has been a leader in the manufacturing of fire protection and HVAC products for over 35 years. While many people believe that a firewall is the only way to protect against fire damage, the team at Lloyd Industries knows that it takes a carefully engineered system of products to keep people safe from fire. The key to preventing catastrophe isn’t stopping the building from burning down. Although it may seem like the overall goal — and the owner of the building would probably agree with that sentiment — the most important thing when dealing with fire is to avoid loss of life.

As we’re sure you’ve heard before: Things can be replaced. People can’t. This is why creating a system that delays the impact of a fire is essential. Installing a firewall between buildings at an apartment complex can help prevent the spread of fire from one building to another. Installing a fire damper within those buildings can help prevent a fire that starts on one end of the building from traveling through the walls and ceiling to reach the other side with practically no warning.

Comprehensive Fire Safety

There are two types of fire protection that everyone should know about: active and passive. Active fire protection is the type that nearly everyone names when thinking about what to do in case of a fire: pull the smoke alarm, grab the fire extinguisher, and call the fire truck. But having a passive fire protection system in place can truly make all the difference. It’s hard to pull a smoke alarm if you’re asleep, use a fire extinguisher that isn’t working correctly, or call the fire department when your cell phone is dead. Thanks to the products at Lloyd Industries, however, your home and office can work for you in keeping you safe from danger.