Viewpoint

by Bill McHugh, Firestop Systems
 
Bill McHugh has been involved in the Firestop Systems Industry as a Contractor, Consultant and Expert Witness and Distributor. His presentations on the Firestop Industry have been well received by local, regional and national audiences. He published a book on Firestopping in 1993, an article on the Firestop Industry for the National Insulation Association in 1997 and has been involved with the Firestop Contractors International Association since its inception.

Imagine if you will; you’re in a hotel room, fast asleep...You dream that fire breaks out in the room below you due to smoking in bed. You’ve heard that smoke and fire can travel fast through unprotected openings in buildings....Then, awake in a cold sweat, you breath easy knowing you’ll have time to get out of the building.....behind the escutcheon plates on the plumbing in the bathroom was a firestop system, stickered/labeled and properly installed.

The Firestop Systems industry has been in existence for about 20 years. The need for correctly installed, tested and listed Firestop Systems to promote life safety in buildings is being recognized now by more building officials, owners, insurance companies, contractors and the public worldwide...to protect life safety. Firestop Systems are designed to work in conjunction with fire walls/floors, sprinklers and alarm systems as part of a "Total Life Safety System" for a building.

The Firestop Systems industry has been growing rapidly. In 1992, there were 573 different Tested and Listed Systems in the Underwriters Laboratories Fire Resistance Directory, Volume II, then a small, 5"x8" book. Currently, there are close to 3,000 different Systems in the Directory. New systems have been developed by manufacturers to stay competitive and keep up with building technology.

Manufacturers have invested millions test burning mock up construction assemblies of Firestop Systems to be published in Directories. These Fire Resistance Directory listings are the "suitability for use" statements for firestop products use in a specific application. Building Code Officials and Architect/Engineers around the country are demanding Firestop Systems Tested and Listed for the specific use.

Sometimes, Building Officials ask owners and contractors to "SHOW ME THE SYSTEM". (In the same vein as Show me the money from the movie "Jerry Maguire".) And, if there is no tested system available for an application, engineering judgements by the manufacturer are required before installation of the firestop system.

Clearly, the Firestop Systems Industry is here to stay. The result of tightening codes and specifications has resulted in a "discipline" with product sales over $100,000,000 annually, growing 15 to 30 percent per year. Firestop Systems products are installed by either Specialty Firestop System Contractors or any of the many trades contractors that construct a building.

Our industry has issues, like all industries. Rigorous U.L. Tenting and ISO 9000 quality programs by manufacturers exist. Yet, how much attention is being paid to the correct installation of Firestop Systems in the field? A life safety risk is created when a contractor doesn’t understand the detailed requirements of Firestop installation. Assemblies in the field may look like a Firestop System, but hidden is an untested and unlisted system; a "life safety risk" to you and I.

There is an answer to Firestop "final assembly" quality control. A group of contractors has recently formed an association.... Firestop Contractors International Association. The mission of the organization is for Firestop Contractors to become recognized as preferred quality contractors of LIFE SAFETY Firestop Systems. Committees have formed to further this mission

  • Accreditation/Certification Committee- To develop a comprehensive Firestop Industry Quality Program aimed at Life Safety .
  • Technical Committee - Developing the "Handbook of Firestop Industry Knowledge".
  • Communications Committee - Developed a website, now under construction, www.FCIA.org
  • Liaison Committee - Promotes the Firestop Industry’s importance to life safety to the
  • Construction and other industries.

The Firestop Systems Industry has come a long way since the first testing done in the early ‘80s.

Tested and Listed Firestop Systems exist for a wide range of building conditions with new testing and standards being developed to meet the challenges of the construction industry. Firestop Systems are generally well specified as a result of building code changes and better enforcement.

To complete the Quality Process, the "FCIA" (Firestop Contractors International Association) is developing industry leading programs in certification, technical, communication and liaison.

Manufacturers and Testing Laboratories can come up with a 2 Professional Firestop Contractor to make sure the system meets the Life Safety Objective for the general public. Join FCIA and make a difference in your industry.

For more information, call 630-690-0682, or request information at www.fcia.org.

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