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A fire test is a means of determining whether fire protection products meet minimum performance criteria as set out in a building code or other applicable legislation. Successful tests in laboratories holding national accreditation for testing and certification result in the issuance of a certification listing. The listing is public domain, whereas the test report itself is proprietary information belonging to the test sponsor.
There are many different types of fire tests apart from those on firestops. Walls and floors themselves can be tested, closures within them, such as windows, fire doors, fire dampers, structural steel, and more. Fire tests are conducted both on active fire protection and on passive fire protection items. Each have different test methods and scales. There are full-scale, small-scale and bench-scale tests. There are tests on systems, such as the one below, but there are also tests on materials, such as intumescents, to be sure of components that may be used within a system.
Fire testing must consider all applicable provisions of the intended product certification. It is also prudent to test products in such a manner as to ensure ease of use and broad, economical applications with regards to listing and approval use and compliance.
A fire test can also mean an ad hoc test performed to gather information in order to understand a specific hazard, such as a construction or storage configuration. Tests can be bench scale (e.g., flammable liquid flash point), medium scale (e.g., storage commodity classification), or full scale (e.g., replication of an entire rack storage configuration).Typical information gathered from full-scale testing is heat release rate vs. time, smoke production and species composition, radiant heat, and interaction with fire control or suppression systems.
Many fire tests are run by official laboratories for the purpose of product certification. However, some manufacturers of fire protection products also maintain their own facilities and run tests for R & D purposes before going to the expense and exposure of a test at a third party facility.
Some universities have functioning fire research groups which are equipped to run fire tests on building materials.
The below photos illustrate types of furnace testing as seen in the United States.
The use of inadequate fire testing and lack of product certification on circuit integrity fireproofing of electrical wiring between nuclear reactors and control rooms in nuclear power plants led to the Thermo-Lag scandal, which became known as a result of disclosures by Gerald W. Brown to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, watchdog groups, and the press.
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UL, LLC is a global safety certification company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois. It maintains offices in 46 countries. Established in 1894 as the Underwriters' Electrical Bureau, it was known throughout the 20th century as Underwriters Laboratories and participated in the safety analysis of many of that century's new technologies.
Fire safety is the set of practices intended to reduce the destruction caused by fire. Fire safety measures include those that are intended to prevent ignition of an uncontrolled fire, and those that are used to limit the development and effects of a fire after it starts.
A fire door is a door with a fire-resistance rating used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire and smoke between separate compartments of a structure and to enable safe egress from a building or structure or ship. In North American building codes, it, along with fire dampers, is often referred to as a closure, which can be derated compared against the fire separation that contains it, provided that this barrier is not a firewall or an occupancy separation. In Europe national standards for fire doors have been harmonised with the introduction of the new standard EN 16034, which refers to fire doors as fire-resisting door sets. Starting September 2016, a common CE marking procedure was available abolishing trade barriers within the European Union for these types of products. In the UK, it is Part B of the Building Regulations that sets out the minimum requirements for the fire protection that must be implemented in all dwellings this includes the use of fire doors. All fire doors must be installed with the appropriate fire resistant fittings, such as the frame and door hardware, for it to fully comply with any fire regulations.
Fireproofing is rendering something resistant to fire, or incombustible; or material for use in making anything fire-proof. It is a passive fire protection measure. "Fireproof" or "fireproofing" can be used as a noun, verb or adjective; it may be hyphenated ("fire-proof").
An intumescent is a substance that swells as a result of heat exposure, thus leading to an increase in volume and decrease in density. Intumescents are typically used in passive fire protection and require listing, approval, and compliance in their installed configurations in order to comply with the national building codes and laws.
A firestop or fire-stopping is a form of passive fire protection that is used to seal around openings and between joints in a fire-resistance-rated wall or floor assembly. Firestops are designed to maintain the fireproofing of a wall or floor assembly allowing it to impede the spread of fire and smoke.
Listing and approval use and compliance is the activity of adhering to specific conformance testing requirements to establish minimum performance for safety-related products and materials. The conformance could be for an active certification listing or for an approval that has been issued by an organization that is accredited both for testing and product certification. Such organizations include Underwriters Laboratories, FM Global, or the Deutsches Institut für Bautechnik (DIBt).
Passive fire protection (PFP) is an integral component of the components of structural fire protection and fire safety in a building. PFP attempts to contain fires or slow the spread, such as by fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors. PFP systems must comply with the associated listing and approval use and compliance in order to provide the effectiveness expected by building codes.
Firestop pillows are passive fire protection items used for firestopping holes to achieve fireproofing. The various kinds of firestop pillows are intended to slow the spread of fire. They are often used to meet fire-resistance ratings in conduits that need frequent access.
Circuit integrity refers to the operability of electrical circuits during a fire. It is a form of fire-resistance rating. Circuit integrity is achieved via passive fire protection means, which are subject to stringent listing and approval use and compliance.
A fire-resistance rating typically means the duration for which a passive fire protection system can withstand a standard fire resistance test. This can be quantified simply as a measure of time, or it may entail a host of other criteria, involving other evidence of functionality or fitness for purpose.
Pressurisation duct work is a passive fire protection system. It is used to supply fresh air to any area of refuge, designated emergency evacuation or egress route.
A combustible material is something that can combust (burn) in air. Flammable materials are combustible materials that ignite easily at ambient temperatures. In other words, a combustible material ignites with some effort and a flammable material catches fire immediately on exposure to flame.
A grease duct is a duct that is specifically designed to vent grease-laden flammable vapors from commercial cooking equipment such as stoves, deep fryers, and woks to the outside of a building or mobile food preparation trailer. Grease ducts are regulated both in terms of their construction and maintenance, forming part of the building's passive fire protection system. The cleaning schedule is typically dictated by fire code or related safety regulations, and evidence of compliance must be kept on file by the owner.
A cone calorimeter is a device used to study the fire behavior of small samples of various materials in condensed phase. It is widely used in the field of Fire Safety Engineering.
Flame spread or surface burning characteristics rating is a ranking derived by laboratory standard test methodology of a material's propensity to burn rapidly and spread flames. There are several standardized methods of determining flame spread,
Fire dampers are passive fire protection products used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts to prevent the spread of fire inside the ductwork through fire-resistance rated walls and floors. Fire/smoke dampers are similar to fire dampers in fire resistance rating, and also prevent the spread of smoke inside the ducts. When a rise in temperature occurs, the fire damper closes, usually activated by a thermal element which melts at temperatures higher than ambient but low enough to indicate the presence of a fire, allowing springs to close the damper blades. Fire dampers can also close following receipt of an electrical signal from a fire alarm system utilising detectors remote from the damper, indicating the sensing of heat or smoke in the building occupied spaces or in the HVAC duct system.
The Steiner tunnel test is a widely used method of testing building interior wall and ceiling finishes for their ability to support and propagate fire, and for their tendency to emit smoke. The test was developed in 1944 by Al Steiner of Underwriters Laboratories, and has been incorporated as a reference into North American standards for materials testing as tests ASTM E84, NFPA 255, UL 723 and ULC S102. These standards are in widespread use for the regulation and selection of materials for interior building construction throughout North America.
In electric power distribution, a bus duct is a sheet metal duct or also cast resin insulated containing either copper or aluminium busbars for the purpose of conducting a substantial current of electricity. It is an alternative means of conducting electricity to power cables or cable bus.
EN 16034 refers to a set of European standards which specify the technical performance characteristics for fire resisting and/or smoke control products, or better known in common language as fire/smoke doors or fire/smoke proof doors. Compliance with this standard requires to fulfill the requirements of the Construction Product Regulation for construction products, which are placed on the EU market with the intention to become permanent parts of a construction.