How compartmentation works

Written by Désiré Roberts

Written by Désiré Roberts

29 November 2021

Our next edition of our fire education series is how compartmentation, passive fire protection, works. Our last edition explained how fire worked and we have also written about fire extinguishers. In this blog, we will go through the importance of compartmentation and why it is so important for passive fire protection. 

What is compartmentation? 

Compartmentation works exactly as you think it does: it separates a building from a fire protection perspective into compartments or segments to slow the spread of a fire, should one occur, and the smoke and any toxic gases that are released. Compartmentation stops a fire from completely engulfing a building and causing more damage than it should, while protecting lives. Many buildings have been lost to what started out as a small fire that just grew out of control. To understand why this happens, we have to go back to how a fire works. If you do not have any form of passive fire protection, then everything in your building is potential fuel for that fire. If your building has compartmentation as a form of passive fire protection, then those walls are fire resistant to a certain degree and should “contain” the fire in the effected room or floor until the fire services arrive. This is how it works in theory and for more times than not, it works like this in reality. 

How does compartmentation work?

The idea behind compartmentation is prevent the entire building from burning, but also sectioning the building into areas of manageable risk. With proper compartmentation, your walls, floors and doors should all be fire resistant to ensure that the fire cannot easily spread from room to room or floor to floor. Many of us have seen how a building without the right fire protection system can burn easily. If a blaze breaks out on a lower level of a building, the upper levels should have enough time to evacuate safely before fire services arrive. 

Now slowing a fire is only part of the aim of compartmentation. It is also used to slow the spread of smoke and toxic gases that are released as a result of the fire. An estimated 30% of fire related fatalities were caused through smoke or toxic gas fumes, and a further 15% through burns and smoke and toxic gas inhalation. Compartmentation should give people enough time to evacuate from a building without being overwhelmed by toxic gases and smoke, as this form of passive fire protection should prevent smoke and toxic gases from passing through. 

Why is compartmentation important? 

There are two major reasons for compartmentation: life safety and property damage. By having the right compartmentation strategy implemented correctly, a blaze should be contained. This ensures the highest level of safety for anyone in the building and provides enough time for evacuation. Most compartmentation materials are rated as fire resistant for 30-120 minutes. This would allow occupants to get out to a safer place, but also give fire services enough time to get to the source of the blaze safely. A building without passive fire protection can be dangerous for fire fighting services; not just occupants. 

Should a building have the right compartmentation, it will limit the damage. For higher risk areas, such as server rooms or storage spaces, a higher grade of passive fire protection would be needed to lower the risk levels. 

While compartmentation cannot stop a fire, it can most certainly slow the spread, protecting lives and property from damage or loss. Ensuring your building has the best fire protection for its purpose is key to lowering the risk should a blaze occur. No one plans for a fire incident but when they happen, it’s good to have a robust fire protection system already installed. 

About Onetrace active and passive fire protection software

Onetrace is the UK’s leading active and passive fire protection software. We believe the more we understand fire protection, the lower our overall risk is should a fire occur. Knowledge is power, and this power can truly save lives. Stay tuned to learn more about fires, how to stop them, and how to prevent them. 

If you’re interested in how Onetrace works, all you need to do is simply get in touch or request a demo. If you’re not ready to commit or just want to have a quick peek, that’s okay – you can try Onetrace completely free for 14 days with zero obligation or commitment. It’s that simple.