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The Unseen Guardian: Understanding Passive Fire Protection

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Fire protection engineers are life savers. You might not even realize how important they have been in your life. They do so much more than develop smoke detectors. These engineers design, test, and adapt fire resistance materials for buildings. The building you are in right now is most likely protected by these materials.

These "secret" materials are a form of passive fire resistance. All of them were designed to have a high fire resistance rating.

Fire Resistance Ratings

Any material designed to protect you against fire is required by law to have a high fire resistance rating. This number tests how strong the material is against the heat from fire. Generally, the process involves placing the material in extreme fire situations and testing how long it withstands the heat. The longer it can withstand the heat while in increasingly higher temperatures the better. The amount of hydrates, or water, in a material often helps with fire resistance. The water boils under the heat without affecting the rest of the material. It isn't until the water is used up that the material itself takes on the brunt of the heat.

Intumescent Fire Protection

One way fire protection engineers protect buildings is by using intumescent materials. Something that is intumescent expands in size when exposed to heat. This is very useful when it comes to fire protection. The most common intumescent material used in fireproofing is sodium silicate. When it expands in size it keeps heat from reaching the flammable object underneath. Hydrates in the material also help by keeping the temperature low. This material is often used as a spray, putty, paint, or film. It is most often used to protect pipes and grease ducts from restaurants.

Endothermic Fire Protection

Another way fire protection engineers protect buildings is to use endothermic materials. Something that is endothermic absorbs heat and keeps it from passing through to anything else around it. Fire protection engineers use endothermic materials as building materials. Objects are actually made of the material and not covered with it like with intumescent materials. The most common endothermic materials are gypsum and Durasteel. Gypsum boards are often used to cover pipes or wires that you want protected from flames. Endothermic materials are also used in the making of fireproof glass. A layer of endothermic materials rests inside the glass layers and absorbs the heat so that the glass won't shatter.

Thanks to fire protection engineers (such as those from Zari Consulting Group) using intumescent and endothermic materials in your buildings, you are safe to live and work. You probably didn't even know that protection was there.