According to 2012 International Fire Code, Section 703.1 Maintenance,

“The required fire-resistance rating of fire-resistance-rated construction (including walls, firestops, shaft enclosures, partitions, smoke barriers, floors, …and fire-resistant joint systems) shall be maintained. Such elements shall be visually inspected by the owner annually and properly repaired, restored or replaced when damaged, altered, breached or penetrated.”

What are the building features that are to be “provided and maintained”?

  • Vertical Openings – exit stairs, communicating stairs, ramps, elevator shafts, ventilation shafts, light shafts, trash chutes,
    linen chutes and utility chases. All such walls are fire rated and must be protected.
  • Hazardous Occupancies or Areas – boiler/mechanical rooms, laundry rooms, flammable liquid storage rooms, laboratories,
    maintenance shops, Oxygen storage rooms, paint shops that are not severe hazard areas, soiled linen rooms, storage rooms
    and trash collection rooms. All such rooms are fire rated and must be protected.
  • Compartmentation – dividing the building into separate smoke compartments, by the use of smoke barriers, to limit the
    transfer of smoke. All compartments are required to have a fire resistance rating, must be continuous from floor slab to the
    floor or roof above (and extend through any concealed space) and continuous from outside wall to outside wall. All
    penetrations must be properly sealed using a listed firestop assembly. Any penetration, such as structural elements,
    conduits, duct, pipes, data cables and so forth, must be properly sealed. Head-of-wall joints, wall-to-wall joints,
    floor-to-wall joints, and through penetrations, must all be firestopped using a listed firestop assembly.
  • Smoke Compartments – In existing buildings, at least two smoke compartments are provided for every story that has more
    than 30 patients in sleeping rooms, to create areas of refuge. The barrier that subdivides smoke compartments is referred
    to as a smoke barrier and it has a fire rating. Smoke compartments are limited in size and must have at least two exits that
    are remote from one another, allowing occupants options for exiting. Travel distance from any point to reach a door in the
    required smoke barrier shall not exceed 200 feet.
  • Existing Smoke Barriers – All original smoke barriers must remain in place and be maintained to prevent transfer of smoke,
    unless authorized by the AHJ. In existing buildings, smoke barriers are fire rated for 1/2 hour; in new buildings, smoke
    barriers are fire rated for 1 hour.
  • Smoke Dampers – In existing buildings, ducts that penetrate smoke barriers are protected by approved smoke dampers
    that close when a smoke detector is activated. Required smoke dampers in ducts penetrating smoke barriers shall close
    upon detection of smoke by approved smoke detectors in accordance with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code. Smoke
    Dampers and Fire Dampers have very specific installation instructions for protecting the integrity of the fire wall
    penetrations and to prevent failure of the fire/smoke dampers due to faulty installations.