The devastating effects of a fire to both life and property cannot be overstated. Without proper fire safety methods in place it can rip through a building at a one-time alarming pace, destroying the structure and trapping people in rooms filled with noxious smoke. Several techniques and technologies have been developed over the years to prevent the starting of a fire and suppress and contain it if it starts. Among the methods is the appropriate selection of the building materials used to construct properties. While nothing is truly fireproof, several passive fire protection systems are able to withstand the effects of a fire for some time. This is where the importance of the Fire Resistance Level comes in.
Fire Resistance Level explained
Fire Resistance Level is the industry-standard method for determining how well a fire-rated system can withstand all the effects of a fire. There are three components to it, which are explored further in the next section. Using Fire Resistance Level allows for more precise measuring of something's resistance to fire as opposed to simply stating one time frame. FRL also helps businesses select the right fire protection systems for their building based on their needs.
What are the three components of FRL?
The fire resistance level is expressed as a series of three numbers separated by forward slashes (FRL 60/60/60, for example). The numbers refer to how long (in 30-minute increments) the fire system passed each of the three elements of the AS1530.4 fire test. The three elements are structural adequacy, integrity and insulation.
Structural adequacy refers to the ability of the material to continue to bear loads or be able to bear a load on it. This is important, especially for load-bearing building elements like door frames, windows and support columns, especially for larger buildings or if the fire burns for a long time. Walls usually also fall into the category of load-bearing and you should always consider installing firewalls, as a fire system, despite how good its FRL may be, is only as good as the system next to it.
Integrity refers to how well the material will prevent fire and hot gases (but note that smoke is not included in this measurement) from passing through it. This is vital to both stopping the spread of the fire and giving employees enough time to evacuate the building. In order to combat high levels of smoke, however, you will need smoke curtains instead.
Insulation refers to how well the material prevents the spread of heat through it into other rooms of the building. While insulation might not be the most important element at first glance, protection from heat transfer can be a vital aspect for businesses that use temperature-sensitive technology or goods.
How is Fire Resistance Level different to Fire Ratings?
Despite the similar names, 'Fire Rating' and 'Fire Resistance Level' are two very different things. While Fire Resistance Level refers to the aforementioned structural adequacy, integrity and insulation ratings of a material, Fire Rating actually refers to whether a material is suitable to be a component in a fire protection system such as fire doors.
How is FRL tested and determined?
Fire Resistance Level is determined using the AS1530.4 specifications. The testing for this is undertaken by accredited organisations and authorities and has the system exposed to conditions that mimic a real fire.
The testing is conducted in thirty-minute increments and, in order to achieve a fire resistance level to Australian standards, a system must pass the above-discussed testing for at least thirty minutes in any of the categories.
What is the FRL of common Australian Fire Control systems?
Australian Fire Control offers and installs a number of fire protection systems for commercial properties, and the best method for you can very definitely hinge on its fire resistance level.
Fire doors are specialised self-closing doors that are designed to inhibit the spread of a fire by creating physical barriers. AFC's doors range from -/30/- to -/120/30, and a fire door installation can be done after a building has been built without compromising its effectiveness, so don't hesitate to invest in some if you don't have them already.
Fire windows work similarly to fire doors in that they physically prevent the spread of fire to different rooms within a building. AFC's fire windows start at -/30/- and cap out at -/120/120. There are also bulletproof options for those that require such extra protection.
While building materials themselves don't have an FRL, there are some that are notable for their fire resistance. Concrete, gypsum and brick are the most effective, though it should be noted that the mortar used with brick isn't as resistant as the bricks themselves. And it is always best to use dedicated fire-rated wall systems as much as possible.
Where to source the best FRL systems and advice?
As always, fire protection is something you want to get right the first time. Your fire protection requirements will be unique to you, and undershooting by guessing can have disastrous consequences.
So speak with Australian Fire Control today about the best passive fire systems for you and experience total peace of mind and assurance that you'll be properly protected in the case of a fire. All of our systems are Australian-made, so you can be assured of excellent quality of workmanship and installation. Contact us today for more information.