History of Firestops in North America

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In the very beginning

Firestopping in North America started on board combat ships. The first quasi product on the marketplace was the stuffing tube, which at best is a jury-rig, though moderately functional. Walls and floors aboard ships are referred to as bulkheads and decks and they consist of insulated plate steel. Essentially, stuffing tubes were pieces of pipe, which are fed through a torch cut hole in the plate steel, and then welded at the interface. Penetrants are then fed through this sleeve and the ends are 'stuffed' and sealed or grommeted to effect a firestop. The method is quite tedious, particularly when multiple penetrants are involved which fatigues the plate steel, as one stuffing tube is used per penetrant, which leads to a bit of a rat's nest, when many penetrants must be fed through a small area.

Enter the MCT - Multi Cable Transit, invented by Lycab, Sweden. In 1966, Lycab's US licensee from New York employed the North American Pope of Firestopping, Mr. Joe O'Brien ('Mr. MCT'). Joe, still at it (as of Y2K), began quite successfully to market MCT firestops to shipyards and in fact, his systems are still the US Navy's preferred method of firestopping and probably still a major source of income for his employer, Nelson Firestop Products, now based in Tulsa, OK. The use of MCTs spread to land-based construction in 1970, at the Fort St. Vrain nuclear power station in Colorado. Fort St. Vrain was the first of 30 such plants to install MCT firestops - and then came foam. Through the first public UL testing of a proper firestop and the resulting listings, which are deemed public knowledge, Joe single-handedly removed all excuses for using anything other than a certified firestop as of that time, as you can see in the code baseline site.

Picking such worthy targets of opportunity as the US Navy and US Coast Guard, was likely Joe's best move, as selling firestops on land anyplace else was pretty much a martyr's game for a long time. Like many safety items, it is usually strict enforcement of very clear and unambiguous legislation that is the only thing that will persuade most building owners to part with money for items like firestops, which really only pay for themselves in the face of an order to comply by the authority having jurisdiction or in a fire.

And thus Joe trekked across the country in a Chevy pick-up, loaded with a pilot scale furnace, bunches of cables and boxes of MCT firestop components. He would stop at the shipyards, set up shop in the parking lot, unload his furnace, hook up the gas, build his mock-up firestops, order sandwiches and coffee, and run a test right in front of the customers, who ordered, bigtime. Nothing but the best for US Sailors and Marines. Joe and his MCTs against stuffing tubes was like Tyson against Peewee Herman. Joe also enjoyed playing 'Wee-Wee-Chicken' when accompanied. Whoever had to use the washroom first on these long drives, had to buy dinner. On one 21 hour trip from Tulsa to Phoenix, for a BICSI convention and trade show in 1985, he let me drive all of 3 hours. And I bought dinner. Throughout this time, much of land-based construction completely ignored the issue of 'plugging holes'. Apart from the marine market, the US nuclear industry spear-headed the standardisation of firestop testing. That does not mean that all US nuclear stations are problem free, when it comes to firestopping. Many 'reportable events' to this day in nuclear generating stations have to do with non-compliant firestops. In fact, nuclear stations in North America need not comply with local codes and are not subject to enforcement by the local building or fire departments. This does not make for excessive safety by any means.

A little later on

In the mid-seventies, Joe was joined by a number of other companies, typically large electrical manufacturers, as well as silicone manufacturers, who sought to expand into this promising new field, which makes sense, since there were and are millions of holes to be filled out there. Initial firestop systems focused almost exclusively on electrical through penetrations in concrete block wall as as well as cast concrete walls and floors.

The individuals involved in these early groups were very few in number, their start-up costs were high, due to R & D, Testing, certification and other such costs and had to prove themselves early on, when measured against core businesses, which were turning much larger sales volumes.

Gradually, piping penetrations were added to the bag of tricks, though still quite far from matching with actual applications with the multitude of floor and wall assemblies and ratings and pipe insulation and jacketing materials. Thus, pipes tested were typically perfectly centred in the openings and had no insulation or jacketing of any kind. Firestop manufacturers frankly had no clue about piping and pipe covering back then. Many still don't. Some pretend to have proprietary pipe coverings for use in their systems only. Usually, this is but private labelled and quite standard rockwool pipe covering. A firestop manufacturer (including sales reps working for said manufacturer) who is not at least conversant on the important aspects of cable types and pipe covering cannot safely be expected to be an expert in firestopping. Questions such as "What is the approximate diameter of a 1C1000MCM?" or "Why would anyone (and who might this be) choose perlite block pipe covering over calcium silicate?" or "What effect does jacketing emissivity have on thermal performance of pipe covering?" can quickly discern the expert from the amateur, with a little bit of knowledge. There is a frighteningly large gradient of experience and expertise out there among vendors of firestops, whether they be contractors or manufacturers. Some can't tell a fire-resistance rated wall assembly from a fire wall. Some have no clue what an occupancy separation is and what difference that might make to firestop rating requirements. Others are well versed. Not unlike anything you spend your money on, the more you know the better. This site, with all its links, is intended to make my life easier when (1.) explaining things, and (2.) to help close the knowledge gap out there, which continues to result in less than compliant fire safety.

Apart from the MCTs, firestop systems were quite clumsy, compared to today's methods. Early German importers in fact saw much humour in this. Still, in the nuclear industry, MCTs were displaced by silicone foam, as a perceived cost benefit - which is probably the largest folly of all, considering all the reported events and continuous fire watches involved with silicone foam seals, the majority of which were designed by contractors and thus deviated substantially from manufacturers' instructions and certification listings. Most of the testing was run to 3 hours fire-resistance because the majority of fire separations in nuclear generating stations in the US were rated for 3 hours.

In the early eighties, domestic makers of firestops got serious competition (lightyears ahead technically, though not necessarily ethically) from German vendors, who imported their products and later either manufactured locally or entered into other collaborative agreements in North America. By now, one would be hard-pressed to find firestop products in North America, that are actually imported from anywhere, in any significant volume. Margins and freight costs simply prohibit such practices. So much copying has gone on, that many, if not most product lines bear striking resemblances to one another.

Just like any in other business, ethics among manufacturers can vary to a large degree.

Widespread use of firestops in land-based construction came very gradually, and for the most part is still far from where it should be, when compared against that which the law requires now, or even that which was required in the early eighties.

Gradually, the most dedicated individuals within the firestop manufacturing companies began to have more and more of an effect upon code writing bodies, which resulted in a reduction of loopholes within the codes, which permitted the more usual methods of hole-plugging, such as nothing at all, or things like tar, paper waste, fibrous insulations, veneers of common cementitious grouts, discarded apparel or footwear, flammable organic foams etc. Lovely examples of these methods, which are still in use in some places, can be found right here.

When firestops are nowhere near code compliant, particularly in new construction, this is the scenario that cost cutting experts insist on engaging in by making sure that the firestopping is not done by one speciality firestop contractor, but instead by everyone who builds wall and floors, as well as those who poke holes in said walls and floors to permit passage of wiring, plumbing and other such mechanical and electrical services:

How to make sure that firestopping stays cheap and non-compliant with the law:

The architect may or may not provide a Section 07840 specification, which outlines firestopping requirements. Let's say the architect has provided this section. For best effect (to achieve ultra-cheap and inoperable firestops), this section will not be co-ordinated even within the 14 Divisions of work under the control of the architect. 'Cutting and patching' requirements in the general provisions, concrete block wall specs, drywall specs, as well as mechanical and electrical specs each have something to say about firestopping. For a decent spec, click right here. If locally accepted practice has been to permit garbage firestops, examples of which can be found in the links on this page, then it stands to reason, that in order to survive, all contractors were forced to base their pricing and their estimate sheets on these ultra cheap methods, or else they would lose the job and go broke and hungry before too long. Since the low tender system is the best we as yet have to offer for contract awards, and since few to no owners are excessively interested in spending any more money than they are absolutely forced to do (and let's not judge here, since most of us go for the best pricing in a lot of the items we purchase on a regular basis), contractors react allergically to anything that can be considered to be an added cost, regardless of the reason. Added costs bring the project over budget and result in lost jobs, which means someone is not feeding his or her children, or paying the mortgage. So 'cheap', is the operative word. Firestopping is labour intensive and the materials are always more expensive than doing nothing at all or stuffing in some useless junk, using low skill or no skill labour at minimum wage. No one who has spent any amount of time installing firestops particularly enjoys this work. It is a pain. To do it right and make it look good, you have to get into the most awkward positions, scurry into tiny, congested and dirty little places and work with sticky, gooey, fibrous, itchy, goos and slops and devices and widgets, that may look great on a website or in glossy literature, but it's basically all a big pain in the neck. Firestopping for an electrician or a master plumber or pipe fitter, is like traffic duty for a narcotics cop - instant decaf to the Starbucks customer. To add insult to injury, when you really know what you are doing and actually apply it in each case, you're up to your neck in listings and tags and paperwork, in addition to the actual work of installations. And thus, human nature dictates that quality suffers. Ask yourself: How much do you enjoy doing something that you know is a pain in the neck? As for me, I much prefer selling over installing the stuff. Thus, when the workscope is all busted up among a half a dozen or more trades on one single construction site, the new guys or the 'flunkies' get the work. And they don't like it any better. OK, so now instead of carrying say $50,000.00 to do the firestopping, trades carry perhaps $5,000.00. Then the general may bully and beat them down further (After all, GC's have to make a living in this tough business also.). "You want this mechanical job? OK, you've got it, but you're including the firestops for me, aren't you?"  "Yessirreebobdixie!" ("Got dem 5 grand in thar for it all figured out.") Along comes our favourite martyr, the firestop salesman. He aks: "Who is responsible for firestopping here?" Plumber and electrician point to the masonry and drywall contractors. WHY? "Guess what: We're there first. We run our services and then whatever they do afterwards is not out deal." So, our martyr asks the mason and the drywaller the same question: "Can I show you my firestops - and would you like a price?? Pretty please?" "No way. Electricians and Plumbers do their own." How can this be? No-one can afford proper firestops on the estimate sheets they based their contracts on. And thus no-one wants to admit anything and sends people all over the place. Some of the firestops may get done and some won't. The only way to combat this is if the architect sets the ground rules by using this specification. Everything else is 100% nonsense. It is quite cruel to do anything else (other than to use this specification or one with identical provisions to it) and then let the subtrades run into a big knife, when suddenly it may have to be done correctly, such as if the authority having jurisdiction begins to be vigilant in this area and starts randomly pointing to firestops on site and asking for copies of the certification listings which bound that hole. The whole cost-cutting charade of the above mentioned scenario falls apart like a house of cards and people start losing very serious money indeed. Some firestop manufacturers have expressed Schadenfreude at this, as they have been told lines of BS for years and years and all the endless excuses for why no one firestopped correctly, meaning their investments in testing and R & D, literature and promotions, travel costs etc. etc etc. would take that much longer to pay off,  which should not have occurred if everyone had simply followed the building code and/or the fire code. I suppose all the lies and excuses are simply part of human nature, particularly where one's own career or means to earn a living and support one's children is at stake. I for one would much prefer to hear it straight: "Forget it, we don't have the money and no-one will force us." OK - on to the next thing. It has often amazed me, the level of deviousness in such cover-ups, even among professionals, who should be concerned about their liability insurance or just plain worry about waking up to a news story about burn victims, knowing they had a substantial part in this - even in hospitals, residential buildings (sleeping children!!!) or old folks homes. At the same time, cover-ups concerning fire safety must be weighed by the perpetrators against negative effects upon their own families if unexpectedly added costs may sink their companies, departments or jobs. And thus we all struggle with the proverbial scales of justice in our own minds and actions.

This complex and sorry set of traps has been responsible for the majority of code infractions, insofar as firestops are concerned. The results can be grizzly indeed.

Famous Example of Ultra Cheap 'Firestopping'

Despite endless, nauseating claptrap about assorted fires that come and go (and no one pays any attention to a week after the last remains are buried), it was specifically the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Fire of 22. March 1975, see SFPE Technology Report # 77-2, which kickstarted land-based firestopping. To make a long story short, a multiple cable tray penetration in a pressurised service room of the plant was deemed in need of fixing. This 'firestop' was made of flammable polyurethane foam, with two coats of a fire retardant cable coating (Flame Mastic, made in California) on both sides. There is significant pseudo technical justification about for this seal, despite the fact that proper MCT firestops were available in the US since the mid sixties and should have been used here. But suffice it to say that foaming holes shut with polyurethane foam is cheap. (Strangely, later on they (mis~)used silicone foam. Homer Simpson lives. But at least it was expensive.) Put on some flame mastic over the polyurethane foam and bingo, you have a listed product (though not listed or recommended by the manufacturer for this purpose), which will not burn when subjected to a cigarette lighter (the coating that is) and then add the customary QA/QC smoke screen, which makes everything look good in the nuclear field, as the more irrelevant physical properties are described and documented in voluminous agony, ad nauseam, as their regulations dictate. One day, there was a pressure leak. I would love to meet who they sent. But someone sent an individual, armed with a candle, to this penetration seal. The idea was that he hold the candle to said penetration seal and wherever the candle flickered, he had to do some more sealing. An extinguisher was on hand as well. This leak finding procedure started a fire that lasted 6 hours and 40 minutes and resulted in a direct loss of 10 million US Dollars, as well as 30 million US Dollars because of business interruption related costs. In an operating nuclear plant, it is a good idea to have a solid fire safety plan to combat fire such that one can shut a reactor down to prevent the BIG 'M' word - meltdown.

This accident caused a flurry of paperwork, regulations and remedial work all over the US, which eventually funneled down to commercial/industrial/residential occupancies as well.

Fire Prevention

Fires occur on a regular basis. One can look up the statistics on a number of governmental websites, as well as NFPA's site. Insurance companies are also a great source of information on this particular topic, as each loss costs money. A large amount of damage, as well as casualties, are entirely preventable through solid fire prevention and fire safety practices, of which properly maintained and documented firestops are a large part. But often, even the fire investigation reports pay only minor attention to the role of absent or unlawful firestops as contributing factors to damages, lost lives and insurance claims.

The Firestop Business

The firestop business has grown since its fledgling beginnings to the point where we now count about 50 manufacturers, or at least companies that appear as though they are manufacturers, as they hold listings or co-listings. Often, private label arrangements and other collaborative arrangements are struck between trading partners, across the continent and around the world.

Firestop contracting, as a stand-alone business or trade is another uncharitable venture, for the most part. A large number of architects have un-coordinated specifications and workscopes are so fragmented, that in order to chase a small amount of work, such as all the firestopping on one construction site, an enterprising firestop contractor has the privilege of contacting upwards of 100 different companies, who are segmented into their respective trades, such as drywallers, curtainwall builders, mechanical and electrical contractors and so forth. In many locations, such sub and sub-sub tenders are never turned down at the time of tender, but often wind up as but a lowly occupier of space in the waste paper basket of these trades, who would jeopardise their jobs by carrying the right amount for firestopping. The low bidder will have the slimmest estimate sheet and must hedge his or her bets in terms of what may happen enforcement-wise, when it is time to execute the job. This is such a complex, though predictable mess, that very specific action is required by the architect to take control and prevent it by making it absolutely nonsensical and economically unviable to do anything other than to let a speciality firestop contractor do this work in one contract for the general contractor. At the outset, this provides great relief for all those subtrades, who can actually price their own work on a more level playing field, unburdened by the economical need to make shortcuts in fire safety in order to survive. Nothing other than this works. I have been at this for far too long than to be fooled by any of the misconceptions, lies, nonsense and claptrap that typically accompanies the decisions to bust up the firestop workscope. They are all, and always were and never will be anything other than nonsense. I would challenge anyone to come up with a new excuse for this. If, at the time of commissioning, the architect does not know how many holes there are and cannot tell you when walking up to a firestop, which certification listing bounds that installed configuration, the building is unsafe. And that is the case with the overwhelming majority of buildings in this country.

There have certainly been improvements since 1966, when it all started. But what does that really mean to the 3 year old girl asleep on the 20th floor of the highrise apartment or hotel building? No sprinklers, but her parents' apartment is supposed to protect her for two hours from smoke and fire. Of the 20 odd holes in this apartment, how many can we tolerate to be wrong? And how do we know that they were firestopped correctly? The architect MUST KNOW this, not guess and point in 20 different directions, weasel clauses, subtrades, mechanical  & electrical engineers - one must know at a glance. And for the most part they don't. By using and enforcing the recommended specification, they will. Plus the owner will actually have workable due diligence back-up to prove that what he has bought will work. He will then also know what to do and who to talk to to make sure that it stays this way, when hordes of tenants, maintenance people and contractors storm the building with change orders, tenant work, new wiring and plumbing lines, data transmission cable bundles and so forth.

The necessary steps towards a remedy to the intolerable status quo in this country on this topic, strongly involve standardisation, at every available opportunity. This is followed by legislation and then enforcement, all of which provides a level playing field so that the right thing is actually done and allowed for on construction sites. At least that is the ideal. There will always be inexperienced operators and also mistakes cannot be entirely avoided and neither can predatory pricing.

And human nature is still the biggest factor in it all. Cheap cheap cheap cheap. Please! Do it all for free and preferably yesterday with certificates and engineers' stamps, all for next to nothing and FAST! Then kiss up to  the buyer for allowing you the privilege to do all this for next to nothing and so fast and with so much bullet-proof documentation. That is our species at its best I suppose. Who is to judge or cast the first stone?

Firestop Standardisation History

First there were the US military standards. The exact history of this within the United States Navy escapes me. But it is those good folks, who started it all in the sixties.

And from this community were spawned the civilian nuclear power folks. And that brings us to the American Nuclear Insurers. I have wondered at times what would happen to a nuclear insurer, if they had to cover just ONE meltdown? Who could pay for the big one, if it went off in New York or any large urban centre?

But anyway, we now get to the realm of the revered Firestop Pope #2: Bill Bornhoeft. Bill was a man who became known for the fact that his first answer to a firestop vendor was typically "No." Bill witnessed a couple of tests that I was involved with at ULC. He was a joy (though tough yet fair) to have around. Unlike Firestop Pope #1 (Joe O'Brien), Bill retired from ANI, while Joe is still responsible for significant firestop sales each year.

One of the earliest firestop standards in land-based use on record in North America began when NEL-PIA (Nuclear Energy Liability Property Insurance Organization) outlined basic parameters for an acceptable fire exposure test for mechanical and electrical penetration firestops in a June 1975 bulletin to agents, brokers and architectural/engineering firms involved in the growing US nuclear power generating market. In February 1976, undoubtedly after consideration of Browns Ferry data, this was refined and issued as an 'NEL-PIA/MAERP Standard Method of Fire Tests of Cable and Pipe Penetration Firestops'. This standard was subsequently superceded by an ANI/MAERP RA GUIDELINES FOR FIRESTOP AND WRAP SYSTEMS OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES. On 05. January 1983, ULI issued UL1479, which was the basis of ASTM E814, which was the basis for ULC-S115 in Canada, which became a National Standard of Canada, through approval by the SCC, in July 1985, which missed the issue date of the next National Building Code of Canada by a hair and thus caused countless more infractions by means of provisions for more excuses by the aforementioned scenario. In 1978, IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. issued IEEE Std 634-1978 IEEE Standard Cable Penetration Fire Stop Qualification Test. This was approved by ANSI on 21st June 1979. Among others, Firestop Pope #1 (Joe O'Brien) was on the committee. IEEE634 only covered electrical penetrations and most importantly provided a nice, cool shower for the test sample, immediately following the fire exposure. This makes it easier to pass the hose-stream test, particularly when compared to the typical 30PSI solid stream testing used everywhere else. Some nuclear plants still utilise this test as a the original design basis for product evaluation. Other than that, it is a dead issue. However IEEE also issued Std. 848-1996 IEEE Standard Procedure for the Determination of the Ampacity Derating of Fire-Protected Cables, which applies not only to circuit protective fireproofing but also to firestops. Omega Point Laboratories has a routine set-up for running this test. Apparently, it took 17 drafts to get to the final stage. This is the state of the art for testing ampacity derating right now. The other significant development in standards of recent history is UL2079 Tests for Fire Resistance of building Joint Systems dated 29. November 1994. UL2079 is the first test to cycle a firestopped joint through motion prior to the fire test. As far as Canadian standards history concerning firestops, I personally have three very full binders full of work from my membership on Task Group 21 at ULC. There has been a lot of activity concerning updating this standard. An L rating has been issued in the last edition, dated 1995, as well as clarification concerning where pipes should be capped during a fire test, top or bottom, which makes a significant difference in terms of the results. Fortunately, we took the high road and dispensed with the idea of permitting top capping, as the field controls on this issue would have led to nightmares.

The work of TG21 is probably the most progressive and positive development in North American firestopping to date. It continues at a steady rate.

Cheating in Firestops

An unpleasant topic, to be sure. As cheating concerns construction sites directly, by members of the design team or any contractors, with or without knowledge or consent of the owners, there is ample coverage of those issues all over this site. What is generally less known are the at times somewhat less than honourable things that can go on before a new listing ever hits the street. If you compare this to the foodservice industry, what happens inside of the restaurant in terms of food safety may be augmented by that which can occur at the point of origin, as well as transport of food stuffs. As a lad, barely out of high school, I was instructed by a German colleague and superior in just what it took to make absolutely sure that a test assembly passes. An American colleague showed me what one may do to absolutely kill anything on the furnace. I can honestly say that nothing untoward in even the earliest tests with my involvement ever resulted in deficient systems that were incorrectly shown or led to code violations. But rest assured, that even in the noblest of testing organisations, human nature is never too far away so as to be completely concealed to the conscious and the experienced observer. It is rare for test laboratories to observe each client 100% of the installation time. Technicians and engineers have to make use of lavatories and do get called away from time to time to either help someone or answer a telephone call. If one really wants extra insurance and to install the odd little helpful item, it is certainly possible. Some manufacturers insist on installing their own samples, others have contractors do it. Some manufacturers are rich enough to support a hierarchy, whereby the designer or engineer would not dream of getting his or her fingers dirty, and installations are performed by 'lowly' technicians. Some let the labs perform the installations, some use outside contractors, who seem to always hang about the lab scrounging for all sorts of work. There are basically two types of fire tests that one can run in this field: experimental and certification. Experimental tests are those, where one really wants to test a concept or a product and genuinely desires to know the results, whichever they may be. No point in cheating there. People who can afford to do this at a public lab and don't have their own facilities are likely most secretive about this sort of thing, which is almost pointless at a public lab, even when they try to keep things confidential. One walk through the lab usually tells me at a glance what is going on, because I recognise most people's materials. The design of the slabs or walls also indicates quickly the experience level of the designer, in terms of efficient slab use and penetrant use for the most liberal resulting listing. Then there are certification tests, which are intended for published, public knowledge results, where anyone at all can and is encouraged to look up the results in the form of listings. This is where it gets interesting. Honest folk fail a lot of tests. This does not mean that those who pass most of their tests are lying crooks who belong in jail. But in that small category of testers, where the designer of the product and the system does his own installations, there are honest and somewhat less than honest folk. There is not much in between. I am capable of passing pretty much any test I want to by creative methods. But I could not live with myself if I did. All the systems I designed and installed are genuine. And my certification test record is perfect. I don't fail because my systems are designed such that they will not fail, and they haven't. I've had a few squeakers, which I knew about going in, but for the most part, I pass with ample margin or I won't burn it. I actually care very deeply about fire protection and despise cheating, when it comes to fire safety. In fact, my various fights against cheating of assorted descriptions have been most detrimental to my career (though on orders from a former employer) and income and I've had to severely curtail my public comments on a number of issues, simply to protect my family. But I can sleep at night with a very clear conscience because I know that the products, listings and buildings that I have been involved with have provided real safety. In younger years and in less responsible positions, I have worked with some people and with some companies who were less than thorough, where money was far more important than the safety their clients purchased. But where I held the reigns, my conscience has not bothered me one iota, because I know I delivered value and safety. Then there are the cheaters (in the labs). Their concept is to include items, whiffs or squirts or prods or widgets, in their installations (like 'insurance'), which the lab does not know about. They tend to have a lot of pockets and look bored, trying to blend into the surroundings. The 'smarter' ones do it in such a way that you can't tell afterwards. Hose-stream tests are such a cleansing experience. They simply wash away all the evidence. Dumber ones leave evidence (metallic objects, extra fasteners etc, to help pass the hose-stream test for instance) which is found if the lab bothers to dissect the sample afterwards, as they should. I always do, just out of curiosity. If I were the tester, and my client had no interest in dissecting the sample after the test, I would become rather suspicious. I also take loads of pictures, as you can tell from the overall site. A picture tells a thousand words. Maybe I don't have a life, but I enjoy the thought of knowing that I could cheat at the lab but choose not to. It's not my style. I would prefer to choke those who do because we must presume that lab installations are qualitatively superior to field installations. If you pass with a squeaker or by cheating and a goofy listing gets installed in the field, real people could die. It could be your own relative. Listings stay for years and years. Cheating at the lab has far-reaching consequences. It's also stupid because others may test your system and make unfavourable results known. Even the laboratories reserve the right to re-test. Perhaps that line of thinking qualifies me for a psych evaluation of some sort, but we all have our hobbies. What can be quite entertaining to see, I find, is when a cheater gets found out because of a sample dissection after the test and then gets a big surprise when he receives the test report. "Oh, they DID find that?!" Then there is the lab cheating. One of the reasons I LOVE ULC, and cheerfully recommend their services and listings to anyone, over any other North American lab's work is because of the people and the degree of care taken there. From the top down, this is a responsible organisation - not perfect (who is?), but the best in North America - and I've been to most, read reports from all, enough to know where I'm at with each. The complete opposite of ULC quality, in my experience, is Warnock Hersey. I could test a lawnmower there are get it listed as an aircraft carrier. The things I have seen and experienced in their Coquitlam lab, as well as heard from colleagues whose opinions and professional judgment I hold in high esteem, I can only regard as felonious. I have seen them cheat FOR clients, without their knowing it. Neither they knew, nor the clients, and the resulting reports and listings told the tale. It is absolutely inconceivable to me, how this organisation manages to maintain SCC accreditation. If I ever use one of their listings, it is only because I trust the manufacturer or because it's simply a double listing (WH signs off on all UL and ULC tests. The reverse is not true. Go figure.) And the really scary part is that many people are using their listings in good faith. As another example, I had requested an assessment concerning some offshore tested firedoor assemblies there. The idea was to combine two test reports and to blend the results to justify a certain field installation. You would be more likely to get Peewee Herman elected to public office than to get ULC to do this - but such were my employer's orders at the time. I knew the systems were overkilled anyway and there was no cause for concern from a safety perspective, regardless of what they thought about it. All I wanted was a statement from them, on their letterhead, to sign off on a field application, as I has been directed by my boss at the time. For approximately $500.00, they did the assessment of two British test reports and threw in, as a bonus, unrequested, that the door also met ASTM requirements. I had not asked for, or expected this. In effect, they had granted me a hose-stream test, as well as a negative pressure test, without my asking for it. The supposedly PhD staffer I was dealing with threw it in as a bonus. Historically, such tests are not interchangeable. Doors qualified to one test, when tested unaltered to the other, have failed, going in either direction, due to the absence or presence of intumescent gasketing. With this goofball assessment, I could theoretically have gone and merchandised this door all over North America for similar applications, all for the sake of $500.00 and a letter from an SCC accredited certification organisation. These people are dangerous. If anyone had tried to pull this at ULC, he or she would soon be exploring other job opportunities elsewhere, minus a reference. I truly don't like to run anyone down, but I it is incompatible with my morals not to say anything about such a large and generic problem. At test labs, sometimes individuals can be bought. But one would have to really evaluate the worth of such a move. An example: A Dutch friend of mine makes a fireproofing product.  This fellow has more integrity than Santa Clause. We get along very well. He went to test in the UK against the hydrocarbon curve. He built a steel bulkhead, connected wire mesh with weld studs and sprayed on his cementitious spray fireproofing plaster. Once complete, he left to allow for the obligatory 28 day cure for cementitious products. When he returned, the plaster was adequately dry and cured, as was to be expected with this hydraulic cure and the laboratory's conditions. The sample was placed in front of the furnace and the furnace was lit. Within minutes, there was an audible explosion and the test was over. The detonation had not only ripped a large chunk of the fireproofing off, but even dislodged some welded studs and the fire mesh that was clipped to the studs. There is no way that this could have happened without sabotage. Plaster may crack, but it does not explode with enough force to rip welded steel apart.

In the US, a test lab had to plead guilty to generating false test reports, which resulted in the very costly installation and removal of fireproofing products, which were used to protect critical safe shutdown wiring in nuclear generating stations between control rooms and the reactors. Such are the problems, when certification as per the local codes and enforced by the municipalities are not required.

Like anything else, CAVEAT EMPTOR, let the buyer beware.

But it's not all doom and gloom.

Firestops sold in 1966 probably could have fit into a few wheelbarrows. Firestops sold in the year 2000 are worth in the millions, collectively. So things are getting better. Firestopping with discarded underwear or fibreglass is becoming increasingly unpopular. Existing legislation and publicly available information is such that anything less than the right and lawful thing is legally indefensible.

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