skip to content

Risk Management is conducting a very large and very expensive project to repair damage to fire walls and dampers that has accumulated over the years. The following is a brief introduction to the issues and requirements for protecting these critical life safety structures.


Fire walls separate higher hazard areas and exit routes from the rest of the building. For example, mechanical and electrical rooms must have specially constructed walls to slow the spread of fire to the rest of the building. The same concept applies to exit stairwell enclosures, except the walls keep the fire in the rest of the building out of the stairs. The floors of buildings must not be penetrated for the same reason, unless the penetration is within a specially designed chase which is protected by heavy duty fire walls.

The problem arises when these walls are penetrated improperly. It is possible to pass conduit, piping, or wiring though a fire wall, but it must be done properly!

Examples of improper fire wall penetrations

Proper installation requires outside contractors to install UL listed products that protect the penetration such as fire caulk, collars, or pillows. Below are some examples of typical penetrations on campus before and after they were corrected by an outside contactor. Note that sleeves that penetrate fire walls (such as for running wires though walls) must be sealed around the sleeve AND INSIDE THE SLEEVE.

The bottom line? No open holes (except for special fire dampers) may exist in fire walls! In addition, fire caulk and other protection products must not be disturbed. Note that not all fire caulk is red, and not all fire walls are labeled! If you are not sure if the wall you are about to put a hole in is a fire wall…contact Risk Management (x2924 or first!!!

Before and after firewall fixes

More firewall fix examples

Sticker and pillow examples


Fire dampers are special vents that allow air to pass through fire walls to provide heating and cooling. However, these vents are set to slam closed in the case of fire. Some dampers are wired into the fire alarm system and close whenever the fire alarm is triggered, but many more are held open until the heat of a fire reaches them.

Unfortunately, since dampers are openings in walls, they are tempting to use as a quick way to run cables, piping, etc. Dampers can NEVER be obstructed…if something keeps them from closing they can’t do their job.

Dampers with wires run through them

In addition, fire dampers in ductwork have an access hatch nearby that must be opened for regular inspection. Blocking these hatches with conduit, pipe, or even spools of wire is unacceptable!

Blocked damper hatches

Again, please contact Risk Mangement  (x2924 or if you have any questions about fire dampers or a project you are undertaking.

page last updated 5/26/2015 4:51 PM