Fire tests are method conducted to determine the compliance of fire protection systems, with the minimum criteria set forth in Standards.
Fire testing of insulated fire-resistant glass doorset. Multiple layers of glass coated with fire retardant delays heat conduction and transmission through the glass door thereby achieving fire resistant up to 2 hours depending on specification.
Fire test is conducted to determine the compliance of fire protection systems, products or equipment with the minimum criteria set forth in standards-national, regional or International. It is also a process determining whether the systems satisfy building regulations or any other legislative requirements. Fire test is normally conducted in a national accredited laboratory which may also carry out fire product /system certification by issuing laboratory test reports and certification listing. Even though test report is proprietary document of the sponsor of the test conducted, the product/system listing is of public domain.
Types of Fire Tests
- Prototype Fire Test
- Ad-hoc Fire Test
- Full Scale Test
Prototype Fire Test
Fire test in the laboratory is to ascertain if the fire protections product/system meets with the required fire-resistant parameters set forth by relevant Standards while product certification looks closely at after test mass production at the factory for quality control purposes. For the fire protection products/systems to be effective, both these areas of quality assurance must be fulfilled.
A fire protection product/system could have passed the fire test in the laboratory; But we cannot ignore the fact that the test prototype is manufactured under extreme care and are installed in the laboratory under very experienced supervision. This is where certification process must come in post-test.
Certification process will ensure the tested prototype goes into production maintain the original construction materials and production process. In the context of quality control, the end-product should achieve quality within the norm of the tolerance. Failing which the mass-production fire protection equipment/system by the factory will not be able to perform as the prototype that has been tested and passed in the laboratory.
Certification process is normally carried out by product/system listing agency. In Malaysia, Scientific and Industrial Research Institution of Malaysia (SIRIM) and Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) are two fire test laboratories that are accredited by National Accreditation Body. Even though both laboratories can conduct fire test for certain range of passive fire protection systems, only SIRIM QAS Sdn Bhd is the authorized agency for certification.
Once the passive fire protection product/system has passed the fire test, sponsor will need to apply for product approval certification through Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia using the product certification license before the product/system can be marketed on the market.
There are many different types of fire tests depending on which part of the Standards and for what purpose. They are conducted on active and passive fire protection systems though each have difference test methods and intensity. Tests can be small scale laboratory tests, beach-mark scale test or full-scale test. Latest Grenfell Tower fire disaster has prompted country authorities to conduct full scale fire tests on cladding instead of relying on scale laboratory test.
Fire tests are also designed to test on components (eg intumescent), products (eg sprinkler head) or systems (eg fire resistant doorset). For many fire protection systems in which components are to be incorporated into, they must first fulfil test criteria specified in each relevant Standard. For example, ironmongery that is to incorporate into fire resistant doorset must first pass the relevant functional test.
All fire protection products should be designed to facilitate ease of operating and for intended application to build in safety feature for listing approval and compliance.
Ad hoc Fire Test
For research or data gathering purpose, an ad hoc fire test can be conducted by sponsors to study weakness of their product before proceeding with the formal prototype test. As it is not a formal test, the full criteria stipulated need not be fulfilled and the sponsor can request specific tests from range of tests stated in the Standard. An ad hoc test can also be a fire test requested by the sponsors to test their products or systems in their own testing requirements. By virtue that it is not a formal test, ad hoc test reports cannot be used for certification or approval purposes.
Full Scale Test
Recent Grenfell Tower Disaster has promoted UK Government and the rest of the World to re-evaluate the current methods of assessing the relevant test Standards of cladding system. Apparently, laboratory scale testing of small cladding samples for combustibility and surface spread of flame assessment is deem inadequate as it does not truly reflect the actual performance of the whole system during a fire incident. BREUK has been commission by British Government in conducted full scale fire test of cladding system with design ed fuel load and reflect the short comings of laboratory small scale testing. It was soon flowed by Australia in full scale testing of cladding systems in Australia. Most of cladding system tested so far failed the tests due to combustible sandwiched insulation layers.
Passive Fire Protection product/system Test
Passive Fire protection systems can be tested in a furnace of 3 x 3m, 3 x 4 m or 4 x 5m. Building elements and passive fire protection systems that can be tested in laboratory are as follows: –
- masonry walls
- dry wall partition
- fire resistant doorsets
- ironmongeries for fire resistant doorsets
- fire dampers
- steel structure fire protection
- fire resistant ductwork
- fire barrier/fire stop system
- curtain walling system
- roofing system
- structural load bearing column
- structural load bearing and non-load bearing beam
- metal decking system
Active Fire Protection Equipment/System Test
Apart from passive fire protection, fire tests are also conducted on active fire protection equipment/systems. The only difference is, while the former must fulfil the fire resistivity requirement, active fire protection system will need to successfully detect or detect and extinguish the test fire.
Active fire protection systems that should be subjected to fire test are: –
- Automatic sprinkler system
- Clean Agent fire suppression system
- Fine particulate aerosol system
- Water mist fire extinguishing system
- Portable fire extinguishers
- Foam firefighting system
- Fire fighter’s jacket
- Fire fighter’s proximity suit
- Smoke detectors
- Heat detectors
- Fire rated cables
- Fire hose
- Hosereel system
- Audio and visual alarm units
- Fire barrier system
- Fire resistant paint
- Intumescent products
- Firefighting pumpset
- Pump starter panel
- Motor for electrical pumpset
Examples of Standards for products and systems fire tests
- MS 1073: Part 3: 2003
Specification for fire resistant doorsets – Part 3 : Method for determination of the fire resistance – Type of doorsets
- MS ISO 1210 : 1995
Plastics – Determination of the burning behaviour of horizontal and vertical specimens in contact with a small flame ignition source.
- MS 1268 : Part 1 : 1993
Methods of test for flexible cellular materials – Combustibility requirements : Part 1 : Methods of test for the ignitability by smokers’ materials of upholstered composites for seating.
- MS ISO/R 1326 : 1995
Plastics – Determination of flammability and burning rate of plastics in the form of film.
- MS IEC 60695-2-12 : 2007
Fire hazard testing – Part 2-12 : Glowing / hot wire based test methods – Glow-wire flammability test method for materials.
- MS 1176 : Part 9 : 1993
Specification for components of automatic fire detection systems : Part 9 : Methods of test of sensitivity to fire
- MS 1539 : Part 1 : 2002
Specification for portable fire extinguishers Part 1 : Construction and testing methodology)
- ASTM E84 Standard
-Test Method for surface burning characteristics of building
- DIN 4102 Part 1 Fire Behaviour of building materials and building components
– Part 1: Building materials; concepts, requirements and tests
- UL 1479
Fire test of through-penetration Firestops
List of renowned organizations that perform fire tests:-
- MPR NRW Dortmund Germany
- BRE United Kingdom
- Underwriters Laboratories
- FM Global
- National research Council in Canada
- TNO, The Netherlands
- Chiltern International Fire
- Exova Warrington Fire