In conversation with Bill McHugh, Executive Director at the Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA)

Bill McHugh participates in the Code Development processes at the National Building Code of Canada, (NBCC), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Code Council (ICC), India, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the State of Illinois, and City of Chicago.

He has served on the ICC’s ‘Fire Safety’ Code Development Committee, and serves on the Fire Protection Features Committee at NFPA. Bill is a past member of the International Accreditation Services (IAS) Board of Directors. At ASTM, he chairs a task group on inspection standards, and sits on two UL/ULC Standards Technical Panels. He is also a past Institute Director, Chapter, and Region President at the Construction Specifications Institute.

How do you see passive fire industry growing in the next 5 years from now?

The Effective Compartmentation discipline of passive fire protection is a vital part of the fire and smoke safety package in a building. Fire and smoke spread causes big damage to buildings and risk to life. As code officials, fire officials, architects, specifiers, building owners and managers learn from shows such as Fire Safe Build India, the industry will continue to grow.

What are some worldwide trends in terms of technology and innovation to address key passive fire protection related challenges and issues?

In firestopping, the concept of using a FCIA Member specialist firestop installation contractor and or that has been FM 4991 Approved or UL Qualified, is growing rapidly. As such, the quality of installations continues to get better, providing value to general contractors and building owners. The technology used by specialist firestop installation contractors is very knowledge based. These companies understand the technical nature of installing products in accordance with listings found at UL Product iQ, Intertek Directory, TBWIC Directory, and the manufacturers installation instructions. These are complex listings – tested and listed systems. The exact parameters stated in the listings and manufacturer’s instructions must be followed for all passive fire protection. The challenges are that there are installation companies that do not respect the listings, nor manufacturers installation instructions and sometimes pass inspections. This is a big issue in the industry, solved by using FM 4991 Approved or UL Qualified firestop installation contractors and having inspection by those that understand the technical nature of UL, Intertek, TBWIC listings and manufacturer’s instructions.

How can FSBI help design professionals, building owners and managers and code officials understand passive fire protection?

FSBI’s world class education programme provides fire-resistance education for those that need it most – contractors, design professionals, building owners and managers, and code officials/fire officials. The FSBI education programme brings the passive fire-protection industry together in one place, as a system. All passive fire protection needs to be properly D-designed, I-installed, I-inspected, and the protection provided M-maintained – using FCIA’s DIIM - for safety of occupants and property protection.

What can be done from a regulatory perspective to enhance the scope of compliance?

One of the biggest issues in building construction worldwide is quality of installation. Leading passive fire protection manufacturers have invested in fire testing, product technology, and works to educate about their products. Firestopping needs to be installed to exacting requirements. Not all construction companies understand how complex firestopping can be in buildings. It looks easy in product literature. Firestopping is not easy, it needs scrutiny by regulators – requiring FM 4991 or UL Qualified Firestop Contractors and firestop inspection during construction – by those educated in FCIA’s Firestop Certificate of Achievement Education Programme.

Which sectors do you see adopting passive fire protection rapidly and what has brought on this acceleration?

All buildings that have fire-resistance-rated and smoke-resistant protection installed need to adopt the FCIA’s DIIM - properly D-Designed, I-Installed, IInspected, and protection M-Maintained. For fire and life safety in buildings – especially those buildings where people sleep, are sick/immobile, elderly and not very mobile, underground, and in high rise buildings where vertical evacuation is difficult. All buildings have a need for separation – but apartments, hospitals, university dormitories, nursing homes, condominiums, senior citizen residences, have additional needs for passive fire protection.

What are the key themes which will play an important role to develop the future of this Industry?

The key theme playing an important role in this industry is making sure that structural fire protection and effective fire-resistance-rated and smoke-resistant assemblies are properly D-Designed, I-Installed, I-Inspected, and protection MMaintained for fire and life safety in buildings.

What role do you envisage for forums such as FIRE SAFE BUILD INDIA to raise awareness about the topic of passive fire protection in India?

This FIRE SAFE BUILD INDIA event brings the best passive fire-protection education that can be found in the region. Education for code officials, fire officials, governmental agencies, building occupants, contractors, inspection agencies, building owners, general contractors, facility personnel about passive fire protection is critical to performance. Education is needed about all types of fire protection – fire and smoke detectors and alarms, fire sprinklers, education about emergency ways out, and passive fire protection – to keep people safe in buildings.

How can FSBI educate the public about how passive fire protection can provide safe buildings for their families at work, classroom, in all types of buildings?

Building occupants need to know what is safe, and what’s not safe in buildings. Simple things such as

  • What does a fire-resistance-rated wall look like? Where would it be located?
  • Does the fire-rated door close and latch?
  • Are there holes made for pipes, cables, ducts in fire-rated walls that are not protected properly?
  • Is there a rolling fire door that works properly?
  • Has there been a visual inspection performed by a competent fireresistance professional?
  • Is there a budget in the building for passive fire protection maintenance?
  • With knowledge, building occupants can demand passive fire protection that works when called upon by fire.

What is the value of attending FSBI?

There is great value in attending FSBI, for all players in the industry. Players include building occupants, building owners, code/fire officials, governmental agencies, contractors, inspection agencies need education. The education provided at FSBI about structural fire protection and effective fire-resistancerated and smoke-resistant assemblies that are properly D-Designed, I-Installed, IInspected, and protection M-Maintained for fire and life safety in buildings – is critical in fire and life safety protection.