Ensuring Fire Barrier Integrity at New Parkland Hospital in Texas

The new 2.5 million-square-foot Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas, scheduled to open this fall, is considered to be the largest healthcare construction project in the nation. Parkland Fire Marshal Michael Rader is responsible for overseeing that the facility is in compliance with the life safety code so that Parkland’s patients, visitors, and staff will be safe should a fire emergency arise.

A major consideration in meeting this objective is the integrity of the fire barrier system. “Firestopping is the last line of defense for patients within a hospital,” explains Rader. “Should something happen in one area, the firestopping system and smoke-tight seals of your barriers are your last line of defense to protect someone’s mother, brother, or sister. You’ve got to think about it in those terms. You don’t just try to do the minimum or find a system that will work. You want the best.”

Rader and the BARA construction management team chose the eBMP™ electronic barrier management program from Specified Technologies, Inc. (STI), based in Somerville, New Jersey. Rader’s rationale for this choice was “the accountability of the entire program, not just a software component.” According to Rader, “The program digitally manages the process of creating, sealing, mapping, and subsequently accessing all penetrations in the facility.”

Rader cites other criteria (and his rationale) he uses when evaluating firestopping systems:

  • The program should track, house, and manage the data. Tracking is a huge issue and a big responsibility for whoever is doing the work and whoever is doing the inspections.
  • From an inspector’s vantage point, the program should allow random barrier selection and inspection without the cumbersome and costly process of having to locate a given penetration, fire damper, fire door, or fire extinguisher cabinet. Barcoding labels associated with each penetration make it easy to track every pipe and wire going through a wall. When dealing with a bunch of wires, you can use the software to identify them and maintain a history of their lifespan and use. The barcode label ensures that the penetration you intended to inspect is, in fact, the penetration you actually inspected.”
  • In the healthcare environment, quickly finding a penetration, a pipe, or a bundle of wires can substantially minimize air contamination. Whenever you have to remove a ceiling tile in a hospital, you encounter dust and stale air, which are not welcome in a patient area.

A benefit for the facility, its patients, and firefighters, according to Rick Stokes, owner and vice president of Fire Blockers, Inc., the contractor in charge of firestopping and implementing the electronic barrier management program for the project, is the following: “Projects that intend to maintain multiple rated barriers for the long haul must come to terms with the known deficiencies that occur on every project. The electronic barrier management program is the gatekeeper that can drive a facility to maintain these rated barriers at 100 percent compliance. There should never be a need to have firestop deficiencies listed on a ‘Statement of Conditions.'”

This result can be achieved only through “trade coordination,” stresses Stokes. “The electronic barrier management program created an environment on the project in which all subcontractors had to coordinate with Fire Blockers when making penetrations in rated walls. The documentation is excellent. The benefit to the owner, as well as the construction manager has been absolute compliance throughout the construction process.”

Parkland can track all of its rated systems and validate that all of the penetrations under BARA’s control are certified, logged and tagged in the system, and were verified throughout the on-site inspection.

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