For those of us who aren’t so confident in the world of fire stopping terminology we have put together a non-exhaustive list of definitions for all things fire, including fire safety and fire stopping terms.


An ablative material develops a char that has thermal insulation characteristics and resists erosion from fire and flames.

A closure device used to cover an opening into a duct, an enclosure, equipment, or an appurtenance.

A room through which the only escape route from an inner room passes.

A stairway, additional to that required for means of escape purposes, provided for the convenience of occupants.

Escape routes sufficiently separated by either direction and space, or by fire-resisting construction to ensure that one is still available, irrespective of the location of a fire.

The distance from the inside edge of an opening to the outside edge of the penetrating item.

Guidance issued by Government in support of the fire safety aspects of the building regulations.

Is a concept where risk should continue to be reduced until you reach a point where the cost and effort to reduce the risk further would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit achieved.

A means of automatically detecting the products of a fire and sending a signal to a fire warning system.


A construction, other than a smoke curtain, provided to close a concealed space against penetration of smoke or flame, or provided to restrict the movement of smoke or flame within such a space.

Classes of surface spread of flame for materials needed to line the walls and ceilings of escape routes.

A substance that can be burned.

A fire-resisting wall or floor that provide a barrier and separate one fire compartment from another.

The subdivision of a large space into smaller sections.

A person with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.

A space enclosed by elements of a building (including a suspended ceiling) or contained within an element, but not a room, cupboard, circulation space, protected shaft or spacewithin a flue, chute, duct, pipe or conduit.


A substance which, because of its physico-chemical or chemical properties and the way it is used, or is present at the workplace, creates a risk.
A substance subject to the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002 (DSEAR).

The shortest distance from any point within the floor area to the nearest storey exit, or fire-resisting route, ignoring walls, partitions and fixings.

Premises occupied as a private dwelling, excluding those areas used in common by the occupants of more than one such dwelling.

A material, device or construction installed to restrict the movement of air within open spaces of concealed areas of building components such as crawl spaces, floor- ceiling assemblies, and roof-ceiling assemblies and attics.


Any material exhibiting elastic or rubber-like properties. Generally speaking, elastomeric materials are measured in material type, compound, and durometer (the hardness of the material).

If something is endothermic it absorbs heat, preventing the temperature from rising on the other side of the barrier.

The Fire and Rescue Authority or any other authority specified in Article 25 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

A route forming part of the means of escape from any point in the premises to a final exit.

A stairway providing an escape route that is external to the building.


Locking an output device with the application of power and having the device unlock when the power is removed. Also known as fail unlock, reverse action or power locked.

An exit from a building where people can continue to disperse in safety and where they are no longer in danger from fire and/or smoke.

Fire collars are designed to maintain fire resistance levels by surrounding pipes and other penetrations with intumescent compounds that expand throughout the fire, preventing flames and hot gases passing into other compartments.

A building or part of a building comprising one or more rooms, spaces or storeys constructed to prevent the spread of fire to or from another part of the same building or an adjoining building. (A roof-space above the top storey of a fire compartment is included in that fire compartment.) A separated part of a building is a form of compartmentation in which part of a building is separated from another part of the same building by a compartment wall. Such walls run the full height of the part and are in one vertical plane.

Fire covers are designed for stopping fires in electric light units in fire rated suspended ceilings. In the event of a fire, the cover expands internally to fill all the available space with a fire resistant, highly insulating char.

Devices designed to impede the spread of fire through walls, floors and partitions. Fire dampers are installed in the ducts of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems which penetrate fire-resistant constructions and will automatically close on the detection of heat.

A door or shutter, together with its frame and furniture, provided for the passage of people, air or goods which, when closed, is intended to restrict the passage of fire and/or smoke to a predictable level of performance.

Any combination of a fire door, frame, hardware, and other accessories that together provide a specific degree of fire protection to the opening.

A fire-resistant interior wall intended to retard the spread of fire or to provide protection to occupants during the evacuation of a burning building.

The ability of a component or construction of a building to satisfy, for a stated period of time, some or all of the appropriate criteria of relevant standards. (Generally described as 30 minutes fire-resisting or 60 minutes fire-resisting) See BS EN 1363-1, BS 476-7 and associated standards for further information.

A Fire Risk Assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises.

The aims of the fire risk assessment are:

  • To identify the fire hazards.
  • To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable.
  • To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start.

The term ‘where necessary’ (see Regulatory Reform Section Above) is used in the Order, therefore when deciding what fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary you will need to take account of this definition.

The terms ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’ are used throughout this guide and it is important that you have a clear understanding of how these should be used.

  • Hazard:anything that has the potential to cause harm.
  • Risk: the chance of that harm occurring.

If your organisation employs five or more people or your premises are licensed or an alteration notice requiring it is in force, then the significant findings of the Fire Risk Assessment, the actions to be taken as a result of the assessment and details of anyone especially at risk must be recorded. You will probably find it helpful to keep a record of the significant findings of your fire risk assessment even if you are not required to do so.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers general fire precautions and other fire safety duties which are needed to protect ‘relevant persons’ in case of fire. The order requires fire precautions to be put in place ‘where necessary’ and to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable.

Responsibility for complying with the Order rests with the ‘responsible person’. In a work place this is principally the employer and then any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, e.g. the occupier or owner. In all other premises the person or people in control will be responsible

The responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety in case of fire of all relevant persons. It should pay particular attention to those at special risk and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises. The risk assessment will help identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the extent of the general fire precautions necessary. If 5 or more are employed (or a license is in force for the premises) then the significant findings of the risk assessment must be recorded.

A nominated person with responsibility for carrying out day-to-day management of fire safety. (This may or may not be the same as the ‘Responsible Person’).

A number of planned and co-ordinated arrangements designed to reduce the risk of fire and to ensure the safety of people if there is a fire.

Fire sealants and gap fillers expand when heated at high temperatures blocking gaps and slowing down the spread of fire for up to 60 minutes.

Fire sleeves are designed to fill or seal an aperture created by pipes or cables passing through a fire-rated wall or ceiling by expanding to fill the available space, preventing the passage of fire and smoke to the adjacent compartment.

A seal provided to close an imperfection of fit or design tolerance between elements or components, to restrict the passage of fire and smoke.

A form of passive fire protection involving the sealing of any openings or imperfections of fit between elements of components in order to prevent fire passing through multiple building compartments.

Also called the Combustion Triangle, this is a simple model for understanding the necessary ingredients for most fires. The triangle illustrates the three elements a fire needs to ignite: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent (usually oxygen).

A fire warning system has a number of devices working together to detect and warn people throughout a building through visual and audio appliances when smoke, fire, carbon monoxide or other emergencies are present.

A lift, designed to have additional protection, with controls that enable it to be used under the direct control of the fire and rescue service when fighting a fire.

A fire-resisting enclosure containing a fire fighting stair, fire mains, firefighting lobbies and, if provided, a firefighting lift.


A substance subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). See ‘Dangerous Substance’.

Generally liquids with a flashpoint of below 21 °C. The Chemicals Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply Regulations 2002 (CHIP) gives more guidance.


A room from which escape is possible only by passing through another room (the access room).

A substance that swells up when heated, thus protecting the material underneath or sealing a gap in the event of a fire.


An alteration to the premises, process or service which significantly affects the level of risk to people from fire in those premises.

Route(s) provided to ensure safe evacuation from the premises or other locations to a place of total safety.

A hole in one side of a fire-rated wall or floor for a single surface-barrier penetration such as an electrical socket.


The item causing the hole/gap in a wall or floor.

A system of evacuation in which different parts of the premises are evacuated in a controlled sequence of phases, those parts of the premises expected to be at greatest risk being evacuated first.

A place within a building or structure where, for a limited period of time, people will have some protection from the effects of fire and smoke. This place, usually a corridor or stairway, will normally have a minimum of 30 minutes fire resistance and allow people to continue their escape to a place of total safety.

A place, away from the premises, in which people are at no immediate danger from the effects of a fire.

A fire-resisting enclosure providing access to an escape stairway via two sets of fire doors and into which no room opens other than toilets and lifts.

An escape route which is adequately protected from the rest of the building by a fire-resisting construction.

A stairway which is adequately protected from the rest of the building by fire-resisting construction.


A place of reasonable safety in which a disabled person and others who may need assistance may rest or wait for assistance before reaching a place of total safety. It should lead directly to a fire-resisting escape route.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places the responsibility on individuals within an organisation to carry out risk assessments to identify, manage and reduce the risk of fire.

Any person lawfully on the premises and any person in the immediate vicinity, but does not include firefighters carrying out firefighting duties.

Article 3 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order defines the ‘responsible person’ as:

  1. In relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control.
  2. In relation to any premises not falling within paragraph (a)
    1. The person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not)
    2. The owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.


An approved device that will ensure closing after having been opened.

An enclosed space extending through one or more stories of a building, connecting vertical openings in successive floors, or floors and roof.

Although similar to Fire Seals, Smoke Seals are placed around the edges of doors and windows and work in a slightly different manner. Whereas fire seals only become visible when they expand in the case of a fire, smoke seals are constantly present and visible. They work by creating a barrier that smoke struggles to pass through.

The result of a factory and/or field method of joining or connecting two or more lengths of a fire-resistive joint system into a continuous entity.

A fire warning which can be given in two or more stages for different purposes within a given area (i.e. notifying staff, stand-by to evacuate, full evacuation).

The ‘Stay put’ policy follows simple guidelines; those occupants of the flat where the fire started must evacuate the premises and summon the Fire Service. If a fire occurs in a common area, people in that area should leave the building and call the emergency services. The remainder of the building’s occupants are often safer to remain in their flats, unless told otherwise by the Fire Service. As well as avoiding unnecassary evacuations this also means that residents from unnafected flats are not blocking the stairways and exit routes, and the fire service, when they arrive, can saftely evacuate residents floor by floor if need be. The safety of residents staying in a building does however, rely on compartmentation being present and correct.

A final exit or a doorway giving direct access into a protected stairway, firefighting lobby, or external escape route.


A hole made in a fire-rated wall or floor that completely passes through from one side to the other to run things such as pipes and cables.

The actual distance to be travelled by a person from any point within the floor area to the nearest storey exit or final exit, having regard to the layout of walls, partitions and fixings.


A transparent panel in a wall or door of an inner room enabling the occupant to become aware of a fire in the access area during the early stages.


Low mounted luminous tracks positioned on escape routes in combination with exit indicators, exit marking and intermediate direction indicators along the route, provided for use when the supply to the normal lighting fails, which do not reply on an electrical supply for their luminous output.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order requires that fire precautions (such as firefighting equipment, fire detection and warning, and emergency routes and exits) should be provided (and maintained) ‘where necessary’. This means that the fire precautions you must provide (and maintain) are those which are needed to reasonably protect relevant persons from risks to them in case of fire. This will be determined by the findings of your risk assessment including the preventative measures you have or will have taken. In practice, it is very unlikely that a properly conducted fire risk assessment which takes into account all the matters relevant for the safety of persons in case of fire, will conclude that no fire precautions (including maintenance) are necessary.


The yield strength of a bar of material is the maximum stress that can be applied along its axis before it begins to change shape.