While they may appear mundane and boring, fire doors have been referred to as the heroes of fire safety, and for good reason. A properly functioning fire door can be the difference between surviving a fire and not surviving.
But, the keyword here is ‘functional.’
This is where fire door inspections (and maintenance) come into play. Check out this Q&A with Mike Wells, Business Development Manager at Midwest Alarm Services, to learn how you can help your fire doors do their job.
What is a fire door?
Something that seems so simple - a door - is actually very complex when you put the word ‘fire’ in front of it. Fire doors should meet the fire-resistance rating codes and be inspected regularly. They are tested against the elements before going to market and built to withstand raging fires for as long as possible.
What is the primary purpose of fire doors?
Fire doors provide vital safety features that save lives and restrict the progress of destructive fires and smoke. When the doors are closed and sealed properly, they create a barrier that reduces the amount of oxygen available to the fire and restrict the spread. Fire doors help protect escape routes for occupants and can provide a means of escape when opened.
Mike reminds us that the most common cause of death from fire is not from contact with the flames but smoke inhalation. Fire doors reduce the instances of both.
What is the purpose of a fire door inspection?
When we inspect your fire doors, we are looking for the full functionality of all parts and gaps. Are the gaps consistently less than 4mm when the door is closed and no more than ¾ of an inch under the door? Are the intumescent seals around the door and frame intact and damage-free? Does the door close firmly onto the latch with no obtrusion? An inspection will also confirm that the door is certified to ensure it truly is a fire door.
A full fire door inspection from Midwest Alarm Services verifies:
- Validation of the door frames
- All doors are sealed
- Nothing is impeding with closure
- The gaps in between the door and frame (and from the door to the floor) measure appropriately
- The hinges, bolts, locks, and exit hardware are all in working order
Who can provide the fire door inspection?
According to 126.96.36.199 of the NFPA 80-2010, “Individuals with knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the type of door being subject to testing.” As the chosen inspector, we record and report the condition of the door assemblies to you, the building owner. And, while fire door inspection certifications are not required, we’ve taken the extra steps to put our staff through all applicable certification courses.
Who is responsible for the maintenance of the fire doors?
The building owner(s) are solely responsible to take the required action if/when a fire door is not up to par. If no action is taken, they run the risk of violations from the AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) or, worse, injury or death to their occupants.
Mike emphasizes that electronics are the easy part. An employee who leaves a fire door open to take a cigarette break or a delivery can easily undo all of the work you’ve done. His advice? Change the culture and educate your occupants/staff!
What are the codes and who enforces them?
NFPA 80 Code, Standard for Fire Doors and Fire Windows state to inspect fire doors annually. All codes can be found on the National Fire Protection Association's website. AHJs will confirm that your inspection has been done. If there are corrective actions, they’ll verify those have been done, too.
What else does Mike want you to know?
His key PSA is do NOT prop your doors open! “Most recently, we’ve seen fire doors propped open in order to avoid touching extra surfaces or to create alternative pathways during the pandemic,” Mike says. “While this may seem convenient, it creates bad habits and puts all occupants at risk.” No matter what the reason for propping the fire door open may be, it is always a safety risk. Mike emphasizes, “our team of experts are here to discuss any questions you may have about your fire door. We can work with the fire door manufacturers and/or door hardware companies to come up with a customized solution that can be safely integrated into your fire alarm monitoring system.”
NOTE: While we don’t provide the door hardware, we make sure the power can be cut and, if we do cut the power, we ensure the door is able to be completely sealed and closed off.
Also, closures are probably the most common issue we see but don’t limit your view to closures. Installing new flooring and then not modifying the fire door to the flooring could cause problems, for example. Just as you would think like a burglar when designing your home or business security system, Mike says it’s important to think like a fire when considering any changes to your building involving the fire doors.
Mike emphasizes that we can do a door by door inspection service to ensure your fire doors are 100% in working order. This is our way of taking another item off your plate and putting it on ours so that when the fire inspector, auditor or insurance company comes through, you have the necessary documentation at your fingertips.