We have sprinklers and alarms, are fire doors really all that important?
“Here’s the reality”, they begin, “There just isn’t enough money or time, and let’s face it, enforcement, to make door inspections part of the priority.” Or so the story goes. Talk to building managers, business owners or school superintendents and you will hear the same arguments over and over.
They continue, “The code is vague and open to interpretation. Doors that pass inspection today are non-compliant again tomorrow. The failure rate is too high. Inspections create legal paper work that makes me liable. No one is enforcing the code.” Or my personal favorite, “fire door inspection is a scam”.
Here’s the actual reality. Active and passive systems are meant to work together during a fire, not one in place of the other. Together they control fires and save lives. The code isn’t all that vague when interpreted by competent life safety professionals with the intention of proactively saving lives. The failure rate is high in most facilities. And this should be a very loud call to action. Inspections do create a paper trail that could lead to liability if you do nothing to maintain your doors, but death due to negligence is a larger problem.
The building code is a living document. It grows and matures based on real life experience. Real life experience like the one of Edward Pikinski, age eleven and pictured here. He is one of the 90 pupils who died in the Our Lady of Angels School Fire in 1958.
The primary cause of loss of life was the inadequacy of the exits, coupled with the use of substandard doors that were propped open at the time of the fire. The building code still enforces the invaluable lessons learned from Edward’s unnecessary death and the deaths of far too many other people. The lesson is clear: APATHY KILLS!
– Stephanie Smith | AEGIS Office Manager
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This dramatic fire safety video below from Underwriters Laboratories explains how closed doors in the home can save lives in a fire. More info on the Close Your Door safety initiative can be found at closeyourdoor.org.
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This question often sparks debate among fire protection specialists and fire safety experts – clearly many door openings in a building may be equipped with fire protection rated doors, hardware and frames, although by nature of its location would not be necessitated in order to meet codes and standards. Is it the intention of adopted codes and standards for these doors to be maintained in the same manner as other fire protection rated doors located in fire walls, fire and smoke barriers? Nowhere in facility fire safety maintenance is the answer to that question more critical than in health care occupancies where strict adherence to codes and standards is obligatory.
This vital issue of code compliance was raised pending adoption of the 2012 edition of Life Safety Code by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In a June, 2016 meeting, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF) that represents officials from CMS and other health care accrediting organizations including The Joint Commission issued an interpretation of the question of door inspection and maintenance and stated in part that ‘the provisions of NFPA 80 do not apply’ where a fire door label has been removed, and it ‘can be considered the same as rendering the door as other than a fire protection rated door.’ Since it was considered a matter of code compliance to maintain features of fire protection deemed to be obvious to the public, it is important for facility managers to take appropriate action.
Hospital staff striving for accreditation by the Joint Commission in particular have become very familiar with the requirements in accreditation standard LS.01.01.01 to develop and have readily available life safety drawings that accurately depict all locations of fire and smoke barriers. The need for accurate life safety drawings, however extends beyond just health care facilities accredited by the Joint Commission, as it really encompasses all long-term care and hospice facilities, ambulatory surgical facilities and limited-care facilities to name only a few. When life safety drawings are kept up to date and reflect the original fire protection construction measures that were designed and constructed, it is more readily discernable which fire doors are not necessary and could be de-labeled as such. To assist facility managers with this task, AEGIS has partnered with Emerson Graham & Associates, Fire Protection Engineers and Code Consultants licensed in Virginia and North Carolina, for necessary life safety analysis to institute a proactive approach to fire door inspection and maintenance compliance, as well as reducing the unnecessary burden to maintain non-code required equipment. Could your facility benefit from these services? AEGIS is ready to put this consultation at your fingertips – find out more at aegisfiredoor.com/code-consulting/.
Justin Biller of Aegis Fire Safety Consultants will speak on January 16th at the meeting of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) in a joint meeting with ASSE.
He will speak on the subject ‘Fire Door Inspections & Field Labeling’ at 4PM.
In this intriguing article from Mr. Ron Cote’, NFPA technical services lead for life safety, he poses the question – Who is a qualified person to inspect fire doors under NFPA 80? The answer given may surprise you, as Mr. Cote’ himself describes his own personal lack of understanding of many of the critical components of fire door inspections, despite a highly recognizable career as a fire protection and life safety engineer working for NFPA over several decades in the development of the Life Safety Code.
Late last year, after studying the definition of qualified person, I realized I did not have the requisite skills to perform inspection and testing of fire door assemblies to the degree of detail and completeness required by NFPA 80—for starters, I didn’t know the differences between the door frame elements of face, rabbet, stop, soffit, throat, and jamb. I challenged myself to obtain that knowledge, and in so doing I set out on a path to learn what it might take for someone not working in the door and hardware field to learn what was needed to perform fire door assembly inspection and testing.
While nowhere close to the experience Mr. Cote’ has in applying fire and life safety applications in codes and standards, when I began looking into what was necessary to be involved in fire door inspections I too felt very similar feelings of inadequacy about the specifics of fire door hardware and installation. At AEGIS, we also turned to DHI for certification of our professional staff as a Fire Door Assembly Inspector and we agree it is by far the most comprehensive program of instruction and certification currently available in this growing industry.
– Justin Biller, P.E., AEGIS Technical Director
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We are always active in the fire protection industry, providing training and support to local companies and organizations. Shown at the top is Justin Biller, our technical director, speaking to the Carolinas Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers on fire doors and field labeling issues.
Justin Biller will also be speaking at the Fire Code Expo on Tuesday, February 28th in Columbus, OH on the subject of ‘Fire Doors and Opening Protectives’ and associated field labeling.
Also pictured here is Mark Waller, our executive director, taking time to tour a local fire station with some future firefighters!
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An article by Justin Biller of Aegis Fire Safety Consultants has been featured in the May issue of Doors & Hardware Magazine.
The article, titled ‘Fire Door Certification and Labeling: A Retrospective’ discusses the historic development of building codes and test standards related to fire door certification and labeling, and how to better evaluate future trends in listing and labeling provisions.
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