Opening the Door To Fire Safety
By Jeffrey C. Camplin - January 2012 - MS
Fire-rated doors are central components of any passive fire-protection design in institutional and commercial facilities. While occupants and visitors use some of these doors daily, they rarely use other fire doors, which remain held open or closed. Without proper design specifications and comprehensive inspection and maintenance procedures, fire doors in this second category are less likely to effectively protect openings.
To protect against the spread of fire and smoke within, into, and out of buildings, maintenance and engineering managers need to implement a preventive maintenance program for fire doors and hardware. Most authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) on the issue have adopted the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, for annual inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire-door assemblies.
Facilities must comply with a variety of building codes enforced by various AHJs. Fire-safety codes generally take precedence over other codes, such as life safety, accessibility, and security. Overall fire protection of a building is found in life safety and building codes.
But once the rating of fire protection is established, NFPA 80 provides specific steps to take to meet that fire rating for door assemblies. The annual inspections of fire-door assemblies specified in NFPA 80 ensure door openings are properly rated and operational in the event of a fire. Inspections and operational tests, coupled with good documentation, also ensures compliance with applicable fire codes and standards.
The most common building and life safety codes reference the standards of the NFPA to address such issues as fire-rated building construction, fire-suppression and -alarm systems, and fire and smoke compartmentalization. Often, NFPA 80 is the standard for fire doors and other openings that is adopted for local code enforcement.
NFPA 80 was rewritten in 2007 and revised in 2010 to include detailed annual inspection and documentation requirements, so it is important managers know which version of NFPA 80 a particular jurisdiction has adopted. The 1999 version of the code that often is cited by older codes only discusses frequent inspections but offers little additional guidance.
The 2010 version of NFPA 80 contains a number of elements that must be documented as part of an annual inspection by a knowledgeable person. A certified person is not required by NFPA 80 to perform inspections. The standard includes 11 minimum inspection elements for fire-door assemblies:
- Door surfaces and frames do not have holes or breaks.
- Glazing, vision light frames, and glazing beads are intact.
- Doors, frames, hinges, hardware, and thresholds are aligned.
- There are no missing or broken parts.
- Door clearances around frames and at thresholds are appropriate.
- Self-closure devices operate.
- Coordinators are installed with an inactive leaf closing before active leaf.
- Latching hardware operates and secures the door when closed.
- Auxiliary hardware does not interfere with operation of the door assembly.
- Modifications do not void the label.
- Gasket and edge seals are verified for presence and integrity.