Fire Safety: Focus on Roles
Managers, AHJs, and fire-door inspectors have important roles and responsibilities in a building's annual fire-door inspection process under NFPA 80. Managers must ensure fire-door assemblies are maintained in a working condition to properly protect door openings in fire walls and smoke partitions.
First, they must apply the annual inspection and testing elements to both new and existing installations. Next, they must ensure that knowledgeable individuals perform the inspections. Certified third parties generally perform these annual inspections, but qualified in-house staff also can perform them. Managers or AHJs might require certified professionals to conduct annual inspections.
Managers also must be certain the annual inspection is documented properly. Documentation should include a door index that minimally lists the door number, door type, fire rating, and location. Checklists can provide a systematic approach to documenting the findings of the inspection and operational tests.
It is important for the inspector to note the time, date, and location of the findings, since conditions of door assemblies can change relatively quickly. The inspector's report also should include a detailed set of recommendations to correct any problems noted in the fire door assembly. General statements like "repair damage" or "fix label" might not provide enough information to implement the proper corrective action.
The process often requires educating front-line technicians on the proper maintenance of fire-door assemblies. The time and date documented in the annual inspection establishes the start of the corrective action phase when warranted. Some corrective actions cannot be performed immediately and might require obtaining a grace period with AHJs to complete the repair.
Good documentation is vital for the code enforcement official or other AHJs. A building can have a huge number of fire-door assemblies containing a large number of component combinations and fire ratings. It is unlikely these authorities have the knowledge of specific fire-door assemblies, including special conditions and exceptions.
Most AHJs for code and standard enforcement can perform only spot checks of records and limited inspections of random door locations. As a result, they must rely on the documentation provided by the inspector as evidence of proper operation, maintenance, and compliance. NFPA 80 does not specify a time for record retention, so managers should check with the AHJ on this issue.