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Fire Doors And The Importance Of Their Testing

Fire Doors and the Importance of Their Testing

The Station Nightclub Fire is a classic tragedy of people trapped in a building on fire with no clear way to escape and no compartmentalization. The fire spread quickly and there was only one way out – the entrance. Everyone inside jammed up at the door and got stuck. 96 people died because the nightclub had no fire-safe exit channel or fire doors to block the fire spread. Worse, the exits it did have were purposely blocked to stop people from sneaking inside via the back. It was a deathtrap.

Fire Doors Are A Critical Component Of Any Building Design

Fire doors can make the difference between life and death when a fire event occurs in a structure. Designed to function as a block between a fire condition and a safe passage of escape, fire doors are practically a requirement now in any work or public building design, as well as a code upgrade requirement when older buildings are refurbished and renovated. Designed around exits, fire stairways for escape, and horizontal channels for quick removal of personnel, fire doors provide both compartmentalization that stops fire from spreading as well as keeping escape paths fire free.

The functionality is pretty straightforward. When the fire alarm goes off and the system is triggered in a building, the fire doors automatically close. This immediately creates a fire-proof barrier between the fire and escape paths everyone will be using to get out. The beauty of a modern fire door is that it can also work as a regular door as well. An insulated fire door can literally be a 2-in-1 feature, eliminating needing to have both installed in the same pathway channel. When you have a larger space to secure and fire-proof, such as a garage entrance, roll-up steel fire doors provide that safety while also doubling as a service entrance/exit.

Test Your Doors Regularly

However, fire doors are only as good as they perform, so they need to be tested to ensure the door will perform when it matters most. The first test is done with the manufacturing process. This involves taking a test door and exposing it to various heat and fire conditions. Doing so, the door can be tested for industrial fire conditions to validate that it will not burn sooner than expected under real conditions. The testing includes all of the door’s mechanisms as well as such items as the handle, hinges, latch mechanism, any openings in the door surface and the door frame that holds it in place when installed. 

When the door construction has successfully met expected testing performance, its production gets a rating. This number essentially means how long in hours the door will last under normal building fire conditions. Any fire door installed in a building must have its test numbering visible and placed on the assembly, and all the mechanisms such as the latch must be in visible working order.

The second test is a visible inspection of a fire door done on a regular basis. First, nothing can be installed that penetrates the door surface. Any direction labeling needs to be placed with only an adhesive; puncturing attachments like rivets or screws are not allowed. Kickplates are allowed but again how they are attached has to follow code and fire protection standards. The most relevant one is NFPA 80, which is the Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. This applies to security access controls and similar devices, an increasingly common modification happening in many buildings today.

The third test is the proper trigger and performance of the door emergency-closing feature. Fire doors, if not already kept closed, need to have a mechanism that allows them to close as soon as a fire alarm goes off. Some are mechanical and swing shut with gravity. A magnet in the wall keeps them open, and that magnet is released when the alarm goes off. The door then swings shut on its own weight. Roll-up steel industrial doors will roll closed automatically in the event of a fire. Others are driven by electronic signals and actuators. Whichever the case, when the alarm goes off, the door must achieve complete closure within a few seconds’ time. Many models will auto-reset after they are used to protect people from a fire.

No one wants their building to be a repeat of the Station Nightclub. Fire doors are part of an overall plan to protect, but they only work as well as they are tested to perform. Properly maintained fire doors can save lives and save you thousands in insurance, fines, etc. Let us help you with regular maintenance and testing to keep your building and its occupants safe. We’re offering free fire door inspections now.

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