Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fire Doors: A Critical Component of Building Safety

It is a situation no one wants to face, let alone a safety professional or a building owner who is responsible for the safety of everyone inside the structure: A fire breaks out, and people are trapped somewhere inside.

Avoiding this situation is all about prevention. Namely, making sure your fire doors are up to code. That calls for a fire door inspection by a certified professional.

Fire doors are required inside commercial buildings, because they serve two critical purposes if a fire occurs:
  • They provide the people inside with a safe escape route from the fire.

  • They serve as barriers to help keep a fire from spreading, and help reduce smoke hazards that can hinder someone’s escape.
The forces exerted on a door during a fire event are extreme – from the heat- and fire-related warping of the door itself in just the first few minutes, to the door hardware that is specially designed to withstand fire and heat. In fact, knobs, levers and other door hardware are made to become inoperable when temperatures reach a certain level, in order to ensure that they don’t cause the latching hardware in the door to fail.

Fire doors are rated depending on their use and purpose in a building – anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours. Fire doors go through fire testing and labeling before installation. However, Ohio Building Code requires doors to undergo annual inspections by a Warnock Hersey-certified door inspector to ensure they comply with standards.

There are a few different approaches to a fire door inspection. Obviously, the building owner wants to be compliant with the law, as well as safety regulations, so he or she is likely to take the proactive route and call in a door inspector.

While the building owner’s approach is intentional and aimed at meeting standards, the door inspector’s role goes a step further and approaches the precision elements of the fire door and door assembly. Your inspector will look at every minute detail of the door to make sure the door can do what it is labeled to do.

The State Fire Marshal’s approach is the third approach. While a fire inspector will make recommendations and tell you how to fix them if there is a defect, the fire marshal will take action that will more than likely start with a fine.

If there is a problem with the door or assembly, the fire marshal will notify the business owner and instruct him or her to contact a door inspector to identify the problems and how to remedy them. The building owner will typically have a set timeline to comply. Failure to comply could result in the fire marshal pulling the building’s occupancy certificate, levying a fine and/or closing the building.

You never know how important your doors are, until they stop working properly, and the loss of life or property is no way to find out there is a problem. For more information on fire door inspections, call DCI at (614) 634-1976.

Like The Door Company on Facebook,
follow @TheDoorCo_ofOH on Twitter,
or add us to your Google+ Circles.