Fire Doors in Your Commercial Building: What You Need to Know
Only in the event of an actual fire or emergency situation do most people fully appreciate fire-rated doors. Business owners, on the other hand, have a better understanding of the importance of fire doors. In the event of an actual fire, these doors can serve an important role in keeping flames and smoke from spreading to different parts of the building. They can also serve as a means of easy escape in case of an emergency.
What Is a Fire Door?
Fire-rated doors specially made to withstand the extreme heat of fires. These hollow metal doors and frames must have a closing device and latch. Fire doors should be equipped with hardware that is tested for both panic and fire conditions. Locks can be either fail-safe or fail-secure emergency exit locks. Unless used on buildings with certain applications that allow delayed or controlled egress, they must allow free egress. Though they must meet certain safety standards, fire doors may be used for normal daily use at exterior entry points and interior locations within the building.
What Is the Purpose of a Fire Door? How Does It Work?
Fire doors are required on many commercial buildings in order to protect occupants, block the spread of flames and smoke, and minimize the overall property damage. Because they close automatically when a fire is detected in the building, these doors are a key component of a building’s passive fire protection system. Interior fire doors help block or delay the spread of heat, smoke and flames through hallways, stairwells and between sections of the building. They are also installed in corridors passing through fire barrier walls. Exterior fire protection doors are heat resistant and allow quick egress from the building in case of an emergency.
Lori Greene from iDigHardware recently recounted her daughter’s experienced when her university dorm was evacuated because of a small laundry room fire. In this example, the fire doors did their job to prevent the spread of smoke and flames:
“The fire was not serious – just a smoking dryer, but the laundry room doors were automatically released from their magnetic holders when the fire alarm was activated, and closed and latched properly. Because the fire door assembly functioned as designed and tested, the smoke did not spread.”
“Fire door assemblies play an important role in a building’s passive fire protection. Without these opening protectives, the walls compartmentalizing the building and surrounding critical parts of emergency cannot do their job,” Greene explains.
Commercial Fire Door Requirements
Fire-rated doors are considered an important part of a passive fire protection system, and along with being a smart safety feature, they are also required by local, state, national and international building codes. The building codes enforced in your area mandate the fire resistance rating of the fire door assembly. Guidelines are based on the application of the commercial space and the maximum number of occupants within the building.
For accessibility requirements, the model codes reference ICC A117.1 – Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities; the ADA Standards for Accessible Design also apply to most projects nationwide. There may be additional state or local code modifications that apply to a particular location.
Review the related fire door assembly requirements in Pennsylvania.
Unlike regular commercial doors, these must pass a series of fire-resistance tests carried out by specialized testing agencies. Doors that pass evaluation are classified according to their fire protection rating. This rating is measured in hours; .5, .75, 1, 1.5 and 3 hours are common classifications. The measurement represents the amount of time the barrier can stand up to exposure from heat and flames.
The amount of time that a door must withstand fire can vary depending on local building codes and location within the building, such as vicinity to an exit or the fire rating of nearby walls.
Fire Door Certification
Each fire-rated door sold on the market must include a permanent label showing the following information:
- The door manufacturer,
- Whether the opening is equipped with fire exit hardware,
- Any temperature rise rating,
- If it is a smoke door assembly, and
- The length of time that the door is intended to resist fire.
- The related hardware and frame must have similar labeling specifically stating the duration.
Fire Door Inspection
These protective doors need to be inspected at least once a year by a representative from the local fire department.
“The 2012 edition of NFPA 101 requires fire doors to be inspected annually, and references the 2010 edition of NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, which lists 11 inspection criteria for fire door assemblies…In particular, facilities that receive funding from Medicare and/or Medicaid must have fire door assembly inspections conducted annually and documented, with any deficiencies repaired ‘without delay,'” explains Allegion.
Types of Fire Doors
There are a variety of types of doors available, with different fire ratings and made from different materials. The door assembly may also include fire-resistant doorframes, hinges, smoke or gas seals, hardware and glazing. Different styles of doors are available, which can either match the interior decor or stand out so they’re easy to notice in an emergency.
Implementing Fire Door Safety
Many business owners and property managers have questions about how fire doors should be used day to day. Here are clear answers to some common concerns.
Do fire doors need to be closed at all times?
Some companies have interior fire doors that typically remain open between departments during the normal business hours, but they will automatically close in the event of an emergency. If the door is not equipped with an automatic closing device, do not prop it open. While it can be convenient to put a wedge in to keep a fire door open creating an easy exit or to let in a breeze, an open door can defeat its fire-protection capabilities.
Should fire doors be locked?
Don’t block it or lock it. Chaining the doors shut or blocking them in any way is dangerous and may be a violation of fire safety codes. Using anything other than fire-rated, fail-safe or fail-secure hardware can lead to injury or even loss of life in an emergency requiring quick evacuation. Finding the doors blocked can be a significant safety hazard and cause further panic for an already scared crowd.
Can we make changes to the door frame or hardware?
Because fire-resistant they are tested as complete door assemblies, permitted onsite modifications are limited.
When do fire doors need to be replaced?
The overall fire resistance and rating of a fire door may deteriorate over time. To ensure that the door is well maintained and still ensures adequate protection, these doors must be inspected yearly. Follow the recommended maintenance and repair schedule. The need for replacement will depend on the wear and tear that it experiences.
Commercial Doors & Hardware
Great Valley Lockshop can help your company find the fire doors that are right for your building and budget. Since 1973, we have had a strong commitment to residential and commercial service. Call our store at 610-644-5334 or get a free estimate online.