Changes to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, about 15 years ago necessitated annual fire door inspections. The improvements were made after it was realized that most current fire doors would not provide enough protection in the event of a fire in institutional and commercial buildings.

Most fire marshals indicated they didn’t have the manpower to conduct the inspections, therefore maintenance and engineering managers believed local fire marshals would. Furthermore, the standard was only provided as a reference and not explicitly inscribed into the building codes.

The scenario is shifting now. Building codes are including NFPA 80 not just as a recommendation, but as a mandate. NFPA 101 — Life Safety Code is used in many jurisdictions; the International Fire Code is utilized by states as their fire code, and the International Construction Code is likely the most extensively used building code.

The obligation for annual inspection and testing of all fire doors is one of the most significant changes for managers. The building owner is usually responsible for conducting and documenting the inspections. The goal of the law is to allow authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to access and examine fire door inspection documentation in the same way that they may see and assess sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, alarms, and other fire safety systems. With that authorization, more fire marshals are requesting to view the documents during their yearly site inspection.

Why is it important to pay attention to fire doors? Fire-related injuries and deaths have been reported as a result of poorly working fire doors, according to post-fire investigations. A broken door closer or a faulty door latch might prevent a fire door from properly shutting, allowing flames and smoke to pour through the aperture. To safeguard the building and its residents, a well-maintained and properly operational fire door would have limited the spread of the fire.

Locations of fire doors

When completing their initial fire door inspection, one issue managers confront is locating all of the installed fire doors. Understanding that the two basic goals of the code are to control the spread of smoke and fire and to provide a safe way of egress in the event of a fire can aid managers in determining where fire doors should be erected.

Fire doors are placed between separate regions of the building, in corridors between building components, and in interior stairwells to prevent the spread of smoke and fire. Similarly, all points of egress from the building, including entrances, exits, and lobbies, have fire doors.

Fire doors and frames must be labeled with the door maker and the assembly’s fire protection rating. Look for fire door labels on all doors and door frames. However, just because a door isn’t labeled doesn’t imply it’s not a fire door. Unfortunately, many labels have been painted over or otherwise rendered unreadable over the years.

Other features that aid in the identification of a fire door are the hardware and signage mounted on the door. It’s most likely a fire door if it has a closer and panic hardware. Similarly, if a notice says the door must be kept shut, it’s most likely a fire door.

Inspection Prerequisites

NFPA 80 specifies the things that must be inspected and the tests that must be done on each fire door. Managers must ensure that the following tasks are completed at a minimum:

Look for fire door labels that are missing, damaged, or painted over. The AHJ may mandate recertification or replacement of the door if the labels are missing or damaged.

Make sure there are no missing or broken portions of the door or frame.

Check to see if any hardware or other objects have been added to the door or frame that could obstruct its operation.

Examine the whole door and frame for any open holes or surface fractures.

Check for damage to all door hardware, gaskets, and edge seals.

Check the latching hardware to ensure that the door is secure when closed.

When the self-closing system is engaged from a fully open position, make sure it completely closes the door.

Inspect the glazing and vision panels to make sure they’re in good shape and properly fastened.

To verify that the door, frame, hinges, and hardware are secure and in good operating order, check their alignment.

Take measurements of the space between the doors. Three-quarters of an inch is the maximum gap that can be allowed under the bottom of the door. One-eighth of an inch is the maximum gap allowed at the top, hinge, and latch edges.

Make sure a double door’s inactive leaf closes before the active leaf.

These processes reflect the very minimum in terms of inspection and testing. Failure of the door latch to properly secure the closed door; broken or missing door closer; painted over or missing door or frame label; blocked door; and an excessive space between the door and the frame or floor are among the most common flaws discovered during a normal inspection. All detected flaws should be addressed as soon as possible.

Who Has the Authority to Inspect?

The annual testing and inspections do not require the employment of a trained door inspector. A qualified person for performing the tests and inspections is defined as “a person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, professional standing, or skill, and who, by knowledge, training, and experience, has demonstrated the ability to deal with the subject matter, the work, or the project,” according to NFPA 80 Section 3.3.96.

No certification is necessary, according to the NFPA definition. This provides managers with two options: in-house testing and inspections or outsourcing. The department may already have qualified staff to conduct the tasks for in-house inspections. If this is not the case, managers might have workers attend a training session focused on fire door inspections. Managers can have a skilled outside individual provide training on-site if a large number of employees need to be trained. The objective is to ensure that the in-house staff conducting the inspections are educated about doors and have received training on the regulations’ requirements.

If there are no qualified in-house staff or if the sheer quantity of fire doors is daunting, outsourcing is an effective approach to complete the inspections. Inspections can be performed by a variety of enterprises, including engineering and architectural firms, maintenance groups, and door vendors.

Inspection report for fire doors

Managers must carefully review the report documents after the fire door inspections are completed. Each fire door should have its own page in the report. Each page should include a form of identification for the door, such as an assigned number or location, the type of door installed, its fire rating, the date the inspection was conducted, and the name and signature of the person conducting the inspection, in addition to the items inspected and tested. Inspectors should be able to identify uncommon circumstances or conditions by including an additional remarks area.

Photographs of the condition of a particular door may be required in addition to each door inspection form. The door, the position of the problem on the door or frame, and the condition should all be clearly stated on the images. When conducting an annual inspection of a facility, the AHJ will ask for certain documents.

Making repairs a top priority

The first fire door inspection report will almost certainly include a large list of faults, ranging from minor issues to those requiring the door and frame to be replaced. Failed latches, large door to frame and floor gaps, missing fire labels, damaged or missing hardware, and inadequately blocked doors are all examples of deficiencies.

While the sheer amount of defects might be intimidating, especially during the initial yearly inspection, managers must carefully analyze the report to determine what actions must be performed where and when. Managers are unlikely to be able to remedy all of them, thus priorities will have to be established. Some adjustments will be simple and affordable, while others will be more difficult, so managers will need to prioritize and plan repairs. Consult a third-party fire safety specialist if managers need assistance determining priorities.

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