For a facility operator to develop an effective fire safety strategy, many factors must be considered. These include the designation of safe egress routes, the construction of barriers to fire and smoke, and the adequacy of fire-resistance ratings to which the entire structure was designed and built. Often overlooked, the day-to-day concepts of operability and functionality are also very important for developing and maintaining a continuous level of fire safety within a building. Once the fire safety systems are installed, it is often either taken for granted that they will always work as designed, or they are just neglected. This is demonstrated by the frequent failure of inspection and maintenance procedures when performed. A fire safety plan must consider the integrity of fire barriers within buildings. This includes the integrity of fire door assemblies as part of the overall fire barrier opening protective. There are many opportunities for doors to become damaged or worn out and subsequently inoperable, or not functioning as required. Provincial Codes do reference a standard for fire doors, providing requirements and recommendations for installation, inspection and maintenance. Each type of fire door has advantages and limitations, and these characteristics need to be considered for each specific opening. Fire door assemblies cannot perform properly except under the conditions for which they were designed. Assemblies incorporating fire-resistant glazing materials have also been developed, tested and evaluated for fire safety.
Fire doors for the protection of openings depend on the use of components that have been listed or labeled for the provided fire protection ratings. These components include fire doors and frames, latching devices, swinging and sliding hardware, and closing devices that provide self-closure or are automatically closed at the time of a fire. The effectiveness of the entire assembly as a fire barrier could be compromised if any component is omitted or substituted with one of substandard quality. Fire exit hardware labelled as meeting the requirements for safety of life and fire protection is available for fire doors, which are required to bear a marking indicating the same level of protection. New and existing fire doors are normally classified and labeled with either an hourly rating designation or alphabetical letter designation. Labels must be made of metal, paper or plastic or may be stamped or die cast into the item. The current standard practice is to provide the hourly designation, indicating the duration of the fire test exposure and known as the fire protection rating. The listing indicates the level of protection in, but not limited to, 3, 2, 1, 1/2 hour increments. The alphabetical letter designation is an older system employed to classify the opening for which the fire door is considered suitable. Provincial Codes do stipulate recommended practices for the installation of smoke control door assemblies, providing guidance for installation, inspection and maintenance. Despite the provisions of protection specified in Provincial Codes, walls with openings have inherently less fire resistance than unpierced walls. Fire doors are designed to protect an opening under normal conditions of use, including that they be normally closed and clear of materials on both sides. When the opening is not used and combustible material is piled against the door, window or shutter, the same designated level of protection cannot be expected. For this reason, combustible material should be kept well away from openings. Where a door opening is no longer in use, the opening should be permanently closed with construction having a fire resistance rating equivalent to that of the wall.
This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.