I’m in Chicago today, to attend a fire test at Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook. The product being tested is not an Allegion product – I was invited by Chuck and Courtney Noble of Certified Fire Door to witness testing on the Crown Fire Door Stop. This product is designed to be used on fire door assemblies where the clearances are larger than those allowed by NFPA 80 – 1/8″ maximum at the head, jambs, and meeting stiles for wood doors, 3/16″ maximum for hollow metal doors.
This is the second test for this product – the first test on wood doors did not pass (see photos below), although the product did achieve the UL listing for hollow metal doors. I attended the first test, and it was very disappointing when the wood doors failed. But in addition to the product redesign motivated by that test, there was a positive effect of the failure. The first test clearly demonstrated that a fire door with oversized clearances will not perform as designed if there is a real fire. Clearance problems are the most common issue found during a fire door inspection, and given the difficulty and expense of replacing doors to rectify a small clearance problem, it’s easy for some to justify leaving the doors as-is. But the doors failed in ideal circumstances (the test lab), and similar results would surely be seen under actual fire conditions.
I will tell you more about today’s test and the product sometime next week. We’re very excited to have several guests to witness the test, including a few people from Allegion’s local office, and two representatives from the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) who will be photographing the test for some of their upcoming manuals. I will also be using video and photos from the test to make a short educational video about how fire doors are tested. Fingers crossed, everyone!
Meanwhile, my thoughts are with the Boston firefighters lost in yesterday’s Beacon Street fire. It is unknown whether fire doors played a part in that fire, although fire walls between the buildings did prevent the fire from spreading. What I take away from this fire and others, is that we need to be vigilant. It’s easier to prop open a door or block an egress route if you think “it will never happen to me…there will never be a fire in this building.” Many seem to think sprinklers solve all of the problems and there is no need for compartmentalization. While sprinklers are extremely valuable, we still need code-compliant fire doors to limit the smoke and flames, and free egress to help occupants escape.
Last night we ate dinner in a restaurant that had set up a server station in their rear exit, and installed a canvas entrance enclosure that had doors without panic hardware and closers that did not meet accessibility requirements. After dinner I checked into my hotel, and when the person checking me in was showing me the location of my room, he showed me a floor plan with two exits crossed out with Sharpie. He said, “these two exits are blocked off because we are renovating” – those were the only 2 exits on one side of the building (the side my room is on!). The fire doors in those exit enclosures are blocked open with wood wedges, and the doors have signage stating, “excuse our appearance…” with no instructions about where to find the nearest working exit. Luckily I’m on the second floor and there’s a sturdy pine tree next to my balcony, so I have a Plan B. Emails have already been sent about both situations.
It can happen here. It can happen to you, your loved ones, or strangers. The general public does not know about fire doors and egress doors. Don’t just pick up the wood wedge, educate the facility personnel about why it shouldn’t be there. Can you live with the potential effects of seeing a problem and doing nothing?
Here are some photos from the first test: