Sometimes I feel like a broken record.  Like maybe people are sick of hearing me talk about fire and egress doors, how they protect us, and what happens when they are disabled or neglected.  When I meet someone, I don’t immediately launch into a discussion about doors because I’m pretty sure they’ll think I’m a weirdo from the start and probably avoid me the next time.

Well, I have a friend who’s a high school principal.  Over the holidays we were at a Christmas party together and for some reason we were talking about what time we go to bed.  He asked me why I stay up so late so I told him a little about my work and my blog.  He was fascinated!  Seriously…he had never really thought much about doors, and was shocked that I stay up late answering emails from all over the US and beyond.  His perspective was interesting, because in my opinion a high school principal should know the basics about fire doors and egress doors.  The truth is…most people have never given them a thought.

I saw the photos below in a webinar conducted by Bill Johnson and Keith Pardoe of the Door Security & Safety Foundation, and I think they’re the best illustration of the value of a fire door that I’ve ever seen.  The photos were shared with Bill by Paul Martin of the Center for Campus Fire Safety, a non-profit organization devoted to reducing the loss of life from fire on college campuses.  If this door had been propped open with a wood wedge, as so many fire doors are, it wouldn’t have been able to help contain the smoke and flames.  The damage to the corridor and the rest of the building would have likely been much greater.  The means of egress could have become impassable, trapping building occupants.

This is not rocket science, people.  Fire doors that are functioning properly protect lives and property.  Fire doors that have been damaged, neglected, or improperly modified will not offer the same protection.  Code-compliant egress doors facilitate the safe exit of building occupants.  Egress doors that have non-compliant security devices or that don’t operate properly could result in building occupants spending crucial time trying to locate another exit.  Sometimes they don’t find one in time.

I don’t advocate for the annual inspection of fire and egress doors because I want to inspect doors (I don’t).  I talk about it because even though the codes and standards have always required these doors to be kept in compliance, many are not.  The inspection requirements help ensure that non-compliant doors are repaired.  That’s it.

I feel like we might be making some progress though.  This week I have 3 meetings with facilities that want to learn more about fire door inspection – a hospital, a medical school campus, and a government agency.  These meetings were not the result of any sort of advertising campaign or “blitz”…they came about because of relationships begun or enhanced by this blog.  Maybe my little hobby will eventually have a measurable impact on fire and egress door safety.

Speaking of fire door safety and finally getting around to the $63,000 post title…I posted a link to an article a couple of weeks ago (300 forced out by fire), in which the fire chief said that the door to the apartment where the fire originated wasn’t working properly and didn’t close completely.  I asked the fire chief about it but he said that he couldn’t give me a lot of information at that point because there would be charges filed in relation to the defective door.  I saw this article on Friday, regarding a different fire in the same city:

Company fined due to fire in St. Catharines.
Rick Fleming 610 CKTB News – 1/20/2011

Due to a fire at a Geneva Street high-rise in St. Catharines, a property-management company from Mississauga has been slapped with a fine of just under 63-thousand dollars.

Trans-Globe Property Management pleaded guilty to failing to maintain smoke alarms and proper fire-door closure devices in the ten-story building.

The blaze erupted this past September. After it was doused, fire-fighters found that the smoke alarms didn’t work, and they ordered a full inspection of the structure.

St. Catharines Fire Chief Mark Mehlenbacher is quite pleased with the punishment, adding that the fire department will chase anyone or any organization down who fails to maintain, tampers with, or disables any fire-safety equipment.

There were 3 high-rise apartment fires in St. Catharines between mid-December and mid-January, one of which was the fire where the apartment door didn’t close.  The most recent article is in reference to a 4th fire, so I’m guessing there could be more fines to come.  $63,000 would surely have paid for a fire door inspection many times over.  Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage and lost rental income.

Photos courtesy of Paul Martin, president of the Center for Campus Fire Safety.

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