UPDATE:  This application was discussed at length on the Building Codes Forum, so go check it out to see what the AHJs had to say.  The final decision was that the door should have been a 20-minute door, even if the contents of the electric room did not require a higher rating.  As a 20-minute door it should have been self-closing and self-latching. 

I received this email today and I am publishing it verbatim with permission from the author.  What are your thoughts?  Please leave a comment!

Hi Lori,

I love your site!  I train “in-house” locksmiths in facilities across the country.  I bring awareness to Life Safety 101 and NFPA 80 to Institutional Locksmiths who work in multiple levels of government and large private corporations.  I get the opportunity to travel to many highly occupied buildings and like you I can’t help but keep a critical eye on passive fire protection systems, life safety issues, and ADA concerns.

I am currently staying in a hotel in Texas that is only a year old. In my opinion, the poor installation of the door hardware and (in regards to door openings) the inexperience of the punch list team to correct poor installations has caused a rapid decay of the lifesaving designs in modern openings.

During a walk-through of the hotel I noticed the cylindrical lock on the electrical room was not latched.  I opened the door and saw three full 32-ounce cans of 50:1 fuel/oil on the floor.  I could immediately feel the heat generated from the emissions of the electrical components escaping the room.  This room is in the middle of the 3-story hotel that is surrounded on all four sides by a route of egress corridor that is shared with the rooms on that floor.  You can see a fan that is pointed towards one of the servers to minimized the overheating network issues.  The opening is not rated and there is no self-closing device on the door.  You can see in the photos that the walls are not finished and have combustible OSB exposed.

Without seeing the building plans I cannot see why this area would not be better designed to protect the exit corridor that surrounds this room.  Could this area have been approved to not need a fire door?  Even when you remove the fuel cans from the area I still have concerns that the electrical room in the center of the building is a high hazard area.  The obligation of a of a Fire Door Assembly Inspector is to observe and report to the owner and AHJ.  There is some additional research that a FDAI would need to do including reviewing the building plans.  What are yours and your readers thoughts?

Chad Jenkins, FDAI
National Locksmithing Institute
2820 N. Pinal Ave., Ste. 12, Casa Grande, AZ  85122
Phone: 888.682.0522   Fax: 602.391.2120

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