In 2017, a fire at Grenfell Tower – a high-rise apartment building in West London – resulted in 72 fatalities and 70 people injured. During the inquires that followed, investigators found that the fire door assemblies leading from the corridors to each apartment did not perform as they were intended. Instead of delaying the spread of fire for 30 minutes as required by the adopted codes, the assemblies failed after approximately 15 minutes.
Fire doors have been under increased scrutiny in the US as well. The requirements for annual fire door assembly inspection are being enforced in all health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding. Some fire marshals are enforcing the requirements in other types of facilities in their jurisdiction. Finally, more than 10 years after the inspection requirements were added to NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, the deficiencies that could impair the performance of fire door assemblies are being addressed.
Each year since 2012, the British Woodworking Federation has held a Fire Door Safety Week, to raise awareness about the role fire doors play in a passive fire protection system, and to encourage people to examine fire doors and report problems. The most recent Fire Door Safety Week was held September 24-30. As part of this effort, dozens of educational resources have been created and are available through the Fire Door Safety Week website.
The fire door requirements in the US and the UK differ, but the performance of fire door assemblies is just as crucial regardless of where they are located in the world. I think it’s about time for the US to ramp up education on fire doors and increase the safety of our buildings. We have seen fire door failures in multi-family residential buildings in the US that resulted in fatalities and injuries as well as property loss. We have also seen how properly-installed fire door assemblies can help deter the spread of fire. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get the general public up to speed, in addition to educating fire marshals, end users, architects, members of the door and hardware industry, and others who are involved with the technical aspects of fire door assemblies.
My question for you – especially those of you who are actively involved in specifying, supplying, and/or inspecting fire door assemblies, is this: What resources and materials do we need?
Here is one of the videos produced by the BWF Certifire Fire Door Scheme, which shows why correct specification and installation are so important. Check out the Fire Door Safety Week website for other resources.