Have you ever pointed out a door problem to someone and had them respond with a shrug and some form of “so what”?  The grocery store exit is purposely blocked with carts…so what – people will just push them out of the way if there’s an emergency.  A door closer is adjusted to have more force than is allowed by the accessibility standards…so what – someone will help the elderly person get the door open when they have trouble.  A fire door is held open improperly…so what – chances are slim that the building will catch on fire today.  What’s the big deal??

Here’s why these seemingly small things are a big deal.  The code requirements aren’t just words in books – they exist because this is how we help to keep buildings safe.  The codes have been written and rewritten because of past tragedies, and if we don’t follow them, we are disregarding what we should have learned from those events.  A door problem may not seem like a big deal, but one problem leads to another, and there is no way to know whether the door will function properly when it needs to.

I’m thrilled to see that fire door assemblies have been getting more attention in recent years.  They’re really important for life safety, even if most people don’t realize it.  Fire door assembly inspectors are out there every day, making sure these opening protectives will do their job when the time comes.  Hal Kelton of DOORDATA Solutions is a certified fire door assembly inspector, and he sent me these (Gotta) Fix-it Friday photos.

At first glance, this hinge looks pretty good…

But this is what can happen when a door stop, broom handle, or other item is pushed into the gap between the open door and the frame to hold the door in the open position.  A momentary action taken for convenience will affect the performance of this fire door until the problem is noted as a deficiency on an inspection report and then rectified.  Without enforcement of the fire door inspection requirements, issues like this might never be addressed, and there’s no way to know whether the fire door asssembly will do its job.  That’s the big deal.

Note: If annual fire door assembly inspections are not being enforced in a particular jurisdiction, this does not release a building owner or facility manager from the responsibility of maintaining a building’s fire door assemblies in code-compliant condition.  Liability for deficient opening protectives does not depend on whether or not the assemblies have been inspected.

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