Form1 PPW Supervisor, Greg Ellis, knows more than most about passive fire protection for your building. This month he’s sharing his wisdom on fire, smoke and exit doors. Read on, learn more and keep yourself safe.
As a follow up to our previous article on Passive Fire Protection, the other elephant in the room, and I would suggest much more familiar part of building passive fire systems, are the fire and smoke doors.
These doors serve vital roles where compartmentalisation is required or where specific high-risk areas are required to be separated from the remainder of the building.
There are three basic types of doors used; Fire, Smoke and Exit doors and the names are directly related to their function.
Fire doors are doors designed to resist fire. They are available in different ratings from 1h to 4hrs depending on application. Often, they are left closed maintaining the integrity of the surrounding fire wall for locations such as lift motor rooms and plant rooms.
But more commonly they are fitted with self-closing devices to ‘passively’ close, or where high-pedestrian activity is common. They can be temporarily held open with magnets which release when a fire alarm is triggered, which in turn allows the doors to close.
Fire doors have special requirements regarding frames and door clearances. Frames are required to have 25mm stops, and doors have a maximum gap of 3mm to top and sides and 10mm to bottom of the door.
Fire doors also require certification tags. They provide a record of the manufacturer, the fire-rated materials contained and the rating. In this case the FRL or Fire Rated Level is -/60/30, commonly called a one-hour door.
A tag is required on both the frame and the door. Current standards requiring both door (leaves) on a double door set to be tagged.
If required, fire doors can be made with viewing panels. They must also only utilise compliant ‘fire tested’ door hardware.
Fire doors can be fitted with smoke seals allowing them to be utilised where both a fire and smoke barrier is required.
Smoke doors are as you would expect – doors that are designed to mitigate the free passage of smoke in a fire. They usually look much the same as a fire door, with self-close devices or magnetic temporary hold open devices and statutory signage.
Two points of difference however are that they will not have certification tags like fire doors, and they will always have smoke seals surrounding the door to avoid leaking any smoke from one compartment to another in a fire. These doors are usually solid wood construction but can also be aluminium and glass.
The final type of door in the “Fire Safety Door” system is the exit door. Exit doors are again as they sound. They are principally in place to allow free means of escape from a part of a building; or from the building as a whole. They have the least onerous requirements of any of the doors making up the “Fire Safety Door” system but have what could be considered the most important job. The most important part of any fire system, regardless of how complex or basic it appears, is to facilitate the ability for people to make safe egress away from the fire to a place of safety. Of coarse modern fire systems also address other important issues in regard to preservation of the building and its contents and limiting fire spread to neighbouring properties.
Doors that are in required paths of travel must utilise single action handle sets. Either as a lever (pictured) or as a push bar. The later typical in a hall or large gathering place.
These handles sets must be ‘passable’ when a fire is detected in the building. Ie they cannot be locked. There are multiple ways to facilitate this, such as by utilising electric strikes.
There is one common thread to each of these doors. For many years these doors have had signage applied to inform people of their requirements in regard to their ability to self-close. Or in the case of exit doors to be able to be opened at all times by remaining un-obstructed.
The signage utilised is either or .
The second sign used where magnets are utilised to temporarily hold doors open, but then release on a fire alarm.
Fire Safety Doors are required to be maintained and are tested on a six-monthly basis, to ensure they operate as intended in a fire situation. Although simple and often taken for granted they are one of the most effective systems building employ to resist the spread of smoke and flame. This allows the occupants to escape safely and also reduces the spread of fire in a building reducing property loss expenses.
So, I hope the next time you see a fire door in a building, you have a good and basic understanding of why they are there and what they are all about.
If you have any questions for our team at Form1 Fire, please drop us a line.