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According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 16,600 injuries were sustained and 14.8 billion dollars were lost due to fires in the United States in 2019. Fires in both residential and commercial buildings are unfortunately a prevalent issue. What if there was a way to possibly reduce the effects of fire in your building, slowing or even stopping the spread?
If you’re a building owner or facility manager, you may already know about the importance of fire rated doors. At Cornell, our fire door systems are designed to automatically activate in the event of smoke or fire, preventing both from migrating throughout the building and allowing occupants to safely evacuate.
Fire-rated products do their part to protect your building, but there’s also expectations on your end to ensure they’re working properly. This includes daily once overs to ensure nothing is amiss. You may also be familiar with periodic inspections, commonly referred to as drop testing your fire doors.
As part of your annual (or periodic) fire door inspection responsibilities, rolling fire door drop testing should be one of your highest priorities. While fire doors should never be placed in the path of egress, they are a key factor in keeping building occupants and your facility safe if a fire does break out. Because our fire doors close at the first sign of smoke or fire, depending on your fire door system and fire door, they help contain, mitigate, and stop damage from smoke and fire by stopping their spread throughout the building.
This is ideally how fire door systems and fire doors should operate. But if a periodic inspection and drop test is done incorrectly or the door isn’t reset properly, it can spell trouble during a fire emergency.
Sometimes the phrase “drop testing” is used as a standalone term for the annual fire door inspection. However, it is not only drop testing that must be performed annually, and the correct term for this inspection is “periodic inspection.”
A periodic inspection of a fire door includes:
In the words of our Director of New Product Development, Fire and Life Safety, David Dawdy: “Anyone can get a fire door to drop during the drop test, but it takes skill and knowledge to reset it correctly. Resetting a fire door after drop testing is the most important aspect of a fire door evaluation that is most often performed incorrectly.”
A great resource on drop testing fire doors is in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80, Chapter 5. NFPA 80 is the “standard for fire doors and other opening protectives. It regulates the installation and maintenance of assemblies and devices used to protect openings in walls, floors, and ceilings against the spread of smoke and fire within, into, or out of buildings.”
According to NFPA 80, acceptance testing must be done when the fire door is first installed. The records for this testing must be kept on file for the life of the assembly.
Some manufacturers even include fire door drop testing forms when they ship their doors to make the process easy (and remind you to complete both acceptance testing and periodic inspections).
After the initial acceptance testing, fire doors must be inspected annually with a coinciding drop test. These records must be kept on file for at least 3 years, according to the NFPA 80 standards. During a fire door drop test, the technician is required to test by all means of activation. This means if the door can be activated thermally (by fusible links that melt when they reach a certain temperature) or electrically (by a fire door system connected to a smoke or fire alarm), it must be drop tested using all means of activation.
While fire door technicians are not currently required to have any formal training, this will be changing in the near future in NFPA 80. 8, Section 5. In a revision coming in 2022, the approved copy will read:
“For rolling steel fire doors, periodic inspections and testing shall be performed by a trained rolling steel fire door systems technician.”
The updated and approved language for this in the same revision reads: “A trained rolling steel fire door technician is employed within the rolling steel fire door industry with documented training by a recognized industry organization or by a manufacturer of a listed rolling steel fire door.”
While these changes won’t be implemented quite yet in NFPA 80’s standards, there are manufacturers and organizations dedicated to training fire door technicians and sharing knowledge about one of the most important parts of an annual periodic inspection.
The Institute for Door Dealer Education and Accreditation (IDEA), the educational branch of the International Door Association (IDA) has a rolling steel fire door certification class that can be beneficial. At Cornell, we also offer training with certification that meets the new standard, and to help educate those in the industry on proper inspection and drop testing procedures.
A study, conducted several years ago by recognized industry organizations estimated that up to 60% of fire doors in use would not self-close or drop in the event of a fire, leaving the building and occupants vulnerable during a possibly deadly situation. This is a shocking number that is much too high for manufacturers and those who work closely with the rolling steel industry, and it must be changed. You can help reverse this statistic and save lives, by first making sure your periodic inspections are done correctly.
Don’t put the lives of your facility’s occupants at risk – make sure your periodic inspections include the full gamut of required testing, including drop testing and resetting your fire doors by a trained rolling steel door systems technician.
Interested in learning more about Cornell's fire-rated products? Contact us by phone: 833.958.1273 or through our contact form.
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