Making sure all aspects of a building’s passive fire protection systems are working properly and up to date with the code can be a daunting task. However, it is very important, especially for healthcare facilities who may have patients who cannot be easily evacuated. As a facility manager of a hospital, ensuring the safety of your patients, doctors, nurses as well as visitors is one of the most important parts of your job. Fire doors are a big part of a building’s overall fire protection system, and will help protect occupants in the event of a fire emergency.
Healthcare facilities are “Defend in Place” facilities. So, in the event of a fire, patients who may be tied to life support machines or going through an operation would not be able to evacuate. In fact, many patients in hospitals, as well as nursing homes, are unable to be moved or are too sick to move quickly enough to escape danger during a fire. To fight this, compartmentalizing your facility helps prevent the spread of flames and smoke, while also protecting those who have little to no mobility. In a healthcare facility, fire doors function as any regular door would function.
However, fire doors are a part of a fire protection system in place to guarantee the safety of your tenants as well as the nursing staff. For the most part, fire doors are to stay completely closed. According to the National Fire Protection Association NFPA 80 section 188.8.131.52, there should be no open holes or breaks in the surface of either the door or the door frame. This helps to compartmentalize your healthcare facility, preventing the spread of fire. Fire doors are complicated devices, with many different parts working together to help prevent the spread of fire. Nevertheless, there are many different deficiencies that can occur over time, so it is important to know what to watch out for. Some of the most common Fire Door deficiencies include:
- Painted or missing fire door labels
- Poor clearance dimensions around the perimeter of the door in the closed position
- Kick down door holders
- Auxiliary hardware items that interfere with the intended function of the door (barrel bolts and dead bolts, etc.)
- Fire doors blocked to stay in the open position
- Area surrounding the fire door assembly blocked by furniture, equipment and/or boxes
- Broken, defective or missing hardware items (latch bolts and/or strike plated, closer arms, cover plates, etc.)
- Fire exit hardware installed on doors that are not labeled for use with fire exit hardware
- Missing or incorrect fasteners
- Bottom flush bolts that do not project 1/2" into the strike
To assure that fire doors are working properly NFPA 80 section 5.2.1 mandates that fire doors should be inspected and tested at least once a year. You live or work in a facility in which the residents sometimes may not be able to take care of themselves. They depend on us, as fire professionals and facility managers, to keep them safe and care for them in the ways they cannot help themselves.