Archive for the ‘Baseline Data’ Category

In looking at the current Australian Standards, and having recently drafted an article on the history of fire door tags in Australia (to be possibly published in the Fire Protection Association of Australia publication “Fire Australia”), this question has been running over and over in my mind.

Some would say I need a life and I would tend to agree with you but never the less I intend to delve into this in a little greater detail.

If a tag is on the edge of a fire door, what does it mean to the average Joe public? Does it give them any assurance that the door is in fact a fire door? Would average Joe public know what the details on a tag mean or would they simply assume that it is a fire door regardless of what the tag stated?

My opinion and one which others may disagree with is that the tag on a fire door is not for average Joe public, it is for the Authorities and Service Companies who actually know what the details on the tag are supposed to mean, and what direction it provides in the ongoing maintenance and assessment of the particular fire door.

Without going into too much detail, the fire door tag provides the context, the picture of what kind of fire door it is, who made it, who tested it, what its performance level is etc.

If I walked up to the average person on the street and asked “what does AS1905.1 mean?” I am pretty sure I would receive a perplexed look and rightfully so. There is no reason why the average Joe needs to know this sort of information that is why there are professionals who provide the inspection and assessment of these assets, people who do know what these things are and more importantly what they mean and why they are so important.

Now if you agree with me so far then let’s take this a little further. The current Australian Standards require a metal tag of a certain size with certain information on it to be fitted to each fire door. The tag is generally fitted to the hinge side of the door approximately 1.5m from the finished floor level. Along comes the painter and 9 times out of 10 the tag is painted over negating any information provided as it is covered over and the tag installed was not made in accordance with the requirements of the Standard (i.e. embossed or recessed numbers and letters).

Tags also have the misfortune of falling off or being removed.

Painting a tag, tags falling off or tags being removed all have the same effect, it basically removes the information required to properly inspect, maintain and assess the fire door, the doors identity.

The question I asked myself some time ago was “Is there a better way to tag a fire door?” and the answer I came up with was a resounding yes. Technology has come a long way since the 1970’s when we saw tag requirements in an Australian Standard for fire doors (CA57.1-1972). Computers and technology in the 1970’s was vastly different to now. Where a computer may have taken up an entire floor of a building, now we can hold them in the palm of our hands. Things are just getting smaller and smaller and smarter and smarter.

One such advancement in technology has been the identification of things. We went from metal identification tags or simple labels to Bar Codes. This advancement enabled the beginning of the automation age with respect to data capture in which information could be attributed to an asset by reference to an identification method that could be read by a machine thus speeding up the process of data gathering and reporting.

While this provided some benefits, the fact that a visual line of sight was still required to enable reading of a barcode, many of the problems with metal tags still remained, namely requiring the visual identification of information to be read either by person or by machine. As with metal tags, bar codes could be rendered useless if painted over, scratched or dirty and could just as easily be removed or fall off.

The other down side to bar codes in asset identification is the ease in which they can be replicated. This ease of replication is not conducive to the identification of assets in which life safety is an issue. If an identification tag can be easily replicated then it fails on the basic level of integrity. For this reason it would not be reasonable to to replace the current method of tagging with bar codes as there is no improvement in relation to identification of the asset and no improvement in the ability to ensure life safety.

The technology I am currently heavily involved in the development of Radio Frequency Identification, in essence a bar code on steroids.

Unlike bar codes, RFID Tags do not require a line of sight i.e. you can paint right over the top of it or hide it within the asset and still be able to identify the asset by a unique identification number which is almost impossible to replicate.

The RFID tag is a tiny microchip with an integrated antenna which is read from, and written to via an RFID reader. The ability to not only read from but write to an RFID Tag gives an additional benefit which metal tags and bar codes could never provide, information about the asset at the asset.

Because we can have the tag out of sight or can paint over it, this allows the design of a housing which can be more secure and less susceptible to removal either on purpose or by accident. RFID tags are not bullet proof but they do provide a substantial number of benefits which metal tags or bar codes simply cannot match.

So in regards to improvements on the current tag specification in the Australian Standards, I see the following improvements;

  1. Can be painted over
  2. Through design can be almost impossibly to remove
  3. Can hold information about the asset at the asset
  4. Can be read from and written to

There is a down side however and that is that in order to read the RFID Tag you have to have a RFID reader and an application which allows you to obtain the details from the tag. This in essence restricts who can obtain the information, but if we consider who really needs to obtain the information then is this really an issue?

RFID Tag does cost more than a bar code or a metal tag, or at least they do at the moment, but if we look at the cost of replacing a door because the tag (i.e. a metal tag on the edge of the door as opposed to a RFID Tag fitted into the door in some manner) is missing then the initial cost of an RFID Tag vs a metal tag is quickly negated.

If my arguments at the start of this blog are correct, and a tag is really there for an authority or a service technician, then there is no real need for average Joe public to even know there is a tag there, simply because it really has no meaning for them.

The critical thing is to have the right information available to the right people (i.e. authorities and the service technicians) so inspection and assessments can be properly undertaken to ensure life safety is not compromised.

There could be an argument that you cannot force people to implement technology as this is an additional cost but are we doing ourselves an injustice by not at least considering this technology as an alternative to the existing tagging methods. Do we have to have one or the other or can we have both?

Closed systems where data is only able to be obtained if you pay a particular company a ridiculous amount of money can be counteracted by being smarter in the design of our Standards. Instead of mandating a certain type and size of an identification method why can we not have a specification of what information the tagging method needs to provide, who it needs to provide it to and further if this does take the form of electronic recording of information, specify how this data is to appear so it can be available to anyone authorised to obtain the information.

There is no reason why life safety cannot be assisted through advancements in technology. If we have a tag that is difficult if not impossible to remove then we have the essential details available at the door which guide how that door should be inspected and assessed and we further mitigate the possibility of having to replace the door just because of a missing identification tag.

I came across a very interesting term, “disruptive technology”. The term disruptive technologies (later amended to “disruptive innovation”) was coined by Clayton M. Christensen and introduced in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave (Bower, Joseph L. & Christensen, Clayton M. (1995). “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave” Harvard Business Review, January–February 1995).

A simple example is the fax machine. Business used fax machines for years then along came email. Email was a disruptive technology as it nearly overnight, changed the way we communicate in the business environment. Who is to say that RFID technology is to metal tagging what email was to the fax machine?

Technology should not be put on the back burner because it is different to the current norms, it should be properly assessed and if found to provide additional benefits which enhance the current methods and improve life safety then I feel it is our obligation to outline the potential benefits that technology may be able to provide and seek acceptance of the technology as an alternative to the existing norms.

Not many of us ride a horse to work any more!

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This information relates to fire doors in the Australian market and is a suggest course of action but in no way gives a concrete answer to this elusive question.

I have heard this question over and over again and it often follows a client receiving a quotation for a large amount of money to replace fire doors because their tags are missing or have been removed. For the specifics in relation to fire doors tags and what is required this information is found in AS1905.1 section 6.

The following information may provide a way to minimise the unnecessary replacement of fire doors due to missing compliance tags but there is no silver bullet. If you have a missing tag, you have an issue. The main issue is without a tag how can you know it is a fire door and not just a normal door.

Anyway, that’s a discussion for another day.

As a means of minimising the chance of having to replace a fire door due to a missing tag issue I would propose the following course of action.

  1. View the Evidence of Compliance
  2. If no evidence of compliance the building Door Schedule
  3. If no door schedule a Fire Compartment Plan of the door location
  4. If no fire compartment plan of the door location an Architectural or Structural Plan of the floor showing the FRL of the walls adjacent to the door opening
  5. If no plan showing the FRL of the walls adjacent to the door opening seek FRL information from the building owner who may have to engage the service of a certified fire engineer to determine the FRL of the wall (if the construction cannot be ascertained with the assistance of the standard table in the BCA detailing FRL’s of normal building components e.g. bricks, concrete, besser blocks etc)
  6. If no documentation you have a problem and you will most likely have to replace your door.

Document is located and reviewed.

  1. Does the door have a 25mm stop section?
    1. If yes continue, if no door frame may require modification or replacement to comply.
    2. Run a magnet over the face of the door and ascertain if you detect metal behind the face at the location of the essential hardware (i.e. at each hinge, at the closer position and at the lockset position)?
      1. If yes continue,
      2. if no door may require replacement as it may not comply.
    3. Remove the lockset and identify that the core of the door is consistent with the available fire door cores in the market? ***BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO THIS AS FIRE DOORS WERE CONSTRUCTED USING ASBESTOS IN THE PAST AND REMOVING THE LOCKSET MAY LEAD TO EXPOSURE TO ASBESTOS WHICH IS NOT AN IDEAL SITUATION***
      1. If core is identified as an available core in the market continue,
      2. if not you may have to replace the door as it may not comply.

       

    4. Having identified the core, obtain the following details and submit to the core sponsor and request a copy of the relevant test approvals and/or letters of opinion (main core suppliers in Australia include E+ Building Products aka E-Core, Pyropanel and Firecore aka TVC Core). The core supplier may or may not release this information.

DOOR

Height:       Width: Thickness:

WALL

Masonry or  Stud Framing or Other

IF STUD WALL

Stud Material:        Stud Size: Wall Sheeting:

IF OTHER

Wall Construction Details

DOOR FRAME

51 x 25 Rebate or

41 x 25 Rebate

DOOR CLEARANCES

3mm maximum at head

3mm maximum on right and left hand stiles

3mm minimum at bottom and 10mm maximum

FIRE RATING

— / 60 / 30  (1 Hour) or

— / 120 / 30 (2 Hour) or

— / 180 / 30 (3 Hour) or

— / 240 / 30 (4 Hour)

HARDWARE

Manufacturer & Model Number

Lockset/Latchset

Door Closer

Seal

Other

ADDITIONAL HARDWARE FOR PAIRS Manufacturer & Model Number

Head Latch

Auto Flush Bolt

Sequence Selector

Meeting Stile

OTHER FITTED ITEMS

Steel Sheet                    Sheet Gauge:

Capping                      Capping Gauge:

Palusol installed between capping and door leaf (yes/no)

Vision Panel                  Height:                              Width:

Air Grille                        Height:                              Width:                          Model:

Kick Plate                     Height:                              Width:                           Material:

Bollection Moulding

Lead Lined

Steel Lined

Special Veneers or Laminates

On receipt of the test approvals and/or test opinions, review the tests and opinions against the installed fire doorset and confirm that the installation is in accordance with the requirements of the test approval and/or opinions.

  1. If yes, door could possibly be tagged and certified including the provision of a schedule of evidence of compliance as required under AS1905.1 and
  2. If no, door may have to be replaced as it may not comply.

There are many cores on the market and also cores which are no longer in the market so the identification of the door core may or may not be possible. In general, if you cannot identify the core of the door you have no way to link it to an established fire test approval and/or opinion.

For the tagging requirements of fire doors in the Australian Market you are well advised to grab a copy of AS1905.1 (Components for the protection of openings in fire-resistant walls) and have a read through section 6 titled ‘Marking and Other Documentation’. In reading through this section take note of the definitions provided for Manufacturer and Certifier.


If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.

Fire Door

One of the main issues with fire doors is identifying what a door is when the only information you have available is the door itself, no records and no compliance tag. This problem exists for the manufacturer trying to counter a warranty claim, a service company wanting to undertake repairs, a building/facility owner needing to provide certification to an authority etc.

In relation to passive fire protection, such as fire doors, data is king. Knowing what a door is provides the essential information needed to certify and properly service and maintain the fire door throughout its life.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is a very flexible technology which in essence provides a truly unique identification to an individual item. Having a means to uniquely identify items then allows us the power to then follow this item throughout its usable life and beyond.

This means that not only can we follow an item but we can also maintain an accurate audit trail of the item and all things which have occurred to it during its life. These things could be original manufacturing details, warranty conditions, approvals, service visits, photos of modifications etc.

Through the utilization of a central data store we can associate any amount of information against the unique identification of an item and not only associate any amount of data against it but also recall the information as and when required.

The ability to combine RFID technology with central data stores is further expanded with the use of an internet based portal providing access to the central data store. This ability then gives rise to information being readily available around the world regardless of location through a standard internet browser or via a portable mobile device.

Examples of what we can achieve with RFID

The following are examples of the application of RFID technology for the fire door industry. This is only a short list of the possibilities of this technology for not only the fire door industry but any industry.

Proof of product
  • Identify an item with a RFID Tag containing a unique identifier
  • Through an internet portal upload documentation relating to each product type
  • Through a portable hand held device, scan the RFID Tag and enter the manufacturing details of the product
    • E.g. Type, size, colour, shape etc
  • Write data directly to the products RFID tag
  • At any time, scan the product RFID tag and retrieve the data relating to the product as referenced against the unique identifier
  • Allow authorities access to read data directly contained on the product RFID tag e.g. manufacturer, compliance details etc
Product Certification
  • Prior to installation scan the product RFID tag and obtain the details of the product and ensure they are correct for the intended installation
  • As details are held in the data store automate the generation of certificates and schedules relating to product evidence and compliance
Proof of Attendance
  • Using portable devices to record the undertaking of inspection activities, the inspection can be designed to only occur if a successful scan of the product RFID tag is undertaken which by default requires the technician to be in close proximity of the products RFID tag
  • If a product RFID tag is not scanned the system can allow the technician to proceed with the inspection but will send a status back to the central data store detailing that the product was not scanned to initiate the inspection activity
Remote data capture and data transfer
  • Individual product maintenance requirements can be provided for each individual product or type of product and held in the central data store
  • By scanning a products RFID tag the device software can communicate with the central data store and display the maintenance requirements for the specific product scanned
Monitoring activities
  • Establish routine inspection dates for a product and have the central data store advise when things should be done or when things are not done when due
  • Get alerts when warranties are due to expire so you an pro actively contact the client and see if they want ongoing service post warranty
Automated reporting and notifications
  • Let the central data store crunch the data so you don’t have to
  • Generate inspection reports based on data captured in the field
  • Generate door schedules based on data held in the data store
  • Automatically generate a report every time an event happens e.g. on warranty expiry send an automated email to the client advising them the warranty period is over and for any future issues contact company x, y or z

Is RFID an answer for the fire door industry? I believe it is.

RFID technology is a way we can finally and comprehensively address identification issues in relation to fire doors and further provide added benefits to all stake holders who are involved with the manufacture, supply, installation, services and certification of fire doors by providing a comprehensive product history from manufacture to disposal.

Through the use of RFID technology we can build further integrity into the industry and protect the safety of people in buildings and facilities and also minimise the risk of premature product replacement.

 


If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.

RFID might not save in labor costs to your bottom line but it can increase the efficiency of your business in diverting time away from non income producing tasks.

If you currently spend 2 hours a day in an office preparing reports following service activities on site, the act of preparing these reports, while essential, detracts from the time you could spend on another site generating the income and data for yet another report.

Through the introduction of RFID we can automate the collection and reporting of data. The cost of this is an investment not in saving money on labor but in allowing labour to be diverted to tasks which generate income for the business, time on site actually doing the work.

Just because you don’t have to be in the office for 2 hours a day makes no difference to your bottom line so if I tell you you will be saving money in labor I would be lying. If, through technology such as RFID, you had an extra 2 hours a day that you did not have to spend in an office on reporting you would most likely spend this on site hence no savings in labor costs.

Where the return on your RFID investment comes is it allows for the redirection of labor costs from income draining activities (i.e. time to prepare reports) to income producing activities (i.e. time on site).

Let’s make the following assumptions;

  1. There are 5 days in a working week
  2. The average working day is 8 hours
  3. We spend, on average, 2 hours each working day on report generation in the office
  4. Average income generated from 1 hour on site is $50.00

Now let’s assume we have automated your reporting. This in effect has given you an additional 10 hours of site time (i.e. 2 hours per day for 5 days).

Your labour costs are the same but in having an additional 10 site hours for the week this would translate into additional income of $500.00 (10 hours per week x $50 per hour).

Over a 12 month period this would equate to a potential $26,000 of additional income without having to increase the labor input, just putting your labor to better use in income generating activities.

From this example you can see that there are no savings in labor costs but through smarter utilization of the labour we already pay for we can generate additional income by concentrating labor on activities that generate income as opposed to draining income.

Could you do with an extra $26,000 a year without working any harder than you are already?

Embracing technology is a difficult thing in that it is difficult if not impossible for someone to truly quantify the dollar benefit you will achieve through the technology but I hope this example shows you what could be possible with RFID technology.

Don’t just think in terms of labor cost savings because you probably won’t find them. Think in terms of where your existing labor costs could be better focused and how technology can assist in diverting labor costs from non income producing activities to income producing activities.

If you are interested to know more about how the automation of reporting may benefit your business click here and leave your details and I will get in contact with you to discuss your specific challenges and what I may be able to provide by way of a solution to automate your processes.

If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.

(the information in this blog entry relates to fire doors in Australia with relevant Australian Standards being AS1905.1, AS1530.4 and AS1851)

I was recently involved in a project where a service company inspected fire doors and subsequently informed the building owner that a substantial number of fire doors would have to be replaced due to non complying hardware being installed.

This is not necessarily an issue but from the client’s perspective, the building had been inspected and certified for over a decade without issue and only now was the compliance of the hardware raised as a possible issue.

To the client the recommendation of the service provider was questionable. Was the current report correct (and the last decade non compliant doors in situ) or, was the report incorrect? The answer to this question had enormous financial implications and as such the building owner sought further clarification.

I was contacted by the building owner to investigate the situation and provide advice based on what we could discover. Was the hardware compliant or not?

From initial investigations it was clearly evident that there was a lack of documentary evidence held by the building owner in relation to the originally installed fire doors. Having no door schedule, from a service perspective it would have been difficult if not impossible to adequately service the installed fire doors as the fire test report references for the installed fire doors was not known.

The majority of doors did however have compliance tags fitted to the door leaves identifying the manufacturer and from investigations in relation to the details on these tags documentary evidence was eventually located supporting the compliance of the original installation (this however is not always possible).

As a side issue, this investigation also outlined an issue whereby service companies in the past had installed upgrade seals to doorsets to rectify clearance issues. While a number of door types have been tested and approved for use of these seal systems, one door type identified at this site was found to have no such approvals in place (a door manufactured and tested prior to the invention of the upgrade seal system). As the seals had not been tested on the door type, the installation of the seals on these door types was in clear contradiction to the requirements of the Standards.

This revelation identified a clear issue in that the inspectors and repairers of these doors over the past decade did not have adequate knowledge of the approved items which could be fitted to the doorset installed, or if they did, disregarded the Standard requiring only tested and approved components be installed.

This failure has inadvertently left the building owner in a difficult position. They have unknowingly accepted repairs to their fire doors over time which are not compliant and have never been compliant.

The seals may in fact work on this type of door but under the Standards the seals have to be tested before this can be done. This testing confirms that by the inclusion of these seals on this type of door that the integrity of the door type is maintained and not diminished.

The final observation from this investigation was the fact that annual fire safety certificates (NSW regulatory requirement)  had been issued for the property year in year out even though non compliant issues in relation to the fire doors laid, and still lay, dormant.

From my investigations into this matter some concerning issues arise;

  • Lack of understanding as to why documentary evidence is so important
  • Availability of fire test approval documentation
  • Failure to properly identify, inspect and maintain fire resistant doorsets (a product no doubt of the licensing requirements, or lack there of in the case of fire doors

(While some States of Australia do have licensing requirements for individuals or companies working in the fire door industry, NSW does not currently have any requirement for licensing of individuals or companies involved in the certification, service or repair of fire doors. Courses are available through Registered Training Organizations but these courses are not mandatory under the current regulatory framework. The Fire Industry is working hard to see changes in this area. Lookup the Fire Protection Association of Australia if you want to know a little more about available training for people working in the fire door industry.)

  • Lack of knowledge in relation to approved hardware, seals, components etc which can be fitted to a particular type of fire resistant doorset
  • Lack of knowledge in relation to the general requirements of the Standards and how they apply to fire resistant doorsets, and components fitted to fire resistant doorsets
  • Lack of enforcement by regulatory authorities (NSW regulatory frame work, some other States in Australia are much more proactive in this regard), not in ensuring that certificates are provided but that they are a true and correct representation of the actual status of the installed fire resistant doorsets
  • Could insurers reduced or refused claims if issues such as these were identified following an event such as a fire where there was a loss of property or worse still a loss of life?

At the end of the day, essential services (such as fire doors, exit lighting, sprinklers, hose reels, smoke detectors etc)  are installed and maintained for the purpose of protecting life and minimizing property damage. Generally their importance is not recognized until they are needed and when they are needed, (if you are holding a fire hose or a fire extinguisher, if you are running to an exit in a smoke filled room, if you are going down the fire stairs past floors engulfed in fire) you should have the confidence that these services, installed for your protection, will in fact work and that you will be able to safely exit a building.


If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.