Posts Tagged ‘Door Installation’

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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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.

1. What are edge strips?

Edge strips are basically strips of timber which frame the outside of the fire door.

Edge strips are predominantly pine or finger jointed timber and should be free of bowing, twists, knot holes and other irregularities all of which should be checked prior to assembly of the fire door, or prior to installation of the fire door.

2. Why are they used?

Edge strips are used predominantly for the following reasons;

  • For the prevention of moisture entering the core of the door and
  • To allow for site trimming to achieve the stipulated clearances between the door and the frame.

3. What happens to an edge strip if the door is subjected to fire conditions?

As the edge strip is timber, under fire conditions the edge strip will burn.

Although this seems drastic don’t worry. The door will not fall out of the frame as the hinges are fixed into perforated steel plates within the fire door.

You will note that the stop section of a fire rated frame (i.e. the section of frame the door closes on and prevents the door from being swung right through the opening) is bigger than a standard stop section (i.e. 25mm for fire rated frames and 12mm to 15mm for non rated frames). An edge strip is nominally 10mm thick so if it burns away, the core inside the fire door will still overlap the frame and provide a barrier to the spread of a fire for a certain amount of time.

4. Where do edge strips commonly split?

From inspecting thousands of doors over the years, the most predominant area where I have found splitting of the edge strip is above and below the lockset latch (both mortice and cylindrical) and to a lesser extent above and below the hinges.

If you are cutting timber for a fire using an axe, you often find that you start with a little crack in the piece of timber and then with continual force, the crack grows bigger and then follows further along the grain of the timber.

This is true also for timber edge strips. When the lock and hinges are installed, they are usually rebated (referred to as “checking in”) the timber edge strip so that once installed they finish flush in line with the edge strip giving a neat aesthetically pleasing finish.

In doing this, often very small cracks can begin on the corners of the rebated section and over time with the door opening and closing the cracks gradually grow bigger and bigger until a split in the edge strip becomes visible.

Regular maintenance of fire doors can go along way to maximise the life of the fire door by ensuring the door does not slam into the frame.

Like hitting a piece of timber with an axe, slamming of a door can cause the same effect. Even though there is no axe (unless of corse the fire brigade come to visit and you forget to give them a key), the door can be subjected to a similar force which over time allows the crack to develop further until it meets the grain of the timber and off it goes.

To minimise the spread of splits in a timber edge strip make sure the adjustment of the closer is correct so that the door does not to slam into its latching position.

5. What effect does a split edge strip have on the ability of a fire door to perform under fire conditions?

As discussed in Point 3, in a fire the edge strip is most likely burnt so in a simple response we can deduce that a split in the edge strip would have little effect on the doors ability to perform under fire conditions because it is one of the first things to be turned into ash.

Having said this however, we need to be mindful of why edge strips are used.

As discussed in Point 2, one of the main reasons for having an edge strip is to prevent moisture from getting into the core of the door.

If a split in the edge strip is large enough to allow moisture into the core of the door, it requires immediate attention.

Please note that any repair to a fire door must be done in accordance with the requirements of the relevant codes and standards and as such it would be highly recommended to speak to your fire door provider prior to undertaking any repairs to your fire doors to ensure that the proposed method of repair will not effect the integrity of the fire door and further that the repair method is approved.

The internal damage to the door core from moisture can affect the doors ability to perform under fire conditions as hollow pockets can form inside the door where the door core deteriorates and/or collapses.

As the outer covering of the door, like the edge strips, is generally timber (ply, MDF, Duracote etc), when it burns, hollow pockets within the door can be exposed allowing a fire to spread through the door. This obviously defeats the purpose of having the fire door there in the first place.

6. Summary

If you do have fire doors showing the early signs of splitting along the edge strips, get onto it early, don’t ignore it.

You will normally find that with preventative maintenance and regular inspection of the doors you can minimise the spread of splitting and maximise the life of your fire doors.

Edge strips are an integral component of a fire door and although they have little function if there is a fire, they are very important in maintaining the integrity of the door by creating the barrier between the internal core of the door and the moisture in the air so that if a fire does occur, the door can perform as it was designed to.

If you are advised by your service provider that your fire door requires replacement due to splits occurring on the edge strips, it may not be as bad as it seems.

We would suggest that prior to replacing any fire doors you speak with the manufacturer (the company or person who constructed the door) or sponsor (the person or company who manufactured the core of the door) of the particular fire door you have installed (the name of the manufacture and sponsor should be found on the compliance tag installed on the hinge side edge strip of the fire door) and check with them to ascertain if a repair method is available.


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