Posts Tagged ‘Fire Doors’

Passive Fire Protection

To better understand passive fire protection we need to firstly understand the concepts of “Compartmentalization” and “Flashover”.

Compartmentalization is the process of dividing large areas into smaller areas such as rooms within a level of a building. Each room may have a different function. You may have a plant room, an office space, a toilet area, and amenities area etc. In dividing large spaces into smaller areas we can then minimize the effects of one area on another area within the same space (e.g. two rooms on the one level of a building).

Flashover is the point at which there is the near simultaneous ignition of all combustible material in an enclosed area such as a room or the floor of a building (see the link at the end “Living Room Flashover). When certain materials are heated they release flammable gases. Flashover occurs when the majority of surfaces in a space are heated to the ignition temperature of the flammable gases. Flashover normally occurs at 500 °C (930 °F) for ordinary combustibles.[i]

If we look at a Time/Temperature curve[ii], you can see that for a fire to reach a temperature of 500 °C can take less than 10 minutes. From the “Living Room Flashover” video you can see that this occurs in the simulation in less than two minutes.

Passive fire protection measures ensure a building’s structure remains stable during fire, keep escape routes safe, limit the spread of fire, heat, and smoke from one compartment to another, so people have time to get out and fire officers have time to get in.[iii]

If we look at a room like a balloon, the objective of passive fire protection is to keep the air in the balloon for as long as possible. If we have a hole in the balloon the air escapes. If we have a hole in a compartment and there is a fire within the compartment, the fire can move from the compartment through the hole to an adjoining compartment and spread or alternatively the hole can provide additional oxygen to fuel the fire and accelerate the progression of the fire.

Plug up the holes, the obvious and the not so obvious

Passive fire protection is the process of “plugging up the holes”. For a room to be useful you have to be able to get in and out of it. For this to occur you have to create a hole in the wall into which you put a door so you can get into and out of the room.

Now we are in the room we need air so we run an air conditioning duct through the ceiling to the room. If we pump air into the room we have to allow air to leave the room so we leave a hole in the wall above the ceiling to allow the air to circulate through the room.

We want a drink so we go to the sink in the room and pour a glass of water. The pipes carrying the water and the waste from the sink go through the floor to the underside of the roof of the room below.

We plug our laptop into a power point. The cable for the power point runs through the wall and across the ceiling of a number of other rooms to the electrical distribution board.

So for our simple room we have a few holes which during normal activities are required to be there but in a fire can allow fire to spread quickly from one room to another if they are not adequately addressed;

  1. Doorway (Access and Egress Provisions)
  2. Air Conditioning Duct Work and Openings (Mechanical Services)
  3. Electrical Cabling through Walls and Ceilings (Electrical Services)
  4. Pipe Work through Floor Slabs (Hydraulic Services)

Passive fire protection is used to address these issues. The most obvious hole, the doorway, can be protected by the installation of a fire door with an automatic door closer so the door remains closed at all times and does not rely on people to close it.

The air condition supply ducts and return air ducts’/openings can be fitted with fire dampers which activate in a fire to close off the duct or opening and minimise the spread of fire and smoke. Fire dampers are not so obvious and are often installed incorrectly or not installed at all.

The walls can be fitted with fire resistant lining materials (such as fire rated wall sheeting) so a fire in the wall (possibly from electrical cabling) can be contained within the wall and not spread into the room. Fire rated pillows can also be installed in opening made through walls above the ceiling level to run cabling from one room to another.

Pipe work penetrating through the floor can be fitted with fire collars which act as a barrier around the pipe work to minimise the spread of fire through the floor into the ceiling of the room below.

The illustration below gives an idea about the various passive fire protection systems you may find in your facility.

Example of a fire and smoke compartment showing passive fire and smoke protection systems[iv]

 

 

Legend

  1. Fire and smoke barriers
  2. Structural fire-resistant elements–Beams, columns, trusses
  3. Fire-resistant doorsets
  4. Smoke doors
  5. Fire-resistant shutters
  6. Fire-resistant glazing
  7. Access panels and hatches
  8. Ducts and dampers
  9. Fire stopping of service penetration and control joints

Passive Fire Protection measures are intended to contain a fire in the fire compartment of origin, thus limiting the spread of fire and smoke for a limited period of time. This limited period of time is the time needed for people to safely evacuate the building. Fire protection is provided for life safety. Property and financial loss prevention is a by product of keeping people safe and having effective fire systems protecting our buildings.

Passive fire protection as with all fire protection systems and equipment should be installed, serviced and maintained regularly by trained, and where required, certified personnel.

To visualise the importance of passive fire protection the following photo[v] shows passive fire protection in action. The photo is an aerial photo of a brewery fire. You can clearly see how effective passive fire separation can be in protecting the lives of the people in the adjoining space and also the additional benefit of the protection of the structure of the adjoining space.

Looking for further information

The links below are provided purely for your convenience. They do not imply endorsement of or, association with any products, services, content, information or materials offered by or accessible to you at the target site.

http://www.pfpa.com.auPassive Fire Protection Alliance
http://www.nfpa.orgNational Fire Protection Association
http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/Institute for Research in Construction/NRC
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/682670/from_living_room_to_inferno_in_under_2_minutes/-Living Room Flashover Video
http://www.firetactics.com/FLASHOVER.htmRapid Fire Progress & Flashover related fire development
http://afscc.org/Alliance for Fire & Smoke Containment & Control
http://www.eapfp.com/European Association for Passive Fire Protection
http://pfpf.org/Passive Fire Protection Federation (PFPF)
http://www.l-com.com/multimedia/video_clips/video.aspx?ID=13100Videos showing flammability of cables based on jacket rating
http://www.fpaa.com.auFire Protection Association of Australia
https://rfidams.wordpress.comPeter Mole’s Blog Page

References
[i] NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, 2-106
[iv] Australian Standard 1851-2005 Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment (Page 163, Figure 17.1)
[v] Technical Guide TG-005 (Page 15), John Rakic
Disclaimer This article was written by Peter Mole General Manager at Taylors Doors and Frames and while every care has been taken in the compilation of this information and every attempt made to present up-to-date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that inaccuracies will not occur. All copyright and trade marks accessible via the links in this article are owned by the respective website owners, or their licensors.

 

 

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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.

(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.

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in the fire door industry is people unknowingly installing a fire door upside down, back to front or both upside down and back to front.

It’s just a door isn’t it? Does it really matter which way it is installed?

Well, for those of you out there who work on, or install fire doors, here’s a little tip.

“You can install a fire door upside down and back to front, so make sure you know what you are doing when working with fire doors”.

Here is a picture to help me explain.

The internal core of a fire door does not necessarily have the strength to hold fixings such as screws. For this reason, metal reinforcing plates are installed which wrap around the internal core and provide a way for fixings to hold in the door. Fixings such as screws fix through the metal reinforcing plates which hold the hardware to the door (i.e. the door closer, the hinges and the lock).

As you can see, the closer plate is located on the top left where the door closer would be installed. Now think if we turn the door upside down where would the metal reinforcing plate be, the metal plate needed to ensure a firm fixing of the closer to the fire door?

Along the same lines, imagine we put the hinges on the right of the the door instead of the left. Same thing, the hinge screws would be fixing into a internal core which most probably could not hold them.

A simple check when installing a fire door is to look for marks identifying the “TOP HINGE” (usually stamped or written on the hinge side of the door). If we know where the top hinge is then we know which way the door needs to be hung.

Another way manufacturers use to identify the top hinge is to drill a small hole approximately 5mm-8mm diameter into the top edge strip on the side of the hinge plates.

If you don’t find any markings indicating the top hinge and you cannot locate the hole identifying the top hinge you have one more trick you can use to identify where the top hinge side of the door may be. The plates are metal and what can we use to identify metal? A magnet. The facing on the core is only 3mm to 4mm thick so if you have a relatively strong magnet and slide it across the face of the door you will feel when the magnet comes across the metal plates. By scanning the door face with a magnet, and knowing what the door looks like behind the facing, you will in most cases me able to identify where all the plates are installed (i.e. closer plate, lock plate and hinge plates) and which way the door needs to be hung.

A Little Problem I Have Seen

If you come across a door and see the door closer coming away from the door, two things could have occurred. Firstly the door make be installed incorrectly so there is no plate there for the closer to fix to so over time it works it’s way loose (big problem probably requiring the replacement of the door) or the second thing could be that over time the screw fixings have just worn away and no longer hold in the metal plate.

If this is the problem (usually identified by trying to tighten the screw with the screw just turning without tightening) think about it.

If we put a longer screw in (a quick fix I have seen more times than I can care to remember) will it make a difference? Probably not. The original hole the screw was in has most probably worn over time and is now wider so a longer screw will not solve the issue. Initially it may hold in the core of the door but it to will come loose. As the hole in the plate is most probably wider, you will need to replace the screw with a bigger gauge screw (i.e. a thicker screw, not a longer screw). Using a screw with a bigger gauge allows the new screw to bite into the metal plate again and give a firm and strong fixing for the closer.

So we have decided to put a new screw in, what screw do we use?

A common issue I see is the use of the wrong type of screw. Now you know the screw is fixing into metal not timber we need to use a metal thread screw, not a timber thread screw.

Metal Thread Screw

Timber Thread Screw

As you can see in these pictures, there is a big difference between a screw for timber and a screw for metal.

If we consider that the facing on the door is only 3mm to 4mm thick and the metal plate is only in general 0.6mm to 0.9mm thick, any screw which does not have a thread for the first 5mm will not engage in the metal plate and is useless for this application.

You will also note that the metal thread screw has far more rotations of the thread which in effect means that it will bite into a much thinner material (e.g. the metal plate as opposed to a block of timber).

If you have these screws in your work place or at home just have a look at the way the screw is constructed, the spacing between the threads and the fact that you know what is inside a fire door and you will see how useless a timber thread screw is when it comes to fire doors.

In summary, a fire door is there to one day possibly save your life or the life of someone you know by allowing them to get safely out of a burning building. If you don’t understand what a fire door is and how it is constructed we may inadvertently undertake repairs on them which are not capable of working. If a closer is not fixed properly to the door and there is a fire the risk is that door may not close. The last thing people are thinking about in a raging fire is closing the door behind them.

The little things like the type of screw we use seem so insignificant but can have a devastating outcome. I hope you understand a little more now than you did before you started reading this entry and as always if you don’t agree with something I have written by all means let me know.

Have a great day and thanks for dropping by.


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.