Simply said, Fire Doors save lives and property.
While the material of the door, rating and application may dominate the effectiveness of a Fire door in the event of a fire, door controls and Ironmongery used with the fire door fortifies its integrity and compliance. When specifying hardware for fire doors, it’s of great importance to understand the general dos and don’ts as detailed below.
WHAT ARE FIRE DOORS ?
In the event of a fire, the weakest point within the envelope of a space would be its openings, such as doors. When closed, Fire doors or Fire rated doors are designed and engineered to restrict and delay the spread of flames, smoke, and other harmful derivatives of a fire from one area to another within a building. When opened, with the integration of hardware such as panic devices, fire doors also provide an essential means of escape for occupants. The fire rating of a fire door refers to the time the door is designed to hold its integrity in the event of a fire and common Fire ratings are FD30 and FD60, providing protection for 30 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively. In commercial environments, we may also see doors with 120 minutes fire rating to cater to extreme requirements of fire separation.
All Fire doors are tested as a complete door set including the frame, all hardware and door closers to confirm and certify their fire rating. A certified Fire Door Set will carry a label to prove its certification affixed mostly on the hinge-side top edge of the door, though the location may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Post-installation, fire doors are to be regularly inspected for integrity and to confirm that they are self-closing and seal well when closed.
FIRE RATED HINGES
Fire doors must have 3 fire rated hinges per leaf. When specifying fire rated hinges, it’s important to understand the proposed fire rating of the door set, either FD30, FD60 or any other and confirm that the proposed hinge too is rated similarly. While Fixed Pin, Fire-rated Ball bearing Butt hinges such as GEZE Ball Bearing Butt Hinges are a great option, fire-rated concealed Hinges such as Fire-rated variants of the TECTUS Completely concealed Hinge range also increasingly find their place in premium specifications for fire doors.
Further, the weight and the size of the door leaf too are to be considered in addition to all the above when proposing the correct hinge. Mortising of the door and the frame to provide for the installation of the hinge should be done by the fire door manufacturer to ensure the integrity of the door is not compromised.
FIRE RATED DOOR CONTROLS FOR SELF-CLOSING
One of the primary features of a fire door is to self-close when opened hence it is a must to have appropriate fire-rated door controls fitted to fire doors. The self-closing of the door is regarded as “Essential” and can be one of two functions depending on if a latch is present or not on the fire door. If a latch is present, the door closer is required to close the door in a controlled manner into the latching position and if a latch is not present, to close the door in a controlled manner into the door frame or in case of double swing doors, to its central closed position.
Door controls that are fire rated and certified for use with Fire doors such as Surface-mounted door closers, integrated or concealed door closers, as well as Floor springs, can be used with fire rated door sets however, it’s important to avoid specifying versions with any mechanical means of hold open. If door preparation and mortising is required, as in the case with concealed door closers and door straps of floor springs, this should be done by the door manufacturer before the delivery of the door set.
Under normal circumstances, Free-swing door closers do not exert any force on the door leaf allowing users to open and close the door as if there was no door controlling mechanism installed on it. However, in the event of a fire, a free swing door closer is triggered by a signal from an integrated smoke switch as in the case of GEZE TS 5000 RFS, using an acoustic signal, or by a signal from a central fire alarm system which dis-engages the free-swing function and allows the closer to operate as normal to close the fire door shut. Free Swing closers are an ideal specification for facilities of doors that require Barrier-free access.
DOOR COORDINATORS OR SEQUENCE SELECTORS FOR FIRE DOORS
Fire-rated double doors usually have a rebate or an astragal seal at the central meeting point to provide a gap-free sealing. When door closers or other means of self-closing devices are used on rebated double doors, it’s essential to ensure that when both leaves are open, the passive leaf closes before the active leaf, failing which the double door setup will not close properly. This can be achieved by using a rated door coordinator or a sequence selector suitable for use with Fire rated doors. Door coordinators can be surface mounted or integrated when used with concealed door closers or floor springs and hold the active leaf till the passive leaf, which is the first of a pair of leaves, comes into its closing position.
FIRE RATED LOCKS AND LATCHES
Considered the weakest point of a fire-rated door set due to the need for mortising and pass-through fixing, specifying appropriate Locks and Latches are crucial in the integrity of fire doors as they keep the door firmly engaged within the frame. Fire doors that are generally used, a fire-rated Sash lock or a Latch lock can be used whereas for applications such as fire-rated duct doors, fire-rated dead locks or security locks may also be used in addition to Sash locks.
With mortise locks and latches, it is important to carry out all door preparation and mortising by the fire door manufacturer at the factory and the door set to be delivered ready to be fitted with hardware to avoid any preparation work at site which may compromise the fire rating of the door.
Fire doors that require an escape or a free-egress function yet with the need to be locked for outside access can be equipped with fire-rated panic escape locks which provide free egress at the turn of the internal lever. Where Fire doors are in designated escape routes, fire-rated Panic exit devices such as panic bars can be used to provide unhindered free egress. Safety with free egress against security always remains a balancing act hence professional advice from local Fire regulatory authorities is a must with complicated requirements.
FIRE DOOR RETAINERS
Operationally, convenience and safety become a dilemma with fire doors, especially when installed in locations such as hospitals, care homes, schools, or any other facility where day to day users may see the “Always Closed” or “Self-Closing” functions of fire doors as a nuisance or an inconvenience. Fire Door retainers are a great solution to the problem and provide a means to safely keep a fire door held open under normal operating conditions but releasing them to self-close in the event of a fire. Most retainers are electromagnetic or electro-mechanical and depending on the model and the design, a central fire alarm system, an acoustic signal, a remote signal, or a power failure can trigger the release. Some retainers are also equipped with a manual push-button that triggers a release and can also be meant for regular testing.
INTEGRATED HOLD-OPEN MECHANISMS
Door closers such as GEZE TS 4000 E and GEZE TS 5000 E are equipped with integrated electromagnetic and electromechanical hold-open devices respectively and hold the door open under normal circumstances. In the event of a fire, these closers are triggered to release allowing the doors to close preventing the spread of smoke and flames.
Fit-for-purpose raw material used in fire rated hardware as well as testing for compliance and certification generally result in having to pay a premium for reliable fire rated door hardware and door controls. But in the event of an unforeseen emergency such as a fire, a compromise in this segment will not only cause serious damage to property but also loss of life which otherwise could have been avoided.
Always remember, FIRE DOORS SAVE LIVES…..!