A fire doors and windows are fantastic invention. To a layman, it might be just a heavy gray door at the corridor, but it’s much more than that.
Thanks to the rapid development of technical solutions, doors, windows and gates made by new methods began to emerge massively in the second half of the 1900s, providing a much better protection for people than the old, traditional doors. We can talk about fire doors, windows, gates and curtains. Whatever the shape of the door and window, its most important function is to prevent the spread of fire or smoke between rooms when it’s closed.
For example, a conventional door can be made of pure wood, wood and cellulose-based materials or plastic. Whichever variation we look at, unfortunately all burn very well and fast. Fire doors and windows, on the other hand, have a very different structure. The most common material for fire doors is galvanized steel with a fire barrier insert (although there are special wooden doors as well). This is because the ignition temperature of steel is 816 degrees Celsius, making it one of the safest fire prevention solutions. However, it is an important requirement that the door is pre-coated with a fire-retardant paint, which is placed on the door during manufacturing, so due to that different colors are available from manufacturer to manufacturer. It can be designed without or with glass. The small glass window in the doors can help during the evacuation as noone will open the door to others; and also in case of fire, you can better see the condition of the room behind the door.
If the above-mentioned windows and doors meet with the description, then highly probably we are talking about a fire door. To be 100% sure, check the official signboard on the door.
Marking of fire doors and windows
Fire doors, windows and gates always have a small signboard, usually made of metal, that contains the most important information about the given door and window. Each part of the doors and windows must be marked separately, for example both the frame and the door panel. In addition, this marking must be located in a position that is clearly visible and accessible after installation of the door and window. The characteristics of this signboard are as follows:
Fire resistance performance
This tells you how long a particular door can prevent the spread of fire or smoke, for example. Based on these, we are talking about fire and smoke doors. Letters denote the specific fire resistance criteria, which may be:
R – load-bearing capacity: resistant to mechanical stress without loss of structural stability due to fire
E – Integrity: Preventing the spread of fire without igniting of materials of the nearest surface
I – insulation: even if one side of the door is exposed to fire, its heat transfer is low enough to prevent heat spreading
W – radiation: when one side of the door is exposed to fire, its heat radiation is low enough to prevent the heat from spreading
M – mechanical impact: resistance to the effect of being hited by a burning object
C – self-closing: elements that close automatically in case of fire
S – smoke permeability: prevents smoke flowing to the other side (Certified at Room Temperature Sa, and at Medium Temperature Sm)
These letter combinations describe the specific requirements towards the given fire door, such as:
Fireproof windows in firewalls: EI C
Fire retardant doors and windows REI C
Fire resistance time interval
We can express the fire or smoke resistance performance of fire doors and windows over time. This information is also part of the small signboard on the doors. The fire resistance time interval means that if one side of the door is exposed to direct fire, it will be able to hold the smoke or fire in the affected area and not allow it into the adjacent area. This can be, for example, 15, 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Of course, the higher the number, the better and stronger our windows and the more expensive it is at the same time. Therefore, when installing such doors and windows, it is essential that fire safety professionals taki into account the whole system and logic of evacuation and the features of the complete building in order to choose the most appropriate door and window.
Fire protection classes
For the complete picture, the fire protection class of the particular door and window also has to be taken into account. This is actually a category of material that is fire-resistant and is determined by a specific test. These classes are labeled from A which is “non-combustible” to F which means “highly flammable”. In case of an appropriate quality fire door, the fire protection classification shall normally be an “A” or “B”.
The durability of the self-closing mechanism also needs to be tested. This is done according to a specific standard under normal conditions, with so-called open-close cycles, taking into consideration the maintenance recommended by the manufacturer. Depending on the number of faultless cycles, the mechanism can be classified in one of the categories between C0 (1-499 cycles, so the door is closed automatically by the self-closing mechanism max 499 time without any issue) to C5 (≥ 200,000 cycles).
Therefore, when we see a fire door as EI2 90-C5, it means that it is an insulated, low heat transfer fire door that is resistant to direct fire load for 90 minutes and has the best durability. (The number 1 or 2 after EI means that the integrity was measured 25 or 100mm from the frame during testing. In Hungary, EI2 is now graded.)
Inspection of fire doors, windows
If fire doors and windows are used, we have to ensure that they are regularly checked and maintained. The owner and operator of the doors and windows must carry out a minor inspection every month. No special qualification is required for this control. The most important aspects for this monthly supervision are:
– Is the door panel and door frame undamaged?
– is the locking mechanism intact?
– does the unlocking mechanism work properly?
– the walls are not sunken in the area?
– after closing the door is closed, can it be opened again?
A brief record of the monthly inspection (fire operation log) must be prepared and kept with the other fire protection documents or close to the fire door.
In addition, periodic reviews are required every six months. This should only be done by a qualified specialist with a fire safety exam. He will also review visible damage on the door and its surroundings, any damage on the door panel and possibilities to fix it (for example, a poorly fixed self-closing mechanism could significantly reduce the fire performance of fire doors). Preventive maintenance is carried out at the same time as the review, and minor local repairs can be carried out by a specialist. This may include, for example, oiling or fine tuning of the straps and self-closing mechanism. If there is a major problem with the fire doos, the inspector may recommend a repair or replacement.
So to sum up: the door operator or owner monthly; a qualified technician half-yearly checkes the fire doors. For example, an internal fire and safety audit can be a great opportunity for the monthly inspections. In addition, it is worth to observe the operation of fire gates and doors during the annual fire drill and if any deviations or malfunctions occur, they must be immediately reported to the operator.
The role of fire doors in education
In many cases fire doors are not specifically mentioned in fire safety training, though they are important. During fire safety training,it may be advisable, for example, to introduce fire doors and fire gates that are open on average weekdays but close in the event of a fire. As these doors and gates are usually open, it can be very problematic in a stressful situation if, in the usual route, colleagues perceive that the corridor is “closed” now. They may suddenly not be able to deal with a fire gate or door in the event of a sudden, stressful situation, and long minutes may elapse during searching for exit while evacuation. In addition, the concept of a temporary fire protected area may be unfamiliar to employees, although it is very important factor in preventing panic. That is why during a fire protection training course, it is worth talking about these topics.
Role of fire doors in other fire protection documents
Windows and doors can play a major role in the Fire Safety Plan and the Evacuation calculation.
It is recommended that the Fire Safety Plan indicate where and what type of fire doors and windows are in the area; and it is worth to introduce their operation. After all, there are types that are normally open and close when fire alarm starts; but there are also some that are normally closed and open for signaling. It can be a great help to those ones who are in the building if they can get to know at least the basic principle of fire doors and windows from the Fire Safety Plan or during fire safety education.
In addition, doors and windows are important factors in the Evacuation calculation. Because fire prevention experts can take into account the fact that fire doors and gates along the escape route create the aforementioned temporary protected space. This allows more time for a successful escape, as the building is divided into different sections of fire that are protected from smoke or fire, thereby slowing down its spread.