Protective design is not just about preventing or minimizing the tragedies of terrorist attacks or active aggressor events, it’s also about protecting building occupants from fire and smoke hazards. Protogetic proudly partners with the world’s leading door manufacturers, offering the most comprehensive selection of fire rated doors of any protective design marketplace.
Fire rated doors or fire resistant doors are specially designed and constructed to slow and even prevent a fire from spreading to adjacent areas of a building. The key to these fire doors is creating ample time for egress so people can escape danger safely. Not surprisingly, these doors are rated in time increments of 20, 45, 60, 90 and a maximum of 180 minutes.
These door assemblies and components are tested to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 252, ASTM E2074 and UL 10 B or 10 C. In the United States, there are several main testing & certification facilities for fire rated doors, including Underwriters Laboratory, Intertek testing Services and QAI Laboratories.
Fireproof doors have several component requirements. They must have an intumescent strip that expands when exposed to heat. Intumescent strips are vital to a door’s safety performance as they prevent smoke incursion beyond the door opening. This allows people to breathe better and longer as most fire deaths occur from smoke inhalation. It also aids occupants in better visibility during escape so they do not mistakenly walk into the fire’s path.
Fire resistant doors must also be self closing and positive latching (this means the door utilizes an active latch bolt that automatically latches when the door closes). This legal requirement of a fire door is frequently inconvenient for building occupants as commercial fire doors are often heavy and cumbersome to open. This has led to numerous instances of residents and workers wedging open fire resistant doors, leading to unchecked spread of a fire as well as more injuries and damage to the building than otherwise would have occurred.
Commercial properties, apartment complexes, schools, theaters, arenas and dormitories obviously require fire safety doors more than residential structures where typically building codes only require fire proofing doors to garages or utility/furnace rooms. Commercial fire rated doors are tested and rated similarly to residential fire doors. Depending on the jurisdiction, fire rated commercial doors often have slightly different building code requirements than residential.
Because commercial properties and apartment buildings are occupied by larger numbers of people, another essential requirement of a fire door is that it open outwards in order for occupants to evacuate the premises quickly. Inward opening doors create a choke point for a crowd of often panicked people because the onward surge to the exit makes opening the door inward nearly impossible.
This is precisely what happened in 1903 at the Iroquois Theatre during the deadliest fire in US history that claimed 604 lives (double the Great Chicago Fire). Unable to open the door due to the forward press of the mob, hundreds of people died mere feet from a safe escape. This is also why many fire doors incorporate “panic bars” rather than traditional door handles to facilitate a safe and expeditious escape.
The most common fire safety door materials are wood, steel or aluminum. There are composite materials also available. New technologies and techniques blend form and function to make aluminum and steel fire doors as aesthetically pleasing as most wood fire doors. Whether commercial or residential, fire doors can be solid or have window inserts, called glazing, to provide natural illumination as well as aesthetic design considerations. However, far more importantly than doors looking pretty, large glass windows allow fire fighting personnel and first responders to quickly see inside rooms and hallways in order to make life-saving decisions more accurately.
Fire door window glazing requirements are nothing if not complicated as there are multiple testing requirements including impact safety, radiant heat transmission and window opening restrictions based on the duration of a door’s fire rating. Overly simplified, the longer the fire door rating (60 – 90 minutes), the allowable glazing size gets smaller, with a 90-minute rating mandating no larger than 100 square inches. The exception to this code allows for larger glass inserts IF the door window is made out of fire-resistant glass that meets or exceeds the ASTM E-119 rating.
Ideally, in addition to using tested and rated glazing, all the components of a door from its frame to the hinges, to the lock and handle set should all be fire rated. It is important when purchasing doors to make sure you are buying a tested, rated fire door. Industry practice in the United States is to affix rating labels to the hinge edge of the door. These designations are based on time duration to resist a fire: FD20 = 20 minutes, FD30 = 30 minutes. Other fire door rating increments include: FD45, FD60, FD90, FD120 and FD180.
There are two types of fire protection systems for building and occupant safety: Active and Passive. Passive fire protection separates and compartmentalizes the building premises, thus making it more difficult for the fire to spread. Fire resistance is achieved using inflammable or heat resistant building materials for walls, floors and fire doors. Active fire protection typically utilizes automatic systems like fire sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarms. Manual components of an active fire system include the use of fire extinguishers and most urgently and aggressively… fire fighters.
The easiest way to understand passive versus active fire systems is: Passive fire systems contain/control a fire. Active systems are engaged to stop a fire. Along with active fire suppression systems and sprinklers (primarily required for commercial and apartment buildings), fire proof doors are an essential element in a passive fire system. Fire resistant doors help minimize damage to other parts of the structure, but more importantly they save lives by not only providing ample time for people to escape the fire itself but also aiding safe escape routes by minimizing smoke inhalation and poor visibility.
Per NFPA requirements, all fire rated doors should be inspected annually to certify they are in optimal working condition. Property owners are typically required to arrange and keep accurate records of inspections. Consult your local building and/or fire department for jurisdiction and your specific codes and inspection requirements.
According to 2018 fire data, nearly 3,000 civilian lives were lost in the US, costing just under $26 billion dollars in property loss and damages. If that seems like a lot, Protogetic considers that number exactly 3,000 too many. The modern day challenge when it comes to fire prevention is similar to Crisis Architecture, the study of how building design can help protect people facing active shooters. Modern building design often helps killers murder people more efficiently and quickly. Similarly, modern households actually help fires spread faster due to the prevalence of combustible synthetic materials in the home.
Underwriters Laboratories estimates that in the 1990s building occupants had on average 14-17 minutes to escape a house fire. That figure today is down to a slim 2-3 minutes, with even a small fire accelerating to life threatening within 30 seconds. Like active aggressor events that average just over 9 minutes, a fire can consume an entire home in approximately five minutes.
It is far better to build with quality fire-rated products than to call 911 for the fire department. Whether you seek a wood, steel or aluminum fire door, Protogetic has gathered the top manufacturers under one roof to provide fire ratings to fit your specific project’s requirements. Everything you need is available in a fast, easy, completely searchable database using our game-changing Protogetic Filter. Save time and money. Begin your search today by creating your private user account at Protogetic.com.