Coalition’s Synergy Aids Life Safety Efforts
Hardening the Envelope with Fire-rated and Egress Doors
by Mike Fischer
The Door Safety Council (DSC), a coalition of industry interests concerned with issues related to the selection, use and maintenance of fire-rated doors as well as doors installed as a means of egress, has been working diligently in recent months to advocate responsible use of its members’ products.
The DSC was formed several years ago as part of industry efforts to clarify requirements for code-mandated inspections of side-hinged fire doors. Its members include the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA), the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI), the Steel Door Institute (SDI), the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and the Hollow Metal Manufacturers Association (HMMA). The coalition also includes representation from Intertek Testing Services and Underwriters Laboratories.
The mission of the DSC is to improve life safety, as well as protection of property, by advocating on behalf of product manufacturers and related organizations concerned with fire-rated and egress doors.
Fire-rated doors require strict adherence to manufacturers installation instructions if they are to perform as intended. Modifications made to doors after installation, damage and wear can all affect the integrity of the fire door. Manufacturers of these products want to send the message that maintenance and routine inspection of the doors—as well as paths of egress—is the best way to ensure that the fire-resistant features of a building will perform under specified life safety parameters. Just as fire sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers require regular inspection, so do the passive elements of building construction.
A Balanced Approach
As part of the DSC initiatives, WDMA has been at the forefront of advancing a balanced approach to building design as well. Relying solely on fire sprinklers or passive fire-resistant construction when designing buildings misses the opportunity to provide redundant levels of safety. After all, when air bags became standard equipment in passenger vehicles, auto manufacturers did not stop installing seat belts. As safety science advances, today’s product designers layer these features one upon the other, providing the best possible level of safety for the consumer.
Recently, the DSC became involved in the International Code Council (ICC) code development process. With the successful code change initiative on the use of fire door latching devices to maintain the integrity of the door under extreme temperature and flame conditions, the DSC will continue its efforts in the next cycle.
The ICC Code Technology Committee (CTC) is playing an important role. The CTC has a study group focusing on child window fall safety (for related article, see page
24 or WDMA Opens up) and another study group working on balanced fire protection issues. During the ICC code hearings in September 2006, advocates on both sides of the passive and active fire safety debate agreed to move the discussion to the CTC and work to develop a consensus on the important issues of fire sprinklers, allowable building heights and areas and the use of passive fire protection features.
Compartmentation through the use of fire-rated wall assemblies has been used in modern construction successfully to isolate fire and control the spread of fire and smoke during fire incidents. The CTC study group members have a tough agenda ahead as they try to balance the myriad issues at hand. It remains to be seen just how much compromise will be realized. The goal of the CTC is to release public comments for inclusion in the ICC final action hearings slated for May 2007, in Rochester, N.Y. The group will be able to continue work beyond the hearings with the start of the 2007/2008 ICC code cycle, leading to the publication of the 2009 I-Codes.
Michael Fischer of the Kellen Company serves as director of codes and regulatory compliance for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. He may be reached at MFischer@wdma.com.
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