For many years, proper and improper door hardware has been installed into fire rated doors and frames. Most people who installed the locks, exit devices and door closers were performing work for their customer to the best of their abilities. Usually, the installations were accomplished in a timely and efficient manner without much thought as to whether or not the doors and frames were a listed and labeled fire door assemblies. Many electrified locksets and electric strikes were installed into doors that frankly, should not have been modified since the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80 Standard was revised in 1991. Because of this, the code regarding field-installed door hardware has become increasingly more stringent.
Since the 1991 Edition of NFPA 80, the code has expressly stated what field modifications could be done and by inference, if it was not in the Standard, you could not perform a modification. Many were unaware, or unwilling to follow the provisions listed in the Standard.
As a result, Annual Fire door inspection has been on the books since 2007 when the NFPA included a provision for an annual inspection requirement of fire listed assemblies.
In the past three years, 28 states have adopted the International Code Councils’ International Fire Code, and/or the International Building Code (IFC and IBC respectively). In those 2009 Code revisions, NFPA 80 is referenced, making the NFPA 80 Standard a part of the code adopted by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. This means, in plain language, that the new, more stringent requirement for Annual Fire Door Inspections is de rigueur in those jurisdictions. English meaning “strictly required.”
Because the new code requires Annual Fire Door Inspections, many LAHJ’s (Local Authorities Having Jurisdictions) are finding that they are required by law (once they adopt, they must follow the code) to institute a program for Annual Fire Door Inspections in their jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, this requirement could not come at a worse time for local, city and state fire protection officials, since the economy has required them to make tough choices in regards to personnel. Essentially, they are almost all short-handed and do not currently have the staffing to inspect every facility in their jurisdiction that includes listed fire door assemblies.
This enormous problem has created an opportunity for enterprising professionals who have experience and knowledge in how doors and hardware work.
For a start, locksmiths who are interested must have Errors and Omissions insurance as many building owners will not permit lock work or fire door inspection without being assured that their inspector is covered for such liability. The recommended amount is usually $1 million, but some property owners may require a $2 million aggregate policy.
Bonding is not currently required, unlike for most state requirements for locksmiths.
Q & A: IFDIA President Garrett Tom
To obtain important information regarding fire door inspection and locksmiths, I decided to reach out to Garrett Tom, president of the International Fire Door Inspector Association (and a sitting member of the NFPA 80 technical committee) and ask him how professionals in our field of work might benefit from the new annual requirement. Following is a brief interview.
Garrett, we have been hearing for years about how these inspections were coming our way, and frankly, many of us have not seen much action in this area. Can you tell me if we will start to see more jurisdictions begin to enforce the Annual Fire Door Requirement?
The IFDIA has been hearing from many FPOs (fire protection officials) who are trying to plan for the annual requirement, and are searching for the best way to enforce the code requirement. We provide them with material and information that they find valuable and try to help guide them in how to obtain the necessary personnel resources. Since the IFDIA is an association of Fire Door Inspectors, property owners and AHJs, we have a better feel for the pulse of what is happening in other parts of the country. I can clearly state that many jurisdictions are working feverishly to provide for annual fire door inspections.