The inspection of fire doors is a hot topic around the fire hydrant these days, with the expectation that municipalities will recognize the benefits of scheduled fire door inspections and adapt the NFPA 80 and other codes which specify annual or performance-based fire door inspections “be performed by individuals with knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the type of door being subject to testing.”
Since much locksmithing involves working on swinging doors in buildings, and in commercial buildings the majority of the doors are labeled, locksmiths are well positioned to offer inspection and repair services.
Although the primary objects of your affection in a facility are those openings you have equipped with access control and locking devices, remember that there are lots of doors in a facility which may not be access controlled or means of egress but are labeled and therefore must also conform to the code and be inspected.
From the feedback we receive from Locksmith Ledger readers, we understand that locksmithing is under siege. Home improvement retailers are undercutting our hardware pricing; electricians and telecom contractors are eying our specialties; cabbies and tow truck operators are grabbing the lockouts and other trades are diversifying.
Locksmiths are looking to broaden their activities in order to keep their shops open. So is offering fire door inspections such a quantum leap?
Who Will Inspect?
Large facilities must try to determine if it is in their best interests to delegate an employee and get that person trained to do inspections, hire an outside firm to do the inspections, or let an existing vendor such as their locksmith or door and hardware provider provide the service.
Although annual inspections sound reasonable, in high traffic facilities, high risk facilities such as nursing homes or older structures with older doors and hardware, facilities managers need to be constantly aware of the condition of the doors, and be able to quickly assess issues and be prepared to “resolve deficiencies without delay.”
For example, a nursing home client has established a routine of testing the doors, keypads, delayed egress and door alarms (to let nurses know a patient is wandering), and will occasionally find a door that suddenly is not operating properly.
Different clients will have different policies regarding the proper operation of their doors. Maybe they are highly conscientious about ensuring the building occupants are safe. Maybe they aren’t able to spot problems themselves. Maybe the building is old and things simply wear out. Maybe they don’t care, and would rather wait to be forced to make repairs.
That is why codes are so important. The law says every door must be inspected at least once a year, and if a deficiency is found, it must be repaired. Management operates more efficiently when the there is a schedule to follow and the potential of a fine or worse if the rules are not obeyed.
Being able to repair locks and doors is a honorable profession, and being able to properly inspect doors, identify problems, and also be able to remedy the deficits is a valuable service to render to your clients.
Most of us accept the fact that one person cannot know everything and that we’re only human and we may make mistakes. These rules apply to Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (LAHJs) too, although it is not a good idea to tell them they don’t know it all, and point out to him that the last time he walked through he overlooked a bunch of violations.
Locksmiths and security professionals act as auxiliary LAHJs, the civilian branch that helps the LAHJs cover all the bases. In many situations we understand the operation of the equipment better than the LAHJ. So when you are inspecting doors or surveying premises, reach out for help in tough situations.
If you do not have a desire to become an inspector, you can still check out doors on your customers’ premises and alert them to deficiencies in the interests of life safety and then quote them the required repairs in the interests of meeting payroll.
Locksmiths can provide electrified access control for specific applications by electrifying existing lock hardware.