What is a Fire Door?

Fire Exit Doors with International Emergency Pictogram Symbol

Fires can be devastating, causing not only damage to property but also endangering lives. In the face of such emergencies, preparation and safety measures are paramount. One crucial component in the fire toolkit of any building is a fire door.

Also known as fire-resistant doorsets, these specialised doors are part of passive fire protection systems that prevent the spread of fire throughout different building segments.

Keep reading to learn more about fire door types, how they work and what Australian standards apply for fire door testing and maintenance. By complying with Australian standards, building owners and managers can ensure their premises are equipped for safety, drastically reducing the risk of fire-related disasters.

Types of Fire Doors

Fire doors come in various styles, each tailored to specific needs. They differ in the material used, the duration of fire protection they offer, and their mode of operation.

  • Automatic Doors: These doors are often integrated with a building's fire alarm system. Upon detecting a fire, they automatically close, preventing it from spreading. Their automated nature ensures they are timely, limiting the potential for human error.
  • Self-Closing Doors: With self-closing mechanisms, these doors ensure that they are always shut after being used. This function is critical, as an open fire door is of no use during emergencies. The closers, typically hydraulic, ensure a secure latch to contain the fire.
  • Hinged Doors: A common type is hinged fire doors, which swing open and close. Their simple design means fewer mechanical parts, which can be advantageous for maintenance.
  • Sliding Doors: Sliding fire doors, moving horizontally, are often found in large establishments or where space constraints prevent swinging doors.
  • Single vs Double Fire Doors: Single fire doors are used for standard doorways, whereas double fire doors are designed for larger openings, offering a broader exit during emergencies. Both ensure a tight seal when closed, slowing down or stopping the spread of fire.

What are Fire Doors Made From?

Fire doors are crafted from a blend of materials, each offering unique benefits in fire resistance:

  • Glass: Not your typical glass, fire-rated glazing can withstand extreme temperatures. Often used with other materials, it allows visibility while maintaining safety.
  • Steel: Renowned for its strength, steel fire doors provide excellent fire resistance. They are primarily found in commercial or industrial settings, protecting against fire and potential security threats.
  • Aluminium: While lighter than steel, aluminium fire doors are treated and designed to resist fire effectively. They often come with a thermal break, preventing heat transfer.
  • Wood: Wooden fire doors, typically layered with fire-resistant cores, offer functionality and aesthetic appeal. The effectiveness varies based on treatments and the type of wood used.

Each material has its distinct application setting, depending mainly on the fire door's design needs and fire safety requirements. While materials play a role in the door's effectiveness, combining the right material, proper installation, and regular maintenance ensures a fire door's optimal performance during emergencies.

Fire Door Rating

Understanding the significance of fire door ratings is essential for anyone overseeing the safety of buildings.

These ratings convey a door's level of protection during a fire.

Fire resistance levels (FRL) are expressed as three numbers representing structural adequacy, integrity, and insulation. Each figure represents the time (in minutes) the door can maintain that specific property when exposed to fire.

For example, an FRL of 120/60/30 signifies that the door has a structural adequacy of 120 minutes, integrity of 60 minutes, and insulation of 30 minutes.

Structural adequacy is often indicated with a dash [-] for fire-rated doors and their frames since they typically don't offer structural adequacy. Hence, a common FRL might look like "-/60/30".

The resistance level of a fire door often varies based on its application, such as in a sole occupancy unit compared to a commercial property. Standard fire ratings for sole occupancy units differ from those in communal areas of buildings. Generally, a higher resistance level is preferred for common areas, ensuring residents or workers have adequate time to evacuate.

How to Identify Fire Doors

Recognising fire doors is important for safety. In Australia, you can identify fire doors by:

  • Maintenance Tag: This tag provides details about the fire door. It features the Australian Standard, the FRL, the manufacturing company, and the year of manufacture.
  • Signage: Often, you'll find either a red or green sign on the door, stating either 'Fire Door' or 'Emergency Exit'. Additional instructions such as 'keep shut' or 'do not obstruct' can also indicate a fire door.
  • Door Frame Gap: A maximum gap of 3mm between the fire door and the door frame is another feature of fire doors. This gap ensures smoke and flames are contained effectively.
  • Fire Resistant Hinges: These specially designed hinges can withstand high temperatures without compromising the door's integrity.
  • Intumescent Strips: Embedded within the door or frame, these strips expand with heat, sealing off gaps and further preventing the spread of smoke and fire.
  • Self-Closing Feature: Fire doors must be self-closing and should not stick upon opening so it’s always in its protective position when needed.

To maintain the integrity and functionality of a fire door, these features and markers should remain unobstructed and in good condition. A fire door should never be locked, and regular fire safety inspection ensures they remain compliant and functional.

How Does a Fire Door Work?

Fire doors play an indispensable role in ensuring safety in commercial premises. Their primary function in the event of a fire is to contain the flames and smoke, preventing them from spreading to other parts of the building.

These doors are meticulously designed with heat-resistant materials to maintain their structure and integrity for a specific period, giving occupants more time to escape.

In commercial settings, the strategic placement of fire doors is important. They are often positioned along escape routes such as stairwells, corridors, and other key egress points.

Targeting these areas provides a safe path for building occupants to evacuate while preventing the fire from progressing along these escape routes. Their mere presence can make the difference between controlled and catastrophic situations.

Fire Door Requirements in Australia

Australia has stringent fire door regulations and fire safety standards, and fire doors are no exception.

They are required to ensure that buildings remain safe, minimising the spread of fire and smoke, and providing occupants a safe passage in emergencies.

The primary Australian Standards for fire doors are AS1851 and AS1905. AS1851 is centred around the routine servicing of fire protection systems and equipment, ensuring that fire doors are maintained appropriately. On the other hand, AS1905 focuses on the installation and performance aspects, specifying how fire doors should be set up and how they should function.

Coupled with these standards, the Building Code of Australia (BCA) has specific regulations, especially concerning signage on fire doors. Complying with these standards and regulations is not merely a legal requirement but is essential for building and occupant safety.

Fire Door Installation

One key aspect to consider during fire door installation is the door gap requirement. The maximum allowable gap between the fire door and the frame is usually 3mm. This minimises the chances of smoke or flames sneaking through, ensuring the door's efficacy.

Additionally, the closing mechanism is also important. Fire doors should be self-closing, and shut on their own in the event of a fire. This prevents the spread of fire and smoke to other parts of the building.

Fire Door Testing

Regular testing of fire doors ensures they function as intended. Depending on the type of premises and other specific factors, fire doors undergo various inspection schedules:

  • Quarterly Inspections: These are short-term checks to ensure basic functionality.
  • 6 Monthly Inspections: A more detailed check, ensuring mechanisms like self-closing devices work appropriately.
  • Annual Inspections: Comprehensive checks are carried out yearly to ensure all components, including seals, are in perfect condition.

Fire Door Maintenance

Routine maintenance is pivotal for the longevity and functionality of fire doors. Critical maintenance tasks include:

  • Damage Check: Regularly inspect the fire door for any visible damage, especially to critical components.
  • Part Replacements: Over time, parts like hinges, handles, and closers might wear out and require replacement.
  • Signage: Ensuring that the signage on the door, as mandated by the Building Code of Australia, is clear and visible.
  • Door Seals: The seals on a fire door ensure that smoke and fire don't spread. Regular checks ensure they remain intact and functional.

By adhering to these guidelines, fire door integrity can be ensured.

Staying Prepared

Understanding fire doors is necessary for every building owner or occupant. These protective barriers offer an essential line of defence in unforeseen fire emergencies, and need to be continually updated, accessible, and well-maintained.

Australian standards set rigorous benchmarks for all fire safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, and fire blankets. Consistent testing and upkeep of fire doors in line with these standards is non-negotiable for protection of people and property. Stay prepared for fire emergencies with functional fire doors and ensure fire safety.