A Quick Guide to Rolling Fire Doors


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If you work in a manufacturing or industrial setting in the facilities or maintenance department, you know a thing or two about rolling steel fire doors. Rolling doors, or sometimes called roll-up doors, help compartmentalize a fire should a fire emergency break out. These doors are a constant, reliable asset to secure a rated wall opening and are essential in protecting life and property from fire. These doors have been used for years by building architects to provide separation from one section of a building to another, or from one building to another. Most, if not all, facilities in the industrial of manufacturing setting have them.

You are also probably quite aware that these doors are a “hot topic” when it comes to your fire marshal. Likely, he or she is sensitive to the doors during their monthly or annual fire inspections at your facility. They understands their importance while simultaneously understanding the danger of these large, heavy doors. They are acutely aware of threat these doors carry to building occupants because they are typically unstoppable once activated. When released during a fire, the rolling fire door carries a huge potential to injure building occupants and could create unexpected dead-end corridors which could trap occupants during a catastrophe. Such a scary thought that something so important can also be so dangerous.

Because of this, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), has strict requirements for the testing and maintenance of rolling fire doors. NFPA 80 mandates drop test requirements of doors on an annual basis by a “qualified individual” who is knowledgeable and well-versed in rolling doors. This requirement applies to all fire door types, but are of the utmost importance when it comes to rolling doors. If any of the three elements of the code are not met, the door will ultimately fail the test. Here’s the code:

NFPA 80 

“All horizontal or vertical sliding and rolling fire doors shall be inspected and tested annually to check for proper operation and full closure. Resetting of the automatic-closing device shall be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. A written record shall be maintained and shall be made available to the AHJ. 

When the annual test for proper operation and full closure is conducted, rolling steel fire doors shall be drop tested twice. 

The first test shall be to check for proper operation and full closure. A second test shall be done to verify that the automatic-closing device has been reset correctly.”

Additionally, NFPA outlines specific checkpoints during the inspection process in NFPA 80, 5.2.5, which pertains to horizontal sliding, vertical sliding and overhead rolling fire doors. The code states the following must be verified:

  1. Labels are clearly visible and legible 

2. No open holes or breaks exist in surfaces of either the door or frame 

3. Slats, endlocks, bottom bar, guide assembly, curtain entry, hood, and flame baffle are correctly installed and intact for rolling steel fire doors 

4. Curtain, barrel, and guides are aligned, level, plumb, and true for rolling steel fire doors. 

5. Expansion clearance is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s listing. 

6. Drop release arms and weights are not blocked or wedged. 

7. Mounting and assembly bolts are intact and secured. 

8. Attachments to jambs are with bolts, expansion anchors, or as otherwise required by the listing.”

9. Smoke detectors, if equipped, are installed and operational. 

10. No parts are missing or broken. 

11. Fusible links, if equipped, are in the correct location: chain/cable, s-hooks, eyes, and so forth, are in good condition; the cable or chain is not kinked, pinched, twisted, or inflexible; and links are not painted or coated with dust or grease. 

12. Auxiliary hardware items that interfere or prohibit operation are not installed on the door or frame. 

13. No field modifications to the door assembly have been performed that void the label. 

14. Doors have an average closing speed of not less than 6 in./sec (152 mm/sec) or more than 24 in./sec (610 mm/sec).”

Let’s make this a little easier to understand. The codes break the maintenance of these doors into three parts:

  1. Inspection: The fire door is to be visually inspected annually for any damage, missing or broken parts. Labels that are not clearly visible must be made to be visible and painted or coated cables and fusible links must be replaced. Any special conditions that could affect the operation and release of the fire door should be noted during the visual inspection process of the inspection. If the door doesn’t meet the criteria of the visual inspection, the door SHOULD NOT BE DROPPED.
  2. Operation: The fire door must be released and opened during normal operation, checking to ensure that the door is properly balanced and that all conditions are met when activated. If any conditions exist to prevent the door from closing properly, the door SHOULD NOT BE DROPPED for safety reasons.
  3. Drop Test/ Reset: A drop test is performed to confirm that the fire door will close automatically and as intended during a fire. Using the drop test instructions that are provided by the manufacturer, the door must be dropped and reset a minimum of two times, per NFPA Code requires that the door close at a speed between 6” and 24”. Before performing the second drop test, the door must be completely reset per the instructions of the manufacturer. the door must be completely reset per the manufacturer’s instructions. .

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of training and expertise that is required to perform the visual and operational inspection of rolling fire doors. These doors are dangerous and require a technician with familiarity with the codes required for these doors and the functions and components of the door itself.

Ready to learn more? Sign up for our rolling fire door inspection technician course and get to know rolling fire doors. The more you know about these important fire safety assets, the safer your facility will be.

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