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Author(s): Ron Cote. Published on September 1, 2017.

In Compliance | NFPA 101

Do you qualify to perform inspections of fire door assemblies according to NFPA 80? Are you sure?


Are fire door assemblies in your buildings being inspected? Are in-house facility staff performing the inspections? Do facility staff inspectors have the knowledge and understanding of the operating components of fire door assemblies to serve as the “qualified person” to perform the inspections, as required by NFPA 80, Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives?

I’ll bet that many of you who work in jurisdictions that have adopted and are enforcing the 2009, 2012, or 2015 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, are not aware that all fire door assemblies must be inspected and tested yearly. The requirement for inspection and testing is a result of NFPA 101 mandating compliance with a standard, in this case NFPA 80. In the hierarchy of fire and life safety codes and standards, codes generally require elements and systems to be provided; standards generally provide the how-to for the design, installation, and maintenance of those elements and systems.

NFPA 101 has required fire door assemblies to comply with NFPA 80 for more than 50 years. The 2009 edition of NFPA 101 mandatorily references the use of the 2007 edition of NFPA 80, which was the first edition to require yearly inspection and testing of all fire door assemblies. NFPA 80, like other NFPA standards, has a retroactivity statement in its administration chapter. The retroactivity statement explains that provisions of NFPA 80 are permitted to be required of existing fire door assemblies where such requirement is specifically called out. The introduction to the chapter on care and maintenance—the chapter that contains the yearly inspection and testing criteria—states that the requirements of the chapter apply to new and existing fire door assemblies.

New editions of NFPA 80 in 2010, 2013, and 2016 fleshed out the requirements for yearly inspection and testing of fire door assemblies. For example, the inspection and testing is required to be performed by a qualified person with knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the type of assembly subject to testing. NFPA 80 defines a qualified person as “a person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, professional standing, or skill, and who, by knowledge, training, and experience, has demonstrated the ability to deal with the subject matter, the work, or the project.”

Late last year, after studying the definition of qualified person, I realized I did not have the requisite skills to perform inspection and testing of fire door assemblies to the degree of detail and completeness required by NFPA 80—for starters, I didn’t know the differences between the door frame elements of face, rabbet, stop, soffit, throat, and jamb. I challenged myself to obtain that knowledge, and in so doing I set out on a path to learn what it might take for someone not working in the door and hardware field to learn what was needed to perform fire door assembly inspection and testing.

I investigated courses offered by the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI) and found a certification path that appealed to me, one based on credentialed volunteers sharing their knowledge in a classroom setting. The DHI certification program involves three courses totaling nine days of classroom learning: a two-day program and on-site written exam on codes and standards, including NFPA 80 and NFPA 101, the IBC–International Building Code, and ICC/ANSI A117.1–Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities; a four-day program and on-site written exam on applications of doors, frames, and hardware with time devoted to hands-on study of door hardware; and a three-day program specific to fire door assembly inspection and testing—including hands-on field inspection of a variety of door openings—followed by a computer-based exam taken at a testing center.

Participants who successfully complete the program and testing are awarded the fire door assembly inspector FDAI credential. The certification is one that should open doors for the credentialed individual.

And by the way, I passed the final exam and received my FDAI certification.

RON COTÉ, P.E. is NFPA technical services lead for life safety.