Fire Door Smoke Detectors

Q: I have a life safety consultant doing our annual inspection, and he keeps saying that I need to have individual smoke detectors for my corridor fire rated doors. The corridors on both sides of these doors are completely protected with smoke detectors, but he says regardless, that area smoke detectors are required next to the doors. Is this correct?

A: No, I don’t believe what the consultant is telling you is correct. Section 17.7.5.6.1 of NFPA 72 (2010) allows for either area smoke detectors or complete corridor smoke detector protection to activate the release of a hold-open on a door serving a fire barrier or a smoke compartment barrier. So, in regards to the cross-corridor doors that are held open by magnets connected to the fire alarm system, you are permitted to have one of the following:

  • A smoke detector on either side of the door mounted within five feet of the door; or smoke detectors mounted on both sides of the door within five feet if the transom above the door is greater than 24 inches.
  • The entire corridor where the cross-corridor door is located is properly protected with smoke detectors. A smoke detector must then be located within 15 feet of the door. For mounting locations for an area protected with detectors, the detectors must be no more than 15 feet from the wall (this is based on one-half of the maximum spacing distance between detectors which is 30 feet). The cross-corridor doors must be considered ‘closed’ when designing the detector locations, so that constitutes a “wall” and a detector is required within 15 feet of that wall.

Where consultants and surveyors have problems is they see a cross-corridor door held open by a magnet, and then they do not see a detector within five feet, and they believe that is a violation of NFPA 72. What they don’t consider is the corridor is completely protected with smoke detectors and NFPA 72 (2010) 17.6.3.1.1. (1) allows a detector to be one-half of the maximum spacing.

Smoke Detectors in IT Closets?

Q: Do IT closets require a smoke detector no matter the size?

A: If the IT closet is in the healthcare occupancy (hospital), and under normal circumstances, there is no Life Safety Code requirement to have a smoke detector in the IT closet, regardless of the size.

Now, there may be other requirements that may necessitate a smoke detector in an IT closet, such as:

  • Compensating measures for an equivalency;
  • To meet the requirement for a fully smoke-detected building required for delayed egress locks;
  • If the door to the IT closet was held open by a magnetic device that releases the door when the fire alarm system is activated;
  • When state or local codes requires a smoke detector.

If you’re thinking the IT closet is a hazardous area and a smoke detector should be installed: That is not a requirement. Sections 18/19.3.2.1 do not define an IT closet as a hazardous area, and smoke detection is not a requirement for hazardous area. Even if the IT closet qualified as a hazardous area due to combustibles stored in the room, you still do not need a smoke detector.

On the other hand, a smoke detector in an IT closet can provide early warning of a fire, so you may want to consider one.

Smoke Detectors in Existing Facilities

Q: Are existing healthcare occupancies required to have smoke detectors if they are fully sprinklered?

A: Smoke detectors are required in certain areas of healthcare occupancies, but they are not dependent upon whether or not the facility is sprinklered. But what type of healthcare occupancy are you referring to? A hospital? A nursing home? There are slightly different requirements for smoke detectors depending on the use of the healthcare occupancy. For example: A hospital is not required to have smoke detectors in the corridors or patient sleeping rooms but according to the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code, a hospital is required to have smoke detectors in the following areas:

  • Within 5 feet of a door held open by a magnet, or the entire area served by the door is protected with smoke detectors;
  • In areas open to the corridor that are not directly supervised;
  • In elevator lobbies, mechanical rooms, and shafts where the elevator travels more than 25 feet in any direction above or below the level best served by the responding fire fighters;
  • In the room where a fire alarm panel (including NAC panels) is located, if the room is not continuously occupied;
  • Any other area where smoke detectors are installed to satisfy a local or state requirement, or an equivalency approved by an authority.

In addition to the above, new construction in nursing homes are required to have smoke detection in the corridors.