by Brad Keyes, CHSP, on Sep 30, 2020 1:00:01 AM
Q: One of our exit stairwells at our hospital has a door the leads outside at ground level. The exterior door is not fire rated. Does it need to be fire rated. If not, why not?
A: No. That particular door does not have to be fire rated. In fact, it could be a screen door for all the care in the Life Safety Code (but that’s not very practical). The reason is, the doors that discharge to the outdoors in an exit stairwell are not located in a fire rated wall. According to section 126.96.36.199 of the 2012 Life Safety Code, NFPA 220-2012 is to be used to determine construction type. Most hospitals are either Type I or Type II construction type. Table 4.1.1 in NFPA 220-2012 says the exterior nonbearing wall is 0-hour fire rated.
Therefore, any door in this 0-hour fire-rated nonbearing outside wall does not have to be fire rated either. The fire rating of the exit stairwell is only on three sides, not four. The side that is contiguous to the outside is not fire rated. The whole concept of the fire rating in an exit stairwell is to protect the occupants in the stairwell from fire in the building, not from fire outside the building. Therefore, the three sides of the exit stairwell that are contiguous to the interior of the building need to be fire-rated. The side that is contiguous to the outdoors does not. Now, if the construction type is such that the exterior wall is load bearing, then that is a different matter. But most hospitals have structural steel framing which precludes the need for load-bearing walls.