Every day millions of people around the world enter and exit public buildings. We work, shop, study and play in commercial buildings. Most people take for granted that public buildings are safe, and that components like doors are going to perform properly and as expected every single time. If we had to stop and think about how the door might work every time we entered a property, it would put a serious damper on how we do business and go about daily life. Fortunately, it’s organizations like the ISO that help make daily living easier, providing peace of mind for consumers and users of everyday products, like commercial door hardware.
The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) was formed in 1947. It is a network consisting of the national standards institutes of 157 different countries around the world. It collaborates with scientists, manufacturers and various industry experts worldwide to create product standards that “meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society.” The ISO helps to ensure that international standards for products and technology are developed, encouraged and adhered to by products manufacturers and industries in general. International Standards “provide a reference framework, or a common technological language, between suppliers and their customers.”
What does this mean for the consumer? Essentially, consumers and members of the public can be assured of two things:
1) Products will perform in the same manner no matter what part of the world they come from. In the case of commercial door hardware, such as exit devices, the device will perform safely and in the expected and acceptable manner in the United States even if it was manufactured in another country.
2) Technology is shared. ISO member countries work in partnership with one another. They share information and technology. This means that products (i.e. exit devices, door closers) are manufactured to perform in a uniform manner. While individual commercial door hardware companies are free to improve on existing products and to create new ones, they will still perform according to the technological guidelines as set out by the ISO.
The 1903 Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago, Illinois is an example of human tragedy that resulted, at least in part, from a lack of product/technology standardization. The theater was rushed to an opening several months ahead of schedule, despite the lack of safety precautions, such as working fire escapes. As such, the Iroquois Theater had a beautiful architectural and interior design façade, but lacked working safety systems.
When fire broke out during a matinee, hundreds of patrons were unable to escape the burning theater. Many of the theater’s fire doors had been locked, trapping patrons inside. Other doors were outfitted with bascule locks. While they were more common in European countries, they were virtually unheard of in the United States. Just a mere handful of visitors were able to work the bascule locks. Those who could not perished in the flames.
Had international standards existed in the early 1900’s, it’s probable that many more lives could have been saved. Over six hundred died in the Iroquois Theater Fire. The ISO exists, in part, to help ensure that these kinds of tragedies do not occur.
Today’s commercial door hardware can be expected to perform to the standards set out by the ISO. These standards apply to the United States, as well as the other 156 member countries around the world.