Fire Door Safety Week 24th to 30th September 2018
You’ve probably walked through at least one fire door today. But did you stop to wonder whether that door will save your life? Why would you even stop to think about a door anyway? A door is just a door, right? It’s a piece of wood with a few hinges and a handle, filling a gap in the wall you just walked through. Maybe you hardly even noticed the presence of that fire door, you didn’t have to think about it because it was wedged open so that it wasn’t in the way, hampering free and easy passage through the corridors…slowing everybody down.
So, if a fire starts on your premises today, will that fire door save your life? Will it hold back the smoke long enough for you and your colleagues to escape the building? Can you sit at your desk right now, safe in the knowledge that if a fire starts somewhere in your building, it will be contained within the room of origin long enough for the Fire Service to get there to save you and to save your premises? If a fire starts today, will your business still be around tomorrow? …will you?
If you haven’t checked your fire doors lately, how do you really know?
If your fire doors are wedged open, then you know that the answer to that question is a definite ‘No!’.
“Fire doors are often the first line of defence in a fire and their correct specification, maintenance and management can be the difference between life and death for building occupants. However, they remain a significant area of neglect, often the first thing to be downgraded on a specification and mismanaged throughout their service life, propped open, damaged and badly maintained.” (https://www.firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk/about/)
Fire Door Safety Week was set up by the British Woodworking Federation and the Fire Door Inspection Scheme in 2012 to raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors and draw attention to specific issues such as poor installation and inadequate maintenance.
Did you know…
- it is illegal to keep fire doors wedged open;
- you need to carry out formal checks of your fire doors at least every six months to look for damage;
- you must carry out maintenance to ensure that your fire doors continue to remain effective;
- Smoke from a fire can spread rapidly if unchecked – thick, black smoke can fill a building within minutes.
A review undertaken by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme in 2015 revealed that the extent of fire door failures:
- Over 61% of fire doors inspected had problems with fire/smoke seals
- More than one third of fire doors had incorrect signage
- A significant number of fire doors had a gap between the door and the frame greater than 3mm
- More than 20% of doors had unsuitable hinges
- Almost 1 in 6 had damage to the door leaf
(source FDIS: http://fdis.co.uk/latest-news/third-year-report-on-fire-door-safety-warns-of-sleepwalking-into-danger)
How sure are you that none of the above apply to you?
From our visits to various premises we have seen that it is common, particularly with older fire doors, to find that parts of the door have been changed or become damaged over the years. Usually the changes are made with good intentions with problems occurring in genuine ignorance. What we have found include:
- handles that have replaced with aluminium ones or other non-fire rated door furniture;
- locks that have been installed which have an open keyhole, not protected by intumescent material;
- ventilation panels have been installed and are not suitably fire rated;
- glass has been replaced with non-fire rated glass, or has been covered over with privacy film;
- parts, such as magnetic locks, have been removed leaving holes in the doors which would allow smoke to spread through;
- hinges have become worn or misaligned, leaving gaps in the door that will allow smoke to spread through;
- intumescent seals and smoke seals that have been damaged or removed and not replaced;
- damage around the edges of the door where trollies and sack carts etc have been pushed through, leaving gaps around the edges;
- in some cases, fire doors have been completely removed.
The compromising of fire doors can be down to a lack of understanding about how the doors are designed and constructed to prevent fire from spreading. Even new fire doors can be inadequate if the installer doesn’t have the correct knowledge about how they should be fitted.
What can you do to ensure that your fire doors are up to scratch? Take a look at the infographic below for simple checks you can undertake yourself today:
A certified fire door inspector can carry out an inspection of all your fire doors and tell you what you need to do to bring your fire doors up to standard: http://fdis.co.uk/inspector
Whenever you have fire doors installed or updated, make sure you use a registered installer so you can be sure that the doors are installed correctly: https://firedoors.bwf.org.uk/how-safe-are-your-fire-doors/fire-door-installer-register/
Worried about wedges?
Are your fire doors regularly wedged open, or propped open with the fire extinguisher? It is true that doors within a building can be a hinderance, but fire doors are a vital part of your fire safety system and are only effective in a fire if they are closed. If you really must have fire doors propped open you should invest in appropriate door retaining devices that will close doors automatically when the fire alarm is activated.
By using door retaining devices that meet the requirements of BS5839-3 you can have the convenience of free passage without compromising on fire safety. Fire door retainers can be wired to and powered by the fire alarm panel or can be standalone, acoustically activated devices. A wide range of devices are available and the range also includes devices suitable for high-noise environments, as some can distinguish between the sound of a fire alarm and the sound of equipment and people. (https://www.fireservice.co.uk/safety/fire-door-retainers/). Always ensure you seek specialist advice to ensure that the devices you install are suitable for your doors and for the environment they are installed into.
As an employer you have a duty to ensure your fire doors are suitable, sufficient and adequately maintained. Why not have a look at the Fire Door Safety Week Fact Cards, find them here: https://firedoors.bwf.org.uk/publications/fact-cards/