Slamming the door on fire and smoke
Fire doors are often the first line of defence in a fire especially when we are asleep and at our most vulnerable – and potentially the difference between life and death for building occupants.
That is what Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) are telling people at the start of Fire Door Safety Week, which runs all this week (20 – 26 September).
Putting the spotlight on fire door awareness, Fire Door Safety Week is part of the NFCC-backed Fire Kills campaign, led by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF).
The Week was launched in 2013 in response to a legacy of fire door maintenance and inspection neglect.
Fire doors’ correct specification, installation, maintenance and management can be the difference between life and death for building occupants.
But despite this, HWFRS still observe common problems in accommodation and businesses, ranging from doors being wedged open, non-fire doors or damaged doors being installed, or even doors being completely missing.
Nationally, fire door breaches remain one of the most common fines implemented under the Fire Safety Order. The Service’s Fire Safety Officers routinely inspect fire doors and if appropriate can take enforcement action against businesses to ensure compliance and the safety of occupants.
HWFRS are therefore encouraging building managers, landlords, tenants and all building users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and repair (if possible) or report those that are not satisfactory.
A fire door is more than a typical door – it’s a complex system of components that need to work together to achieve a life-saving role in preventing the spread of smoke and fire. If a fire breaks out, a fire door ensures that it can be contained in a “compartment”. This keeps the fire and smoke trapped for a defined period, depending on its fire classification, allowing time for people to get out and make the fire easier to tackle.
Station Commander Steve Andrews of the HWFRS Community Risk department said: “The difference an effective fire door can make can’t be under-estimated. A fire door isn’t always a fire exit door and is typically identified by a blue ‘Fire Door Keep Shut’’ sign often at eye level.
“Fire doors are an essential part of our fire protection, as they help keep fire and smoke trapped for a while in one area, so that the fire can be tackled, and people safely evacuated.
“If you spot a damaged fire door or know of a flat entrance door that hasn’t been checked for fire performance, tell your landlord or building manager immediately.
SC Andrews added: “If you see a fire door propped open, our normal advice is to shut it – a fire door cannot work when open.”
“But we’re still seeing instances where fire doors have been wedged open to help prevent the spread of COVID -19 by reducing contact areas.”
“Whilst sensible steps can help combat infection, it’s important that this doesn’t happen without a robust risk assessment and procedures to ensure fire doors close in the event of an emergency, to reduce the risk of fire and help the smoke alarm do its job.”
The 5 Step Fire Door Check pinpoints the five checks that anyone can do and flags up clearly whether it’s time to call in the professionals:
- check for certification - is there a label or plug on top (or occasionally on the side) of the door to show it is a certificated fire door? Without a certification mark, it might not be a fire door.
- check the gaps - check that the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when closed.
- check the seals’ condition - are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame (ie, that swell on exposure to heat), and are they intact with no sign of damage?
- check the hinges - are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws?
- check the door closes properly - open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame? A wedged-open fire door is useless.
For more details and a wealth of advice and guidance, including the chance to browse the Fire Door Safety Week Toolkit, visit www.firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk.