Shutting The Door On Smoke and Fire
By Hannah Mansell, Spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week and BWF Head Of Technical Research and Insight
Fire doors save lives and save property. A fire door is often the first line of defence in the event of a fire. Despite this, thesad reality however is that they remain a significant area of neglect, often the first thing to be downgraded and mismanaged, propped open, damaged and badly maintained. As a result, we created Fire Door Safety Week to raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors and urge landlords to be aware of their responsibility, and tenants to get informed and prepared by familiarising themselves with the fire safety protections and plans for their building.
The Home Office’s latest figures on fire and rescue incidents show just how high the stakes are. In 2017/2018, there was a three per cent increase in the number of fires attended by the Fire Service and, tragically, a 27 per cent increase in fire-related fatalities – from 263 to 334. This of course included the 72 deaths from the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.
Residents would ignore ‘stay put’ policy
Our research, conducted to coincide with the awareness week,reveals that almost three quarters (72%) of high-rise tenants would ignore guidance to ‘stay put.’ When asked why, 39 per cent said they do not have confidence in their building’s ability to stop the spread of smoke and fire, 28 per cent said they do not understand why the “stay put” advice is in place and 61 per cent stated they would rather take matters into their own hands.
While it may go against residents’ gut instinct to flee, if a flat is not affected by fire or smoke, staying put is often safest as it reduces the risk of being overcome by smoke in a corridor. It also helps keep access routes clear to allow firefighters to tackle the fire safely and quickly.
However, this advice relies on buildings having a robust and holistic fire protection system, of which fire doors are a critical element. A properly fitted and maintained, third-party certified fire door, fitted with all of its compatible components, is often the first line of defence against fires, helping to hold back fire smoke and toxic fumes to provide residents with a safe refuge until the fire can be bought into control.
Fire Door Safety Week
However, it’s not often that fire doors are given a second thought. As a result, thousands of fire doors across the UK are ill-fitting, propped open or damaged. That’s why we created Fire Door Safety Week (24-30th September 2018) - to stamp out this legacy of neglect. Now in its sixth year, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the important role that fire doors play and urge landlords and tenants to check that fire doors are properly installed and maintained. Here’s a simple and quick 5 step process to check the condition of your fire door:
The 5 Step Check
• 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? If there are no markings, you may want to check with whoever is responsible for your building to reassure that the door meets current regulatory requirements.
• Check the gaps: Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when closed. You can use a £1 coin to give a feel for scale, this is about 3mm thick. The gap under the door can be slightly larger (up to 8mm is not uncommon), but it does depend on the door - as a rule of thumb, if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big. It’s good news if the door fits the frame and it’s not damaged. If not, report it. If the gaps are too big smoke and fire could travel through the cracks.
• Check the seals: Are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are usually vital to the fire door's performance, expanding if in contact with heat to ensure fire cannot move through the cracks. Many fire doors also have a smoke seal around the perimeter as well as the intumescent seal. This brush or fin seal should fill the gap when the door is closed. If not, report it - the door may not be properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not protect you long enough.
• Check the hinges: Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws? If you see problems, report it - the door needs to be properly maintained.
• Check the door closes properly: Is the door easy to operate and does it close fully? 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? If not, report it. A fire door only works when it’s closed – it is completely useless if it’s wedged open or can’t close fully.
We are campaigning to save lives - all buildings must have fire doors that are fit for purpose and we need to root outthose that are ill-fitted, damaged or poorly maintained to ensure that buildings are made safe now, and made safe for generations to come.
For more information or to pledge your support please visit www.firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk