It is dangerous to wedge or prop open a fire door as the safety of occupants cannot be guaranteed if there is a fire. Fire doors need to be closed to serve their purpose.
Legally, if a building’s responsible person is judged to be putting someone’s life at risk by wedging open fire doors, they could suffer penalties, including some hefty fines.
A recent case saw a Bath restaurant owner handed a prison sentence for fire safety failings. The Eastern Eye restaurant in Bath had multiple safety issues, including wedged open, broken and ill-fitting fire doors. The owner received a sentence of nine months imprisonment, reduced to six months for an early guilty plea, suspended for 12 months. He was also fined £70,000.
Steve Quinton, Group Manager of Avon Fire & Rescue Service, said: “The sentence handed out by the judge in this case shows what can happen if a business doesn’t take its responsibilities seriously.”
Why are fire doors necessary?
Fire doors are provided, at considerable expense, to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through a building. They are specially designed to withstand fire for a certain amount of time. This will protect building occupants while they safely evacuate.
In the event of a fire, fire doors stop smoke spreading into corridors and stairs — provided they are shut. This ensures people have a safe route out of the building. Fire doors also protect the building and its contents against damage from a rapidly spreading fire.
A closed fire door is usually achieved with a self-closing device or free-swing device. Fire doors are a vital part of a building’s fire strategy, and can only do their job if they are closed.
A wedged door prevents a fire door from closing, which means the fire can spread, putting all occupants in danger. Fire doors are clearly marked with a sign stating ‘Fire door, keep shut’. If you see a fire door that is held open, whether that’s with a door wedge, fire extinguisher, chair, pot plant or anything else, you need to make sure the obstruction is removed so the door stays closed.
In the event of a fire, it is quite possible that an insurer would be unwilling to pay for damages when a door has been wedged or propped open. The majority of fire doors will hold a fire in a room for 30 minutes by which time the Fire & Rescue service will be on site. Wedging open doors can, and has, caused a chimney effect, which causes fire to spread rapidly, destroying entire buildings.
Wedging or propping open a fire door can prove devastating as it allows fire to spread unchecked, putting lives and buildings at risk. Despite this, 64% of premises visited by the Fire Service have fire doors wedged open.
As you can see, the stark reality is that wedging open fire doors can lead to catastrophic consequences. It has a knock-on effect which isn’t limited to paying a huge fine; it can also lead to prison sentences and ultimately loss of life.
Why do people wedge open fire doors?
Despite the dangers and risk of legal penalties for wedging open fire doors, people still do it. Closed doors are a pain. They get in the way if you’re trying to carry a tray of drinks or your luggage. They hinder access if you’re using a wheelchair or walking stick or pushing a buggy. They can cause a room to be hot and stuffy by restricting the flow of air.
Fire doors are heavy and can be a struggle to get through. They can be difficult to open, particularly for frailer people, those with mobility issues, or young children at schools and nurseries.
However leaving fire doors wedged or propped open disregards the safety of others. It is also against the law. The only safe way for fire doors to be held open is with special devices, such as Dorgard, that close them automatically on the sound of the alarm.
It’s time to kick the wedge!
The common door wedge is our enemy here at Fireco. As we’ve seen, when fire doors are wedged open, they aren’t able to to do their job properly, and this puts people’s lives at risk.
Send us your wedge pictures!
Join our kick the wedge campaign! Send us your images of badly wedged or propped open fire doors. We’ll post your pictures on our website and on our Twitter page. Either tweet us your pictures @Fireco using #kickthewedge or email us firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line ‘Kick the wedge’.
Below you’ll see a few shocking examples we’ve seen, or people have sent us. Fire doors should not be propped open with bricks, fire extinguishers, chairs, wedges or anything else just found lying around!
Fire safety starts with a thorough risk assessment to assess the individual needs of a building.The Fire Safety Advice Centre has a good guide to risk assessments here.
When fire doors are wedged or propped open, businesses are at risk of fines, but more seriously, it it puts people’s lives in danger. Don’t pay the price of the door wedge.