In the Government press conference on the 22nd February, it was announced that all schools will reopen on the 8th March, and depending on how successful this is in keeping infection cases down, will determine whether we move to the next stage of lockdown easing. During that press conference, Sir Patrick Vallance reiterated the key measures for keeping schools Covid-secure;
“ In schools, ventilation is going to be important as children go back, good ventilation. Masks will add to the protection, and hand washing and good hand hygiene adds to the protection ”
Why is ventilation so important when keeping schools Covid-secure?
To understand how ventilation helps, there have been many studies and articles explaining this.
The Government’s ‘Hands, Face, Space’ campaign stated that Coronavirus particles will remain in the air for much longer than Coronavirus droplets as they are far smaller and lighter. Recent research led by the University of Cambridge with Imperial College London, researchers found that:
“In poorly ventilated spaces, the virus behind COVID-19 can spread further than two metres in seconds, and is far more likely to spread through prolonged talking than through coughing”.
In October 2020, Spanish Newspaper El PaÍs published an insightful article; “A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air”, which examined how transmission varies in these different environments depending on the precautions in place. Inside a classroom of 24 students with a teacher who has Covid-19 (and no counter-measures being taken), up to 12 students could become infected within 2hrs. This reduces to 5 students when face masks are used. When ventilation is introduced the risk drops dramatically to one person or less. The importance that ventilation plays in reducing the spread of Covid transmission was promoted equally in all scenarios. All included opening doors as well as windows as part of ventilation measures.
Good airflow can protect against the asymptomatic
In November, the not-for-profit media website The Conversation published an article written by Shelly Miller, the Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she wrote on how keeping indoor air clean can reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus. She reminds us that 40% of cases are asymptomatic, which can help explain how a teacher can end up addressing a classroom when no countermeasures against the virus are taken. Her guidance on airflow in the home states:
“A typical air exchange rate for a home is around 0.5 air changes per hour. Because of the complicated way air moves, that translates into taking about two hours to replace two-thirds of the air inside an average home, and about six hours to replace all of it …//… In a pandemic this should be higher, and the World Health Organization recently recommended six air changes per hour”.
All of this is supported by The Hands, Face, Space campaign which said:
“Research shows that being in a room with fresh air can reduce the risk of infection from particles by over 70%”.
What does Government guidance say?
With Councils and the Health & Safety Executive having further powers to shut premises for not being Covid-secure, it is important to take all necessary precautions to comply with Government and public expectations. The Department of Education’s ‘Higher education: operational guidance’ makes it clear about what is expected from educational establishments in regards to ventilation:
- You should ensure that all indoor and covered areas have good ventilation in addition to other methods of risk reduction.
- Where possible, poorly ventilated spaces should be adapted to improve ventilation or, if that is not possible, they should not be used as a teaching/learning location.
- You should consider ways to maintain and increase the supply of fresh air, for example, by opening windows and doors (excluding fire doors) – we’ll come back to this point shortly.
- Also, consider if you can improve the circulation of outside air and prevent pockets of stagnant air in occupied spaces.
- Air conditioning systems should rely on fresh rather than recycled air
With Educational Secretary Nick Gibb announcing on the 25th February that it will not be made compulsory for students to wear face coverings in class, ventilation has become even more vital in keeping transmission rates down. But with many classrooms having one entry point and that door usually being a fire door, is the Government right to be saying they cannot be held open?
Can fire doors be held open to improve ventilation?
Since 23rd March 2020 (the day of the first lockdown announcement), nearly 10,000 people have viewed Fireco’s blog “is it illegal to wedge open a fire door”. With all the pressure on businesses to be COVID-secure, people have been seeking clarification on whether this takes precedence over fire safety.
On the 15th April 2020, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) managed to get clarification from the Minister for the State for Security, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, that Key Worker status applied to all fire industry employees providing essential services.
Also that month, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) released their guidance; Covid-19 – Protection – Advice to Businesses, to provide consistency for Fire and Rescue Services when issuing guidance to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the COVID-19 Protection Fire Safety FAQs they make it clear that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 still applies and that it is “the duty of the Responsible Person to ensure risk from fire is identified and suitable measures implemented”. One key point raised was the issue of wedging fire doors:
“Q. Can we wedge open fire doors to stop people from touching handles?
A. No, fire doors are an important fire safety measure, keep fire doors closed and follow government advice on hand washing and cleansing hard surfaces. Fire doors can only be held open by automatic releasing hold-open devices specifically designed and installed for this purpose”.
Unlike the Department of Education’s ‘Higher education: operational guidance’, it is made clear that rather than using a door wedge, there are legal and compliant ways to hold open a fire door that can be used to increase ventilation and reduce touchpoints.
Keeping schools Covid-secure with Fireco
In 2020, Fireco saw unprecedented demand for its Dorgard range, as companies from all sectors saw it as the quick, easy and compliant way to satisfy both fire safety and COVID-safety requirements within their buildings. Fireco’s Dorgard range has been a market leader for retrofit fire door retainers for over 25 years and by September 2020 we had sold our millionth Dorgard. One of the reasons for this surge in demand during the pandemic is the fact that Dorgard is ready straight from the box and only takes four screws to attach to the door – a simple task for any handyman.
Every type of workplace has invested in Dorgards – ranging from primary schools & care homes to social media giants & Grand Prix teams – and this is expected to continue now that the Government has laid out the roadmap for easing restrictions. It’s been made clear that in order to have our freedom back in June, we need to keep infection rates down and increasing ventilation will be fundamental in achieving this.
Buy Dorgard today and improve ventilation to help keep your school COVID-secure.
Written by James Cox, Senior Sales Manager at Fireco.
During 2020 technology companies worked very hard to avoid the spread of Covid. Some great technology emerged during the year to avoid touching door handles and other commonly used surfaces. Interactive and innovative sanitising solutions became available along with security systems incorporating temperature sensing, occupancy counting and face mask detection. I am positive that no technology can entirely stop the spread of Covid, but I am certain it all helps.
I maintained social distance, I was careful to wash and sanitise my hands, I wore a face mask and gloves. I work in a safe environment and take my temperature every day before entering business premises. I did not contract Covid-19 from being at work, nor from social engagement. I contracted the virus, at home, in my lounge, on the sofa, most likely whilst enjoying a box set.
There was a long list of Covid symptoms throughout 2020, we were told what to look out for and when to get tested. My children attended school and very quickly there was a report of headaches. This was ignored, and since then a petition has been created to advise the government they need to be quicker in updating Covid symptoms and informing the public. Very quickly children stopped attending school and positive Covid tests increased at an alarming rate. My son, Freddie, came home with a headache just before the Christmas break. Freddie had a test, he was confirmed positive with Covid-19. I tested, my family tested, we were all negative.
Over the first two days of the Christmas break, Freddie isolated in his room, he touched absolutely nothing. His food was left outside his door, and of course being a typical 11 year old, as long as wifi was provided, he was generally in good spirits. However, trips to the toilet and occasional forgetfulness and strolling downstairs meant we did all share one thing – the air.
One piece of advice highly overlooked is the need for air circulation.
This does not mean opening every window in the office or school, it would be freezing. The concept is very similar to that of smoke evacuation in fire safety, channeling the smoke in a certain direction through the building. We need to create the same behaviour for air to expel as quickly as possible in a controlled way. In our house, I opened the front window, and the back door, only. The fresh air was drawn in from one direction, pulled through the house and expelled from the back door. Wind, nicely helps to draw the air but having multiple windows and doors opened would create a whirlwind effect simply throwing the air everywhere and retaining it, this is what we need to avoid – Right-hand image needs to be avoided.
We managed to fend off the inevitable spread for 4 days using this practice. We all live together hence I use the word inevitable. However, in a school or office environment where people have shorter interactions, the above process can be VERY effective.
If we approach this by believing everyone is infected, and secondly, imagining the virus as smoke, how can we avoid breathing in that smoke, and expelling it as quickly as it emits?
Holding fire doors open is a fire risk, this is common knowledge and something we all try to avoid, albeit in the wrong way. Triangular bits of wood are used, wedges I believe people call them, a swear word to me. Fireco products, Dorgard and Freedor, a retainer and door closer that can legally hold open a fire door, and close if the fire alarm activates are perfect products to help with fresh air inlets and exhausts for your building.
To finish my article, eventually we caught the dreaded virus, our entire family felt poorly, starting with dizziness. We all got retested, we were all now positive. We could only describe the feeling of flu for the majority of the illness, with severe dizziness and fatigue. The last symptom was the lack of taste, which whilst a strange sensation at first, became very depressing but finally cleared up over two weeks. Something I want to mention is at NO POINT did we have a temperature. When considering your return to work process, please please do not rely solely on reading temperatures, please enforce sanitising, with a product like Germgard. Please ensure staff wear face masks and please do not overlook the inexpensive solution of fresh air, it’s so important. If I hadn’t practiced this at home, we would have all become ill much sooner and not have been able to stagger the disease over the family and look after one another.
We were very fortunate to stay out of hospital, and my heart goes out to people who have had a far worse experience. Stay safe. Please like and share, this is one thing we do want to go viral.
James Wheeler – Chief Commerical Officer l Fireco Ltd
Fireco has been working closely with a high-profile social media platform client based in Soho, London, to provide an innovative and practical solution to guard against the transmission of germs in the working environment. The client wanted to find a solution that would work immediately, but which would also continue to be of use after COVID-19.
“When investing in technology to help combat COVID-19 as part of a return to work strategy, it’s important to retain that investment, to make sure that the technology will provide business continuity in other areas, in this case, fire safety.”
Fireco manufactures fire safety products which will be critical in any business’s fire risk assessment. Fireco products are designed to stop people wedging open fire doors, which prevents them from closing in the event of smoke and fire.
Fireco has deployed a fully integrated solution based on our Pro ecosystem, using Dorgard Pro units. These are fire door retainers which hold open fire doors legally, allowing the door to automatically close when the fire alarm sounds. The Dorgard Pros connect to a ProHub gateway through wireless mesh network connectivity.
The ProHub can be directly connected to any fire alarm panel, meaning the solution is suitable for Category A fire doors. This system is managed through cloud-based software and provides users with interoperability through integration between multiple systems using Fireco’s open-source SDK.
Our social media client was not alone in looking for a solution which answered both fire safety and germ control requirements. Across all sectors, our customer base appears to have quickly learnt that one of the biggest risks of infection transmission in the office was through door handles.
Holding fire doors open compliantly reduces the need to touch door handles, which helps to control the spread of infection through commonly touched hard surfaces. Having doors open will also keep your building well ventilated, which can make germs less likely to spread.
If you need assistance with your back to work strategy and long term building solutions, call us today 01273 320650
As we edge towards the end of the Covid-19 lockdown phase, businesses are starting to look at their return to work strategies, and making their sites as safe as possible.
Many questions have been raised as to what the “new normal” will look like, but health and safety compliance will be just as important as ever. This means not only looking at ways to keep buildings fire safe, but also how to manage the spread of germs on shared surfaces. This will come from sensible staff management, social distancing and giving staff the correct equipment to manage their own safety effectively.
Fireco manufactures a range of self-install devices which allow doors to be held open compliantly. What does this mean for your staff? By holding the door open, you reduce the number of times people need to touch the door handle when going in or out of the room.
All our hold open solutions are fire-rated and can be used on all nominal and certified fire doors in a building. Brian Hughes from Venator, a leading global chemical company, has recently purchased 19 units. He said:
“I contacted Fireco today to enquire about the use of Dorgard for our doors. We are planning a return to work strategies and Dorgard is a safe way to keep our fire doors open and help stop the potential spread of germs”.
Fireco can help with your back to work strategies, call us today 01273 320650