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Why ventilation is the secret weapon to keeping schools COVID-secure

Why ventilation is the secret weapon to keeping schools COVID-secure

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.

Are you in control of the fire safety compliance for your property portfolio?

Are you in control of the fire safety compliance for your property portfolio?

Since Grenfell, fire safety in social housing has been in the spotlight. The standard of existing fire safety has been scrutinised and reviewed, with terms such as stay-put policy, EWS1 forms, The Hackitt Report, and ACM cladding all becoming household topics of discussion. Billions of pounds are being spent on Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments (FRA), cladding removal, door replacement programmes and waking watch. Housing groups are now putting more and more pressure on manufacturers and contractors to provide them with the assurance of compliance, with BIM and the Golden Thread becoming the expectation rather than the exception.

With the evolution of regulations and requirements, it may seem like there is a lot to keep on top of and checking all buildings efficiently can be more challenging. This raises the question: what can we do to keep on top of the ever-changing demands of a compliant and fire safe building?

Problem 1: Door closers are often damaged or stolen

An Inside Housing analysis of Grenfell survivors’ statements revealed that out of 81 flats, 46 of them described problems with fire doors – the main theme being missing self-closing devices. 4 years later, this issue is still unresolved.

In a recent conversation that Pete Davies, Fireco’s Business Development Manager, had with a local authority in the South East, he found out that out of 6000 general-purpose flat entrance doors, 1700 had closers disengaged or removed. In a conversation with another housing association customer, they explained that 40% of closers were missing from their general needs accommodation.

Problem 2: Keeping track of all the compliance information for the whole property portfolio

Within housing associations there can be anything from 500 to 80,000 properties in one portfolio. Keeping track of all of these properties can take a lot of time and coordination, however, this still needs to be done. The Golden Thread requires accurate and up-to-date records of all a building’s data through every stage, starting with the architects and then right through the chain of manufacturers, contractors and risk assessors.

The solution: How to keep track of fire safety in social housing

Fire safety compliance cannot be achieved overnight. There will be regulation updates, maintenance schedules to organise and expensive projects to plan, whilst a change of tenants can also act as variants as to whether your building is compliant. However, we can offer a way for you to take a bit more control of your property portfolio and help you keep track of what’s going on with parts of your building with live information.

A laptop on a table being used by someone. Th screen shows Fireco's product, InSite, compliance monitoring software.

Our new InSite software allows you to remotely monitor the status of all Fireco Pro door furniture located in your buildings from one device. If you are using our free-swing closer, Freedor Pro , for residents with mobility issues, you will be able to see instantly whether it has been tampered with or removed. You will also have the serial number, installation date, battery life, signal strength and current status. You can assign each device with the corresponding flat number and whether the resident is part of a PEEP, as well as the date due for the next inspection.

All our Pro Range door products are Cat A compliant meaning they can be installed in high-risk areas in accordance with your FRA. The Pro System is radio-controlled via ProHub which is hard-wired into your communal alarm panel, automatic opening vent (AOV) or sprinkler system.

With Fireco’s Pro Range & InSite Software, you can rest assured that one major part of your building compliance has been made easy.

If you need help with fire safety compliance in your buildings, call us on 01273 320650.

Do your employees feel safe at your premises?

Do your employees feel safe at your premises?

The impact of the virus on society

Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists from all over the world have been researching the symptoms, transmission and prevention methods to help us better understand the virus.

In the meantime, we have all been following the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ campaign promoted by the Government in order to help keep everyone safe. With the belief that the best way to reduce the spread of the virus is to keep your hands clean and sanitised, wear a face mask in public and maintain a safe distance between yourself and others.

This year, we have gained a much higher awareness of the things we touch, whether it’s a shopping trolley, money or a door handle. We have also learned to risk assess our everyday surroundings, and social distancing and wearing a mask has become a habit for many.

However, day-to-day life has and will continue to be impacted by the virus. Returning to work, mixing with crowds or even seeing friends can seem daunting for those who have spent most of the year isolating. This raises the question – are employers and other establishments doing enough to support their employees and customers?

Are employers doing enough to keep the work environment safe?

To help you make your business a safe environment for employees, The Governments Health & Safety Executive (HSE) devised a Coronavirus Risk Assessment which identifies potential safety problems arising due to the pandemic and how they can be overcome.

One point included is “Mental health and wellbeing affected through isolation or anxiety about coronavirus”. Being isolated from lockdown and social distancing can heighten feelings of anxiety about going back to ‘normal’. Walking into a building after a few weeks or months and seeing nothing has changed can be very daunting for employees.

Before the first national lockdown ended, a study carried out by CIPD on 1000 working adults revealed that 44% of them were anxious about returning to work due to the potential risk of catching the virus.

Since then, a study carried out by Slater and Gordon, employment law specialists, uncovered that 46% of key workers have whistle blown on their employers for unsafe practices during the pandemic. With concerns ranging from lack of PPE, no social distancing measures in place or people being forced to return to work even if they are classed as vulnerable.

With the news that local councils will have the power to close businesses if they are not COVID-secure, it is vital to ensure your employees feel safe at work. These powers include an order for immediate action to be taken, closures for up to a week and fines if no action is taken.

What measures can be put in place to make a COVID-secure environment?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fireco has been helping many businesses stay safe, reduce cross-contamination and improve hygiene with our simple germ control solutions.

Our Germgard Smart Sanitising Station is a portable hygiene stand that encourages the use of hand sanitiser to all building users. It uses an infrared sensor and digital signage to capture the attention of the passer-by and ask them to sanitise their hands, which in turn will reduce cross-contamination on surfaces.

The digital signage is customisable and can be used as a building management tool, for example, you can advise staff to use your one-way system or to take their temperature when signing in.

The Germgard station is a portable device, so you can move it to the location that best suits your building, all it needs is a plug socket nearby.

Germgard helps you provide visual evidence that your company is taking adequate measures to keep your premises COVID-secure and will reassure your employees that they are safe in their work environment.

For more information about Germgard or other ways we can help with your COVID-secure strategy, visit our website www.fireco.uk or call us on 01273 320650.

25 years of fire safety compliance

25 years of fire safety compliance

In September 2020 we achieved our one-millionth Dorgard sale!

Over the past 25 years, Dorgard has been keeping buildings, businesses and people safe from the dangerous consequences of door wedging. Dorgard is an acoustically-activated door retainer that holds doors open and when the fire alarm sounds, will release and allow the door to close, preventing the spread of fire. Since its launch, two more versions have been introduced to the Fireco range, to help customers even further with their fire safety compliance.

Fireco started as a small business founded in Brighton and is now selling products worldwide. But, how did we come this far?

Focus on compliance

Dorgard was originally created with compliance and fire safety in mind and this has laid the foundations for everything else we have done since – even our motto becoming “compliance made easy”.

Over the years, we have worked with countless installers, fire safety consultants and associations, in order to ensure our products are suitable for all types of building scenarios. This led to the development of Dorgard SmartSound and Dorgard Pro. There are three different versions of Dorgard to meet different compliance requirements, Dorgard Pro being suitable for Cat A.

In more recent years, we have partnered with door manufacturers to carry out burns testing so that we can reassure customers, especially councils and housing associations, that Dorgard is safe to use and will not affect the fire rating of a fire door.

Meeting the needs of customers

Making fire safety easy is another big factor for us. Dorgard can be installed by almost anyone in under 5 minutes and its supporting documents are easy to understand. However, if preferred we do offer an installer service.

Fire safety is at the forefront of all product benefits, but this is not the only problem that we can help customers with. By installing a Dorgard, you can also improve ventilation and access throughout a building, both of which can be invaluable for the user.

Manufacturing a high-quality product that meets standards

When Dorgard was first introduced to the market, there was no guidance available for how and where acoustically actuated devices should be used. As is often the case, it took some time before relevant standards were updated. BS7273-4 now offers clear guidance which allows Dorgard and Dorgard SmartSound to be used as part of a Standard or Indirect installation.

One of the main reasons acoustic devices aren’t considered suitable for Critical Installations (i.e on fire doors on an emergency escape route) is because there is no direct connection between the device and the fire alarm panel, so if the alarm went into a ‘fault’ state, the retainers wouldn’t release to close the door.

This level of Critical compliance can now be achieved wirelessly, by using Dorgard Pro, utilising a hardwired radio transmitter which allows doors to close on either a ‘fire’ or ‘fault’ signal. This means that we can now offer a version of Dorgard based on the level of compliance needed for each door.

British Standards only give guidance on where a product can be used and how it should be actuated. For performance, we need to look at different guidance. All versions of Dorgard are tested to EN1155 which is the harmonized European Standard that gives the product it’s CE mark and classifies door closers using a 6 digit coding system, with each digit referring to a particular feature of the product measured against the standard’s performance requirements. This testing really looks at mechanical reliability, it looks at how many cycles the device can operate on before it starts having problems. 50,000 cycles are the open set close requirement – At Fireco, we actually put our products through 20% more testing than we’re required to.

As previously mentioned, we have completed EN1634-1 testing as part of a complete Doorset with several fire door manufacturers. This means that customers have the option of having a complete doorset fitted with a Dorgard already installed. This testing is vital in giving building managers the evidence they need to show that having our products installed to the door does not damage its integrity.

Ensuring that our products are compliant and meet the needs of our customers, we continually work on our manufacturing operations and product testing. If you have any questions about whether our products are suitable for your building, call us on 01273 320650.

Co-written by Sasha Brigden and Pete Davies.

Some Of Our Door Closers Are Missing

Some Of Our Door Closers Are Missing

Whoa, Heavy!

For those of us that know our RRFSO’s from our BS7273-4’s, there’s no question that fire doors save lives and that the weight associated with operating a fire door is a necessary evil, a symptom of those innocuous-looking closers that ensure doors can shut safely. But when we think about who uses those doors on a daily basis, are we expecting too much from industry outsiders? We know that effort is made to educate ‘non-fire safety’ people on the importance of fire doors, but it’s my belief that for most, this simply goes in one ear and out the other. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think for a second this is a deliberate and malicious attempt to ignore sound, tried and tested guidance. I just think that for most people that use fire doors on a daily basis, fire protection is something that the fire and rescue services do, rather than something they should be mindful of when, say, opening the door to their flat.

Ahh, the humble flat entry door. Give a thought for this oft-overlooked bit of kit. You and I know that a lot of science goes into the design of flat entry doors to ensure maximum fire protection and that each installation is guided by years of experience and best practice guidance. You and I know how important it is that the door can close safely and that its integrity is not compromised in order to protect the lives of people and property. But does the resident know this? And, more importantly, do they really care?

Disengaged door closers are becoming a massive problem within social housing and general-purpose flats. For most residents, flat entry doors are nothing more than a barrier to their home, a hurdle to overcome . . . bullies. And what happens? Out comes the screwdriver and ratchet set and off comes the closer and hey-presto! Suddenly that barrier is beaten, the hurdle hurdled. Like magic, the door to their home is suddenly lighter and easier to use!

 

The Extent of the Problem

A recent conversation with a customer at a local authority in the South of England highlighted this issue to me. A recent survey of 6000 flat entry doors in general-purpose flats, found that 1700 doors had disengaged or removed closers. That’s over 28% of their doors being made non-compliant. Another customer, a Housing Association, told us recently that a staggering 40% of closers were missing from flat entry doors in general needs accommodation. And in a recent analysis of Grenfell survivors’ statements to the inquiry, it is suggested that as many as 56% of doors had missing self-closing devices.

Evidently, it’s time to start using free-swing devices on flat entry doors in general needs flats. It’s clear there’s a massive risk of doors being made non-compliant purely because of how heavy they are. But in order to do that, we need a way to actuate the device so that it can close in an emergency. How do we do that when there is no fire alarm?

In most general needs blocks, each flat is designed to be a 60-minute fire resisting compartment, using a stay-put policy. There will likely be zero to very minimal BS5839-1 fire detection or alarm system in ‘communal’ areas (as this would encourage people to evacuate rather than stay put and could hinder access for the Fire & Rescue Service) with BS5839-6 detectors in the flats themselves, where, let’s not forget, the highest risk of fire comes from.
In order to mitigate the risk of doors being made non-compliant, many of our customers have used Freedor SmartSound, ensuring that during installation the device is adjusted and tested so that it will react to the sound of the BS5839-6 detector. And we can even integrate Freedor Pro, actuated by a radio transmitter, with other detection equipment commonly found in blocks of flats such as sprinkler or AOV systems.

The issue of how to effectively deal with the problem of disengaged and tampered closers is a head-scratcher, for sure, and I by no means am suggesting that we’ve completely solved it. Thats why I want to hear from you. If you have any thoughts or comments on how we as an industry can deal with this problem, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to send your thoughts to me at pete.davies@fireco.uk and lets see if we can figure this one out, together.

“Protect your business by being proactive” – Q&A with Darren Young

“Protect your business by being proactive” – Q&A with Darren Young

For Fire Door Safety Week 2020, we contacted Darren Young Managing Director at 1st Aid Fire to discuss all things fire doors!

Darren has worked in the fire industry for over 30 years. He followed in the footsteps of his father, brothers and cousins which led him to begin his career in the Royal Air Force Fire Service at 20 years of age. He is now Managing Director for 1st Aid Fire who specialise in first aid training, fire training and fire risk assessments.

From the opinion of someone who works in fire safety, why are fire doors so important?

Fire doors complete compartmentation and when fitted and maintained correctly they will help save lives and property. Too many people see fire doors as being normal doors which leads to them thinking it’s ok to wedge/prop them open. A fire door is only a fire door if it is shut. If a fire door is wedged open, it is just a hole in the wall allowing a fire to spread. Fire doors save lives – FACT!

What importance do you think Fire Door Safety Week has for not only the fire industry but also the users of fire doors?

We all know that fire safety can be a complex subject and Fire Door Safety Week gives people the chance to access information they may not have necessarily considered before. People can take part in events, some of which are CPD, and then they can apply the information they’ve gained to carry out checks with the correct knowledge. The fire industry is a fast-paced industry with new products coming out all the time. FDSW gives service providers the opportunity to showcase new products for all users to see so they can decide which option is best for them.

What are the most common fire door compliance issues you come across on the job?

Once a door is fitted correctly, general maintenance should keep a fire door compliant for quite some time. The common compliance issues I come across are mostly due to fire doors not being maintained. The main things to check for is:

  • The self-closing device closes the door fully and by itself.
  • The seal is in place and is not damaged in any way.
  • The recommended gap between the fire door and the frame does not exceed the current standards (Side and top of a fire door 3mm recommended; max 4mm. The bottom of a fire door 10mm gap to allow for undulating floors, devices can be bought to keep this gap down too)

Do you feel that people face any barriers when it comes to maintaining fire door compliance?

The main barrier that people see is the cost! People don’t want to get a fire door survey done as they believe it will cost thousands to put things right. However, maintaining a fire door or even replacing a fire door is a great deal cheaper than they think. Another thing to note is with fire safety, it’s better safe than sorry.

What do you think would help people to overcome these barriers?

I would always recommend getting a survey and then get a quote for what needs to be actioned. There are lots of options out there and the surveyor will be able to help you achieve compliance within your budget. Alternatively, you can pay for a member of staff in your company to be trained in fire door inspections. Once complete they will be able to survey and maintain fire doors regularly, which in the long run can reduce costs.

Do you have any advice for the readers of this blog on how they can increase the lifespan of their fire doors or keep them compliant for longer?

  • Check fire doors regularly and fix things as soon as you see them. It’s best to be proactive and stop problems from getting worse.
  • Fit the best products you can for your budget range. However, sometimes it’s better to invest in something that is of higher spec, it can avoid replacements and engineer call-outs.
  • Never be afraid to ask companies for advice. It’s what companies like us are here for! We, at 1st Aid Fire, will always welcome questions and try to help in any way we can. By having conversations with us, solutions can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

Having the right testing and certification for each door set component is important for your fire door to be compliant. What is your opinion on global assessment vs primary test evidence – is it practical to test every door with every combination of ironmongery?

There are many companies out there that will say that their products are the best. If fire doorsets are manufactured well and to a specific standard, then it still must be installed correctly. Only use a company which is third-party accredited, this will give you peace of mind that not only the fire door is compliant but the workmanship can be checked at any time. If the standard is not right, the company can be struck-off the accredited recommendation books. We use Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) accredited carpenters and we have never been let down in the past. There are many accredited companies out there, so you can choose the one that suits you and gives you the reassurance you need to feel safe.

How can a business like 1st Aid Fire help people stay safe and compliant?

We offer several different courses from Fire Awareness to Fire Warden training. We want to work with clients so they can ensure their staff are not only trained to deal with fire but also how to be proactive within the workplace. We also work closely with other companies in the industry that offer training in fire door inspection courses or that manufacture the best equipment on the market. 1st Aid Fire can do the hard work for you and ensure that your workplace is safe and compliant.

If you have any more questions about fire doors or you’d like to discuss further how 1st Aid Fire can help your business, check out their website www.1staidfire.com or give them a call on 0808 123 2401

“Protect your business by being proactive”

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