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Why do we need fire doors?

Why do we need fire doors?

Fire doors save lives. They’re designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke for a specified amount of time. This serves three main functions:

  • To protect escape routes so people can evacuate safely
  • To protect the building and its contents (an insurance requirement)
  • To allow firefighters to extinguish the fire as safely as possible.

What is the difference between a fire door and a fire exit?

Fire exits are found on external walls, and take people outside. Fire doors are internal and are specially designed and installed to resist fire. Some fire doors are also considered fire exits if they are on the evacuation route to the final fire exit.

Fire exit signs are needed throughout a building so people can easily find their way out of a building in an emergency.

External fire exits can remain open, and must be easy to open (preferably in the direction of traffic, i.e. push to exit) so that people can easily vacate a building in an emergency. Fire exits should be clearly marked with a sign above the door. Fire exit doors do not need to be fire-resisting, unlike fire doors.

Fire doors need to be closed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Wedging or propping them open is dangerous. They can be held open with certain devices but these must automatically release the door to close if the fire alarm sounds.

Fire doors need to have a sign saying ‘fire door, keep shut’ or a specific sign with information about the door, for example ‘Automatic fire door keep clear’.

Where do we need fire doors?

In non-domestic buildings, there must be a protected escape route. Fire doors are therefore required if they lead to corridors or staircases, for example.

They’re also needed to compartmentalise a fire, i.e. to stop it spreading from one part of the building to another. This means they’re used in high-risk areas such as kitchens, storage areas with combustible materials and boiler rooms.

New build or renovated domestic properties with three storeys or more must have fire doors to every habitable room off the stairwell.

What’s the difference between fire doors and other doors?

Fire doors are specially designed to resist the passage of fire and smoke.

  • Fire doors are made of composite materials and are much heavier than normal internal doors. This means they can be more difficult to push or pull open.
  • They need to be fitted with a door closer so they shut automatically.
  • Fire doors need a seal around the edges which swells when heated to block any gaps.
  • If the doors are fitted with windows, it needs to be fire-resistant glazing.
  • All ironmongery on the door needs to be fire-resistant as well.

For how long do fire doors need to resist fire?

The most commonly installed fire door is FD30 which is designed to resist fire for a minimum of 30 minutes. Sometimes a FD60 is required, which resists fire for a minimum of 60 minutes and also has fully tested seals for smoke resistance.

It is important to note that fire doors are certified against a furnace test using a time-temperature curve. How long they will actually resist a real fire depends on a large number of factors, including orientation of the fire to the door, what is burning and the energy release rate, etc. They may fail sooner in a real fire, but on the other hand, may not fail at all. This means that even if you are standing behind an FD60, it does not necessarily mean you can wait for an hour with the fire on the other side of the door in safety.

It is generally up to the specifier to decide which door is right.

Check your doors

As with all life-saving products such as fire extinguishers or smoke alarms, fire doors need to be checked regularly to make sure they are fit for purpose. Any slight change to the door can affect its performance. Checks should be carried out every six months, or more often if it is a busy traffic area.

IFSEC has a five-step fire door check. Click here for more information. Or watch our video.

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How do fire doors affect the lives of care home residents?

How do fire doors affect the lives of care home residents?

Older people are often more vulnerable when it comes to accidents and emergencies which places huge importance on fire safety in care homes. Fire doors are essential for fire safety, but in the daily lives of care home residents, they can be problematic.

How to improve fire door access

How to improve fire door access

Closed fire doors save lives. They prevent the spread of fire through a building, keeping people safe while they evacuate. But closed fire doors can hinder access through a building. How can you solve five of the biggest issues with closed fire doors?

Heavy doors

Fire doors are heavy — they need to be to be able to contain a fire. However, trying to push open a heavy fire door can be difficult for younger school pupils, frailer residents at a care home or hospital or those with limited mobility.

Closed doors

Wedged open fire doors are illegal because fire doors need to be closed to do their job. However closed doors prevent the circulation of fresh air, which can lead to a stuffy environment. They also can be a physical and mental barrier to those with limited mobility, as well as difficult to open for those with heavy luggage or pushchairs.

Damage

In hospitals and schools, closed fire doors can easily sustain damage. Stretchers, electronic equipment, wheelchairs, beds — a lot of cumbersome apparatus needs to be quickly transported around a hospital. And children can be a little heavy-handed (or footed) with doors!

Isolation

A closed, heavy fire door can be a mental barrier, as well as a physical one. For patients in hospital, or residents in care homes, a closed door to their room can lead to feelings of isolation, particularly if they are unable to move around without assistance.

Fire doors make access difficult. In residential care and sheltered accommodation, fire doors can create feelings of loneliness as people find it difficult to open them. This can lead to residents feeling trapped, forcing them to become dependent on staff. If fire evacuations don’t go to plan, this can cause serious problems.

It’s not just those who are elderly or have mobility issues that are affected. It can also be the case in university halls of residence, where socialising with fellow residents is vital when you’re new and need to make friends.

Injuries

Younger school pupils or people with limited mobility may struggle to open heavy doors, and could be injured when doors close quickly. Closed fire doors can also be dangerous for staff at hotels or workers in an office carrying hot drinks or food to another room.

Fires don’t happen every day so fire doors are used as normal doors most of the time. As they are heavier than a standard door, there is the potential for injuries. If hands or other parts of your body get trapped, injuries can be severe.

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Wedging fire doors is not the answer

With all of these issues, it’s no wonder that for an easier life, people look for ways to keep their fire doors open.

Fire doors are safety devices which are there to help protect lives. However, regulations state they are meant to be kept closed in case of a fire. This means people might wedge them open, which is dangerous and can result in devastating consequences.

The safe solution

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how our everyday schedules can affect fire safety, but there are simple ways that fire doors can be kept open safely, so you can enable greater access without the worry of non-compliance.

Closed fire doors perform a vital function, they prevent fires from spreading. Being able to keep them open safely improves access and quality of life for everyone. Fitting a door retainer that holds doors open and allows them to close automatically in the case of an emergency brings peace of mind and easy compliance with regulations.

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The smarter way to hold fire doors open

The smarter way to hold fire doors open

Dorgard SmartSound™ is the latest addition to the Fireco product range. Keep your fire doors open legally, safe in the knowledge that Dorgard SmartSound will automatically enable them to close if a fire alarm sounds.

Vacuum cleaner friendly — New SmartSound technology means Dorgard SmartSound is not triggered by the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Fit and forget SmartSound technology means there’s no need to waste time training your Dorgard SmartSound to learn the sound of your alarm. It works right out of the box without any complicated programming.

Carpet friendly — Anti-drag technology means that Dorgard SmartSound won’t damage your carpets. If someone tries to pull the door, the unit’s plunger will automatically release, and not drag along the carpet.

Three-year battery life Dorgard SmartSound has a three-year battery life for added peace of mind.

Suitable for heavy doors — No more struggling with heavy fire doors. Dorgard SmartSound can be fitted to heavy doors, which is great for improving access throughout a building.

Once your new SmartSounds are installed, send us your old Dorgards to get your discount.

We can even collect them for you, contact us to find out more.

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Why is compartmentation so important?

Why is compartmentation so important?

It takes seconds for a fire to spread through a hole the size of a pen nib. Compartmentation is a way to keep a fire contained in one place, preventing fire and smoke from spreading quickly and taking over the building.

Dorgard. The original and the best

Dorgard. The original and the best

In 1994 our chairman Neil Purssey invented the first wireless hold-open device for fire doors. Dorgard reacted to the sound of a fire alarm to automatically allow the door to close. It did that then and it does that now.

Dorgard keeps fire doors open for convenience, and closes them in an emergency for safety. Fire doors need to be closed to prevent the spread of smoke and fire, so Dorgard keeps people protected, and businesses compliant with fire regulations.

Dorgard is simple, convenient and it works. Like all successful products, it has been copied many times over the years. Copies are never as good as the original. Those that merely copy don’t have the expertise to develop and improve upon their products as they didn’t have to come up with the idea in the first place. We discussed this very topic with Dorgard Pro.

Dorgard was our idea, and over the years we have continued to listen, learn and grow. We have used our extensive fire safety knowledge and experience to create new fire safety solutions. Freedor is a free swing door closer that holds fire doors open, but also takes the weight out of heavy doors. Dorgard Pro has a transmitter that can be connected to any fire alarm system so it can be radio-activated. Deafgard and DMS alert deaf and hard of hearing people when a fire alarm sounds.

Our latest innovation, Dorgard SmartSound, has the best listening technology on the market. It already knows the sound of your fire alarm so doesn’t need any programming, and it won’t be triggered by the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

We know about fire safety and we know about the technology that makes Dorgard work. Close to one million fire doors are already kept safe with our products and we’ll continue to innovate to make sure our products remain the best on the market.

Fireco. We make compliance easy

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Every time you leave a fire door open, a fairy dies

Every time you leave a fire door open, a fairy dies

Every time you leave a fire door open, a fairy dies.

I know, I know, it’s not true, is it? Fairies aren’t even real (or are they?). But the way that some fire safety people insist that fire doors are kept closed, you could be fooled into thinking that there is some truth in my opening statement.

In the event of a fire, your specially designed, expertly fitted fire doors have the important job of preventing the spread of fire. So many lives have been saved by these wooden heroes. It doesn’t surprise me that some fire safety people go into full-on meltdown if they are left open.

Part of the reason for this is that people use some pretty unsavoury things to hold fire doors open; wooden wedges, wastepaper bins, chairs, bits of folded over cardboard, even fire extinguishers. There will always be a need or desire for fire doors to be held open. The problem here is that all these things prevent doors from closing in an emergency, and wedging fire doors can have serious implications.

Convenient rest area or dangerous fire safety risk?

There are many benefits to keeping fire doors open and there are some very cost effective and easy to fit LEGAL devices do this. More importantly, they automatically close the door when there is a fire.

For the last few decades, hardwired devices have been favourable and more recently, with significant improvements in digital signal processing, wireless products, such as Dorgard Pro and Freedor, offer solutions that are much quicker, cleaner and safer to install.

“Ah,” I hear you say, “but we enforce a closed door policy, so we’re fine thanks.” This, on the surface, is a sensible policy. But (and there is a but) a closed door policy is never a closed door policy. By its very nature someone, somewhere, will undermine this on an almost daily basis by finding new and ever more extravagant means of holding open a fire door. In fact, what this policy does is actively encourage people in your building to wedge doors open by not giving them a safer alternative. Closed door policies are just not practical.

Let’s look at halls of residence, for example, where students are seven times more likely to have a fire. Whats the first thing students will do when they start to carry heavy boxes into the building when they move in? They wedge the doors so that they can get through without struggling. And when it’s time for them to move out, what happens? Wedged doors.

During my time in halls, every party (of which there were many) meant finding things to wedge our bedroom doors open with. Once there was even a food fight between my floor and the floor below. The closed door policy somewhat scuppered our game. So we disregarded the closed door policy by immediately wedging two floors worth of fire doors. Oh, and I haven’t told you about the girl with a broken leg who was effectively house bound by the closed fire door policy in her accommodation.

Occasionally a premises will allow ‘temporary wedging’ for access. Where’s the guarantee that people will un-wedge the door when they’re done? There isn’t one. They’ll leave that job for you. This is one of many real world, human examples of where a closed door policy will fall down. Want proof? Just take a look on Twitter.

Closed door policies are ignored by pretty much everyone except those who have to enforce them.

Enforcing a closed door policy

And let’s be honest, enforcing this kind of policy is probably the most thankless task we can think of. You have to spend huge portions of your day going round, checking all the doors, removing any wedges, taking time away from the really important things. Training and re-training colleagues and co-workers on the importance of not wedging open fire doors. Constantly fighting an uphill battle. And round and round it goes.

Where will it stop? Hopefully not with a fire.

We don’t like having our time wasted, especially at work. We all have many responsibilities in our jobs. Should it be your responsibility to constantly reprimand people for making their own lives easier? Wouldn’t your working life be easier if you had one less thankless task to carry out? Wouldn’t your building be safer if your fire doors could close when they needed to? Don’t you want to save the life of a poor little fairy?

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I used to be quite calm about door wedges before I worked at Fireco. Even on fire doors. In hotels, solicitors’ offices, doctors’ surgeries, schools, universities, factories, communal areas in blocks of flats, village halls – in any place you can think of, the door wedge rules. It’s cheap, it’s effective and it’s lethal.

So calm was I that I never noticed them. It seems that I was typical of most of the world’s population. When the fire door is in the way, you wedge it open. Obvious, really.

Fire doors can indeed be a nuisance anywhere where people want access. Guests in hotels with heavy suitcases get stuck between fire doors like wasps in jam jars. Trays of nibbles at corporate events are sent flying by them. Residents in care homes are too weak to push through them and become isolated. Students in halls of residence are frequently injured by them.

So, it can be difficult to accept that a properly used fire door is a vital lifesaver. Even the simplest risk assessment anywhere with fire doors with the slightest human traffic will identify a wedge as a very significant risk. Clearly, compliance is a problem and there are serious repercussions if you do nothing. Such fire safety breaches are viewed gravely by the courts which hand out prison sentences to serious offenders.

Fire doors can cause problems for students

You can retain fire doors electrically, but it can be expensive and difficult to chase cables back through to the fire panel. At Fireco, we exist to make compliance easy, so we have safe, legal and simple solutions to this problem.

We have got rid of the wires by making battery operated systems. Over six hundred thousand Dorgards have been sold in the UK. The problem is, that with 30 million fire doors in the UK alone, I still encounter a lot of dangerously wedged doors when out on my travels. Now I know how easy it is to be compliant and how dangerous they are, each wedged door leaves me as calm as a chicken stuck in a wheelie bin.

We are on a mission to make compliance even easier with the new Dorgard Pro.  It hears the sound of the fire alarm accurately without being falsely triggered by children, drills and vacuum cleaners. Its battery life is being extended to five years, lasting as long as the fire door itself in some cases. It is being made more rugged and hard wearing. It can also communicate by radio to a central point where you can monitor all your Dorgards to check that they are working. So if you already benefit from Dorgard, call us to find out how we will make compliance even easier.

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I used to be quite calm about door wedges before I worked at Fireco. Even on fire doors. In hotels, universities, factories – in any place you can think of, the door wedge rules. It’s cheap, it’s effective and it’s lethal.

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