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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.

21st Century Town Criers

21st Century Town Criers

Put your hand up if you don’t have a mobile phone?

-assumes barely anyone raises their hands-

That’s what I thought.

Around 95% of adults in the UK have a mobile device in their pocket right now. Society has embraced this advance in technology, with many of us feeling dazed and confused if we find ourselves sans Samsung (or whichever is your brand). It’s strange to think that, in just a couple of decades, mobile devices have become indispensable and have forever changed the way we communicate.

In many ways, mobile devices have become the Town Criers of the 21st Century, allowing us to keep our fingers on the pulse with our devices in our pockets. If a friend or loved one wants to get hold of us, we get a call, text or email. We get notifications when people interact with us on social media and we can get RSS feeds so that we don’t miss the breaking headlines as they happen, whatever our interests may be.  

And boy, don’t we love it? We’ve all been there, at work or out with friends, and we feel a little buzz in our pocket or we see a notification pop up on our device’s screen. We just can’t resist taking a look to see what’s happening in the world. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that we would probably all react faster to receiving a text message than we would to, say, a fire alarm going off.

“Don’t be silly, Pete,” I hear you say “People always react to a fire alarm . . .”

Do they?

Studies have shown that people can be very lax when it comes to fire alarms. So what if you could notify people in your building, en masse, when a fire alarm is triggered by sending them a text message? What if all the tenants in your building had that extra measure? What if fire wardens, contractors, members of the local council or fire brigade, or the company managing your premises all received a text message when a fire alarm was set off?

Fireco has a great product called DMS which is, to my mind, the dark horse in our product stable. DMS was originally conceived by one of our Field Service Technicians, Chris Mitchell, as a cost effective alternative to pager systems. Instead of making deaf people ask for a pager, which they often hate doing, we decided to use what’s already in their pocket: a mobile phone. We wanted to offer a system that didn’t require customers to be constantly managing pagers. More importantly, we wanted to offer something that used modern technology and that wasn’t limited by range.

So we set about developing and supplying DMS, even recently redeveloping the product to offer a more robust service. And the more DMS we installed, the more alternative uses our customers found for it. One customer has a DMS that monitors for faults on an air conditioning system. We’ve helped customers notify staff using a staged alarm process to get the most out of their ‘investigation window’. We even have a university that uses it to notify students living in halls of residence, who sit in their rooms with headphones on, slowly reacting to a fire alarm. But you see how quickly they whip their phone out when they get a text! We’ve rolled DMS out at various university campuses across the UK, as well as colleges, schools, hospitals and hotels.

Our little DMS box is truly unrivalled in its capacity. You can notify an unlimited number of users of an event, such as a fire alarm, within seconds of it occurring. But there is still much more that can be done with it. If you or your company are responsible for life safety services or for evacuating occupants of a premises, or if you have a large building with lots of people in it, we can help you take extra steps to make sure the message from your fire alarm gets to where it needs to go.

Let’s face it, if the fire alarm is going off in your building, chances are, people are going to tweet about it anyway. They’re going to make the most of the 21st century town criers. Why shouldn’t you?

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21st Century Town Criers

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How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

Fiona Stewart had a scary experience at a hotel recently. Fiona, who is deaf, woke up surrounded by her mother, a firefighter and the hotel manager. No, this wasn’t some kind of weird dream. The hotel’s fire alarm had been set off and the building was evacuated.

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

In 2016, UCAS registered 507,108 university applicants. Statistically speaking, 1 in 6 of these applicants will have a hearing impairment. That’s a staggering 84,518 students.

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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Some Of Our Door Closers Are Missing

Some Of Our Door Closers Are Missing

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?

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.

We’ve always done it that way!

We’ve always done it that way!

Grace Hopper once said “The most dangerous phrase a manager can use is ‘we’ve always done it that way’”. Hopper was a pioneering computer scientist whose work was central to the development of one of the foundational high-level computer programming languages. Working in a fast moving technological domain where repeating previously successful strategies often ended disastrously, she understood that when we brush off new ideas, we end up falling down the same old holes.

gmh1

Grace Hopper tinkering with her COBOL (COmmon Business Orientated Language) programming language.

What’s worrying is that “We’ve always done it that way” is often a key decision making factor when choosing the equipment we use in our premises.

This kind of appeal to tradition is something we come across often in the fire industry. An appeal to tradition basically makes two assumptions:

  • The ‘old way’ of doing things was proven correct when it was introduced
  • Past justifications for the ‘old way’ of doing things are still valid.

In reality, these assumptions can be incorrect. The ‘old way’ of doing things may have been introduced on incorrect grounds and past justifications often disappear into the ether, with circumstances (such as relevant legislation) changing with the times.

Let’s put this into the context of a fire door. For many years, fire doors have been fitted with hard-wired hold open devices like electromagnets. These devices allow your fire doors to be held open and when the fire alarm is triggered, power to the magnets is cut off and your fire doors close. “Great,” I hear you say, “all is as it should be.” But is it?

For years, fire safety policies have allowed these devices to be installed because “we’ve always done it that way”. But what about the dangers of remanence? Next time you walk past a magnetic hold open device, have a look at the main plate. You’ll see a little pin in the middle. Do you know what that’s for?

This little pin is the only thing preventing a big failure.

Fire safety people will tell you that magnets are fail to safe. These are the words they use: fail and safe. The truth is that magnets do fail because they stay magnetic after the current is switched off. And that’s what that little pin is for: to prevent against a known problem that constantly forces magnetic hold open devices to fail. These pins break easily and can come loose. And they get ridiculously hot, too. Just think about how that mounts up your electricity bill.

Despite this very real issue (never mind complications that can arise during installation or the dangers of poorly installed products) hard-wired electromagnets are still one of the most commonly used pieces of door furniture. Why?

Because “We’ve always done it that way!”

So because you’ve always done it that way, does that exclude you from looking at better ways of doing things? Because you’ve always done it that way, does the notion of something new scare you?

If your answer to those questions is no, me and thee need to talk. We do things differently at Fireco. Because that’s what we’ve always done.

‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’
– Henry Ford

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25 years of fire safety compliance

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Since the launch of Dorgard 25 years ago, we have introduced two more versions offering you different levels of fire safety compliance so you can ditch the door wedge!

Some Of Our Door Closers Are Missing

Some Of Our Door Closers Are Missing

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?

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

Fiona Stewart had a scary experience at a hotel recently. Fiona, who is deaf, woke up surrounded by her mother, a firefighter and the hotel manager. No, this wasn’t some kind of weird dream. The hotel’s fire alarm had been set off and the building was evacuated. When Fiona’s family found each other at the muster point, Fiona was nowhere to be seen.

Hi Fiona. Can you tell me a little bit about what happened that night?
The hotel’s fire alarm went off at seven in the morning and I wasn’t evacuated. My parents got out of their room and were reassured that I was out of mine. Mum and Dad made their way to the meeting point in the hotel car park but it dawned on them that I wasn’t there. Mum told the manager and the firefighters that they had missed me, but the staff had informed them that everyone was accounted for.

My parents were very upset at this point, demanding my room was checked to see if I was there. Mum marched the manager and fireman to my room to see I was sleeping. It was rather unfortunate as I looked a mess and was drooling… but who cares? It was literally a matter of life and death. Or at least, it could have been. Luckily it was a false alarm. Someone had a shower and left the bathroom door open triggering the alarm with the steam.

Did the hotel offer you any equipment or mention evacuations when you checked in?
I tweeted the hotel two months before my booking to ask if they had any accessible fire alarms. They replied saying they had no equipment available. I’d hoped that in between my tweet and the date of my
check-in, they would sort something out.


Staff reiterated at check-in that they didn’t have anything to help. I explained that I would need to be notified in the event of a fire alarm and wrote it down on the check-in sheet. I explicitly stated that someone would have to come and get me if a fire alarm went off. The staff said that they had taken this on board.

So that didn’t happen?
The person who went to check my room claimed that he did open the door but didn’t see me as it was too dark. He also stated that he was distracted by other guests asking him for directions and advice. I suspect he opened the door and yelled “FIRE ALARM.” He also admitted that he didn’t flick the lights on and off as per the hotel’s procedures.

How familiar are you with technology that can help in these situations?
I used Deafgard when I was at Stirling University which has come in handy as I know how to use it and often find myself explaining how it works to hotel staff.

Was fire safety something you were mindful of before this incident?
Since I’ve got older, I’ve become more aware of fire safety and always check hotel websites for any information. I’m obsessive when it comes to booking hotels and since this happened I’ve become a bit paranoid about fire safety. I often wake up in the middle of night to put on my Cochlear Implant to check if the fire alarm is going off.

How do you feel now about what happened that night?
When it first happened, I was angry about how it impacted my family. Now, as I look back on it, I’m not angry any more but I’m really worried that this could easily happen again or that it’ll be worse. A death could occur and that’d be horrendous for everyone involved.

Do you think hotels do enough for deaf and hard of hearing guests?
I don’t think hotels are really aware of what’s needed for deaf guests. It’s important to highlight that evacuation by hotel staff is not always the best answer. Deafness is an invisible disability. It’s not as if we have a giant neon sign flashing above us! Most people just don’t think about it and assume that we don’t need any support because we look physically able.

So, in the context of fire safety, what can hotels do to help?
It’s important to feel comfortable asking us what we would like you to do. After all we’re the ones who know what works best for us. Not all deaf people are the same and levels of deafness vary. Flashing lights or a strong vibrations will make a massive difference in terms of being aware that there is an alarm. Be flexible in your approach and communication. Don’t be afraid to use pen and paper to communicate with your deaf guests as this will prevent any confusion.

Lastly, a Deafgard only costs a few hundred pounds. That’s nothing compared to the cost of a life.

Fireco makes complying with regulations easy. We have two products which can easily notify anyone with a hearing impairment of any kind that your fire alarms are going off. For one in six people who are deaf or hard of hearing, it can make a big difference. I’d love to talk to you about how I can make it easy for you and your customers, so email me, call me or tweet me: whatever’s easiest.

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21st Century Town Criers

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Mobile phones are the town criers of the 21st Century, everyone finds out news from their device. DMS is a text message emergency alert system for your phone.

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

Fiona Stewart had a scary experience at a hotel recently. Fiona, who is deaf, woke up surrounded by her mother, a firefighter and the hotel manager. No, this wasn’t some kind of weird dream. The hotel’s fire alarm had been set off and the building was evacuated.

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

In 2016, UCAS registered 507,108 university applicants. Statistically speaking, 1 in 6 of these applicants will have a hearing impairment. That’s a staggering 84,518 students.

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

In 2016, UCAS registered 507,108 university applicants. Statistically speaking, 1 in 6 of these applicants will have a hearing impairment. That’s a staggering 84,518 students. In 2015, 532,300 entered higher education. Following those same statistics, 88,716 new students will have a hearing impairment.

2009 saw the Equalities Challenge Unit publish a document called Sensory Access in Higher Education Guidance which looked specifically at hearing and visual impairments and how they are treated in British universities. This document identified several key points which persist seven years on.

The document reveals that many staff at universities, while comfortable and confident working with sensory impaired students, are reluctant to take on more. They fear that the funding and time needed to offer the right level of support would be difficult to find. This reluctance could very easily result in discrimination against disabled students.

Disability Services teams at universities are acutely aware that students who are hard of hearing are, more often than not, reluctant to address their support requirements. Many students feel that deafness is a hidden disability and most feel like they can get by without additional support. All well and good, after all, independence is a fantastic thing. However, there are a few situations where requiring assistance is going to be unavoidable. Evacuation being a prime example.  

So what do you do if students are consistently refusing to disclose impairments? Universities themselves must ensure that environments are accessible for everyone, and when we say ‘accessible’ please remember we don’t just mean wheelchair users. More importantly, this should be done before someone with an impairment wants to use the premises. Waiting until they already use your buildings defeats the point of even having an Equality Act.

There are three simple things that universities should do to help overcome these problems:

  • Adequate funding can help to provide the right resources and equipment and will ensure students aren’t discriminated against because of their support needs. Think of it as an investment to help attract new students.
  • Encourage students to disclose their disability. This can only be done by ensuring a safe, accepting and comfortable environment.
  • Appreciate that some students will not wish to disclose this information and treat this with sensitivity, making sure that provisions and resources are in place.

With students now paying higher tuition fees than ever before, universities across the UK are now under pressure to be as competitive as possible as potential new students make a decision on what campus suits their needs best.

If I commit years of my life to something that will leave me with average debts of £35-40k, I want to be sure that the place I’m going is looking after me based on my own needs, no one else’s. Wouldn’t you?

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21st Century Town Criers

21st Century Town Criers

Mobile phones are the town criers of the 21st Century, everyone finds out news from their device. DMS is a text message emergency alert system for your phone.

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

How to wake deaf friends and not alienate people

Fiona Stewart had a scary experience at a hotel recently. Fiona, who is deaf, woke up surrounded by her mother, a firefighter and the hotel manager. No, this wasn’t some kind of weird dream. The hotel’s fire alarm had been set off and the building was evacuated.

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

Are universities deaf to students’ needs?

In 2016, UCAS registered 507,108 university applicants. Statistically speaking, 1 in 6 of these applicants will have a hearing impairment. That’s a staggering 84,518 students.

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