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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.

How to stay fire safe this summer

How to stay fire safe this summer

Do you know how to keep fire safe this summer? Many of us will be basking in the English sun, spending more time outside and without knowing it, potentially increasing the risk of fires.

Most summer fire safety hazards can actually be removed or reduced just by awareness and simple changes in behaviour.

BBQ’s

The risk: An exposed flame.

Tips:

  • Choose a good location- a flat surface and away from anything that can catch on fire, like tree branches, decorations or umbrellas.
  • It is not recommended to have BBQ’s on balconies, especially if they are particularly small or made out of wood.
  • Supervise the BBQ at all times and keep pets and children away.
  • Stay prepared for an emergency by having a bucket of sand or water nearby.
  • Once you have finished cooking, let the leftover coal cool down before you throw it away.
  • Don’t pour flammable liquids onto the BBQ for any reason.
  • If you are using a disposable BBQ, be sure to place it onto a solid, flat surface such as concrete. Grass, benches and plastic are not suitable.

Mirrors

The risk: Keeping a mirror somewhere the sun beams directly on to it (e.g. by a window) can ignite a fire if the mirror reflects the light onto something else. In 2015 a couples’ flat ended up with substantial fire damage after a mirror reflected light onto papers and furniture, sparking flames.

Tips:

  • Keep mirrors away from windows.
  • Ensure there are no sun rays shining directly onto any mirrors in your household.

Fire pits

The risk: The fire spitting out sparks or the flames catching fire to something else.

Tips:

  • Place on a flat surface and away from anything that can catch on fire, like tree branches, decorations or umbrellas.
  • It is recommended to place a fire pit 10 feet away from buildings and other people’s gardens.
  • Try to avoid cedar and pine as this type of wood is more likely to spit. Alternatively, you can buy a fire pit that is fueled by gas.
  • Try not to wear loose or flammable clothing when using the fire pit.

Littering

The risk: Glass, cigarettes and plastic can catch fire if left outside in the sun for a long period of time. During the heatwave in 2018, there were 56 roadside fires over just 10 days, many of which were thought to be caused by litter. 

Tips:

  • Don’t litter.
  • If there are no bins around, why not ask a nearby shop or restaurant to discard it for you or keep hold of the rubbish until you get home.

Propping open fire doors

The risk: During the hot summer months, it’s common for people to prop open doors to allow fresh air to flow through the building. If a fire were to break out and the fire doors were wedged open, smoke and fire would rapidly spread through the whole building.

Tips:

  • Keep doors closed and invest in air conditioning or fans.
  • Purchase a device that is suitable for holding your door open legally and safely.

We can only hope for a long hot summer here in England, but we can guarantee that we will have a fire-safe one! 

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25 years of fire safety compliance

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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 to prepare for a fire in a historic building

How to prepare for a fire in a historic building

With the recent fire that broke out at Notre-Dame in Paris, there has been a lot of discussion about how best to deal with fires in historic or listed buildings. The firefighters who arrived at the scene had a protocol to follow, that had been previously planned in the case of such events. This procedure expressed the order of priority of what needed to be saved: people, art, the altar, any furniture possible and then the building. Following this protocol meant that no one was harmed and most of the historic treasures had been saved. Some of the building was completely destroyed, however, the fire was eventually controlled and a lot of the interior survived, meaning that there is hope for a full restoration.

(Hover to scroll through photos)

So, how should fire be dealt with in historic and listed buildings?

Plan and prepare

It is vital that there is a procedure in place that states exactly what needs to happen in the event of a fire- just like the one in place for Notre-Dame. This will not only help people to be saved but for irreplaceable items to be retrieved.

To plan for the event of a fire, you will need to have up to date building plans. These can help to locate key artefacts, fire exits, evacuation routes and fire safety equipment. All of this information will show how best to respond.

The Technical Director from the Fire Protection Association has also pointed out the importance of planning and preparing, saying:

“It could be considered amazing that anything was saved, but this will not be by accident. It is likely the French fire services would have prepared for and rehearsed for this event many times over the years, and whilst the resulting outcome may look quite devastating, there will certainly be more fabric to rebuild from going forward, as a result of this pre-planning.”

Prevention methods

Avoiding a fire is the obvious best scenario. A fire risk assessment is a good place to start as this will identify the areas of concern. Once these have been identified, you can take steps to reduce the risk. For example, in a church, a big risk area could be curtains and drapes hanging over walls. To minimise the risk of these, you would ensure they are not placed near any ignition sources such as a lamp or candle and move them away from any fire exits or evacuation routes.

Protect

Fire safety equipment is key when it comes to tackling a fire. This can include: fire extinguishers, sprinkler system, fire curtains, alarm systems, and anything else that will prevent the spread of fire.

Installing fire safety products can be controversial as they can affect the aesthetics of historic and listed buildings, however, there are options that will create minimal disruption to the structure and visuals, whilst still offering protection.

Maintain

After the assessments, plans and modifications have been carried out, they will need to be routinely reviewed. If anything changes, there may be new risks, for example, if there is construction work on site. Or, you may carry out a fire drill which uncovers faults in the original plan. By carrying out regular checks, you will avoid any shortcomings in your plan.

Historic and listed buildings are extremely meaningful and important to heritage as they hold so many memories and have survived through events that shape a country. Just like how the Notre-Dame has been standing tall for 800 years, even surviving through two world wars.

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25 years of fire safety compliance

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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?

“Approximately half of those killed by fires in the home are aged 65 or over” states the North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service*. Older people are often more vulnerable when it comes to accidents and emergencies which places a huge importance on fire safety in care homes. Vulnerability can be down to various reasons, such as, mobility issues, reduced senses, such as not being able to smell, and health issues that can lead to a lack of awareness, such as dementia.

Self closing fire doors have a valuable role in protecting residents in the case of a fire. They create a fire safe compartment which prevents fire from spreading rapidly through a building and allowing time for a safe escape, or rescue from the fire brigade. However, in the daily lives of elderly residents, these heavy self closing doors can be very problematic.

Here are some of the ways that fire doors can affect the lives of residents:

  • Some residents may be injured by fire doors closing too quickly on them, causing them to fall or get bruises.
  • Residents in wheelchairs, on crutches or have temporary mobility issues, may find that they have trouble with access.
  • Residents may feel isolated or lonely due to their door being constantly closed, especially if they are living alone.
  • Due to the weight of fire doors they often slam shut. This may be disruptive, and could even wake residents up during the night.
  • Residents may want to open the doors and windows to allow fresh air to flow through their living space, especially if they struggle to go out. However, closed fire doors will limit the ventilation in the room.
  • Fire doors can be very heavy, meaning some residents will need assistance getting through. This can reduce independence and they may even feel trapped in their own home if they can’t get through the doors alone.

These reasons could lead to residents in sheltered housing and care homes to wedge open their fire doors. However, fire doors can only serve their purpose if they are shut.

Click the tabs below for examples of how wedged/closed fire doors have changed the outcome of fires in care homes.

**In 2005, Rhos Priory care home suffered an electrical fire in the laundry room. Residents were told by staff to remain in the rooms, but as the fire got out of hand all 35 residents had to be evacuated. Four of them had to be taken to hospital after the fire, but luckily were discharged the same day.

When the firefighters entered the building they found the self closers in the fire doors had been tampered with, stopping them from closing properly. There were also multiple wedged open doors throughout the building. This prevented effective compartmentation and allowed for the smoke and fire to spread. The care home manager was fined for failing to keep residents safe.

***In 2014, Donwell House care home were fined £380,000 after a woman was hospitalised due to a fire. Following an investigation, the Fire & Rescue Service found that the fire and smoke had spread from a bedroom through to the hallway because some of the doors were wedged open. This meant that the residents were not able to use the corridor for a means of escape and one resident had to be rescued from a first floor window.

If the fire doors were not wedged open, the fire would have been contained in one room which would have prevented the fire from spreading.

****In 2015, a fire broke out at Summerlands Care Home due to a tumble dryer fault. Staff evacuated 17 residents and firefighters evacuated 6. When the fire service went to tackle the fire they noticed that it had been contained due to all the fire doors being closed. This meant that the blaze could be extinguished and damage was minimised. Not only this, all the residents were safely evacuated.

This is a perfect example of how fire doors play a vital role in saving lives during a fire.

Click here to find out how staff safely evacuated all residents with the help of Fireco products.

Wedging doors open is illegal and can lead to major damage to property, business disruption, large fines and even fatalities. Fire doors can be seen as problematic in the daily lives of residents, however in the long run can save lives. There are legal and safe ways to hold open fire doors, whilst also empowering elderly residents.

*https://www.northyorksfire.gov.uk/communitysafety/elderly-vulnerable

**https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/boss-fined-after-care-home-2891676

***https://www.ifsecglobal.com/fire-news/5-care-home-operators-regret-fire-safety-negligence/

****https://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/incidents-news-and-events/news-releases/2015/six-rescued-from-care-home/

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25 years of fire safety compliance

25 years of fire safety compliance

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?

Why do students wedge open fire doors?

Why do students wedge open fire doors?

Universities and halls of residence have a higher than normal risk of fire. With 80% of students admitting to regularly taking part in activities that risk fire in their accommodation*. One element of fire safety that often seems to be considered as more of a hindrance than help, are fire doors.

Fire doors are a vital part of fire safety, especially for places of multiple occupancy. They compartmentalise a room by trapping a fire for 30-60 minutes. This allows more time for the fire service to reach the fire and extinguish it before it spreads through the whole building. If the fire doors in university halls are wedged open, a fire will spread extremely quickly, putting lives at risk and causing damage to housing.

So why do students wedge open fire doors?

Social reasons- Students have left home for the first time and will want to meet as many people as possible, especially the ones in their living area. An ‘open door policy’ may be applied so that they seem more welcoming to new friends. If every door in their flat is going to close automatically, the students will wedge them open.

Practical purposes- Especially on moving in day, students will want ease of access to their room in order to move everything in. Some fire officers will allow a temporary wedging to help with this. However, students may feel this to be more convenient than their door being closed, so are likely to continue using a wedge.

To reduce noise- There is a lot of human traffic going through university halls, meaning that the fire doors will be closing regularly. Fire doors are very heavy and some door closers cause them to slam shut. Consequently, leading to students wedging them open to minimise noise.

To improve access- Heavy fire doors with automatic door closers can be problematic for people with mobility issues. This may lead to doors being wedged open for ease of access around their flat.

May be unaware- Students have been living in a home environment where fire safety may not be a concern and fire doors may not have been around. Because of this students might not realise the important role that fire doors have.

Influence of alcohol- Throughout university, and especially freshers week, there will be many parties and nights out- usually with drinking involved. This can be where risky behaviour is increased. For example, 50% of students admit to cooking whilst under the influence*, also known as ‘drunk frying’. Along with this comes drying clothes on electric heaters and smoking inside.

On top of this, students may also take batteries from fire alarms, and disable door closers by damaging them.

In October 2015, a fire spread through university accommodation in Bristol. The fire was started by an unattended pan of oil left on a stove and it got so severe that all students in the building had to be evacuated. After the fire had been controlled, the building had been deemed unsafe to live, meaning over 100 students were rehomed. No students were harmed from this incident because all the fire alarms went off and everyone evacuated.

The video also shows the massive role that fire doors play. You can see that the fire door on one side is completely damaged by the fire and one side is still mostly intact. This is a demonstration of how fire doors compartmentalise a building and help trap a fire to reduce or slow spread.

A students priorities are not always in line with fire safety strategies. Students feel in their daily lives that they need to use wedges under their doors because they have no other option. However, there are safer ways to hold open doors. Hold-open devices and free swing door closers can be applied in order to improve access and ventilation, whilst complying with regulations and keeping the building fire safe.

*https://web.zurich.co.uk/municipal/products-and-services/your-sector/further-and-higher-education/student-fires

**Video https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-34513810

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25 years of fire safety compliance

25 years of fire safety compliance

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 prevent the spread of fire

How to prevent the spread of fire

After the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, fire safety is an issue on everyone’s minds. Questions are being asked about inadequate safety measures causing fire to spread rapidly through buildings with large numbers of occupants.

The Grenfell Tower investigation is ongoing, but clearly fire protection measures either failed or were not there in the first place. It is important to address how disasters like this can be avoided in the future.

Keeping fire contained

To prevent a fire from spreading, different sections of a building must be built as fire-resistant compartments. This means they will resist the passage of fire for a specified period of time. If a fire is contained in a compartment, it won’t spread to other parts of the building. People can evacuate safely and firefighters can extinguish the fire.

In a tower block, for instance, each flat should be a separate, fire resistant compartment. This would ensure that if one resident started a fire, it would not spread to other flats for a specified amount of time (usually 30 minutes).

Day-to-day, the most important way for a building’s occupants to keep a building safe is through keeping fire doors closed. Fire doors are specially made to resist fire for a certain amount of time and keep the fire contained within that compartment. If the door is open, the fire will spread rapidly. This is why wedging open fire doors is so dangerous.

Compartmentation keeps a fire contained, giving time for emergency services to deal with the situation. People should also be able to evacuate safely and damage to a building is minimised.

Make sure you are aware of holes and gaps in the walls from installing piping and wiring through a building. When you drill holes through a building to run cables and those holes aren’t filled in, you severely compromise any fire safety plans in place. If a fire starts, it will spread through any gaps, igniting anything flammable in its path.

Keep people informed

Hand in hand with compartmentation is the need for all building users to have clear information on what is the safest action to take, whether that is to stay put and await the fire service, or evacuate safely.

It is important to note that a building’s occupants should only be advised to stay put if compartmentation measures are in place. If fire doors, and fire resistant wall and ceiling protection materials are inadequate, it is NOT SAFE for building users to be advised to stay put. Under these circumstances, occupants should evacuate as quickly as possible.

Evacuation routes need to be clearly marked, all building users, including visitors, need to be informed of fire safety procedures, and information has to be readily available at all times so people can check anything if they are unsure.

All landlords, building owners, managers, and other responsible people have a clear responsibility under the law that their premises meet all fire safety requirements. Buildings must be effectively maintained to provide protection in the event of a fire.

A thorough risk assessment must be carried out to make sure that all buildings have the correct fire safety measures in place. When regulations are breached, lives are at risk.

Lessons from Lakanal House

Unfortunately, lessons were not learned from the Lakanal House tower block fire. Southwark Council was fined £570,000 for a 2009 tower block fire in which six people were killed. The London Fire Brigade brought the prosecution against the council as Lakanal House in Camberwell, south London, had a number of structural and safety issues which breached fire regulations.

During the investigation into the cause of the fire, it was revealed that 999 operators had told residents to stay in their flats. This meant that some residents were trapped when the fire spread more rapidly than anticipated.

Stay put was the wrong advice

Emergency service operators were rightly following the ‘stay put’ procedure for tower blocks which has been in place since the 1990s. When dealing with emergency situations, 999 operators offer advice based on the assumption that buildings have the correct fire safety measures in place, for example that fire doors would be closed and not wedged open and fire resistant materials would be incorporated into the building’s walls and ceilings. These measures prevent flames and smoke from spreading.

However, this was not the case at Lakanal House. There were inadequate compartmentation measures in place including an absence of strips or seals on doors in the buildings, a lack of cavity barriers in the ceilings and inadequate fire protection to the timber stairs in the common corridor.

At the inquest, Peter Holland, Chief Fire and Rescue advisor for the Communities and Local Government department, stated that correct compartmentation is vital for the ‘stay put’ policy in tower blocks to be safe. This would have kept the fire contained for one hour while the emergency services dealt with the situation. As the correct measures were not in place in Lakanal House, the fire spread at an alarmingly fast rate.

Due to the unprecedented nature of the situation, there was no clear guidance for operators on what was the safest action to take for residents of Lakanal House. According to Peter Holland, this would have been for residents to be told to evacuate if they felt they were in jeopardy.

Who is responsible?

Dan Daly, London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: “All landlords, including large housing providers, such as councils and housing associations, have a clear responsibility under the law that their premises meet all fire safety requirements are effectively maintained to provide protection in the event of a fire and keep their residents safe.”

It is essential that risk assessments are carried out to make sure that buildings have the correct fire safety measures in place. Closed fire doors and other fire-resistant structures are vital to prevent the spread of fire in a building, so the fire can be contained and residents can stay safe or evacuate. When these regulations are breached, lives are at risk.

Need straightforward advice on fire regulations?

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