Fire Door Safety Week is a time when the fire industry works to raise awareness of the critical role fire doors play in keeping people safe. The campaign aims to educate the public about the regulations around fire doors and fire safety.
This year’s main focus was fire doors in high rise buildings, houses of multiple occupancy and other types of shared accommodation. Fire Door Safety Week campaigners are renewing their call for a publicly available national register of Responsible Persons for fire safety in rented accommodation.
Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week, said:
“When we start digging, the identity of the Responsible Person is often a mystery. Our research shows that tenants don’t know who to report fire safety concerns to. Even worse, when we surveyed those who are responsible for fire safety, half of them didn’t even know or were unclear about their role.”
Fire Door Safety Week research from 2016 found that 58% of all flat tenants surveyed and over 70% of lower income tenants had no idea who the Responsible Person was in their building. If tenants have no idea who the Responsible Person is, they will be unable to report any fire safety concerns. This means dangerous breaches of fire regulations could go unchecked putting residents at risk.
Why are fire doors so important?
There are about three million new fire doors bought and installed in the UK every year. They are often the first line of defence against the spread of fire, however they remain a significant area of neglect.
Many people don’t understand the purpose of fire doors and why they need to remain closed. They just see them as a heavy door that gets in the way. This can lead to them being propped or wedged open, rendering them useless if a fire does break out.
Life is easier if a fire door can be held open. It makes it easier to get around a building and allows circulation of air for improved ventilation. It prevents injuries from heavy doors closing too quickly, and allows less mobile people more freedom of movement.
According to a 2017 survey by Ironmongery Direct, 49% of people surveyed had seen a fire door propped open and 36% admitted they would prop a fire door open if they needed easier access.
The fact is, fire doors save lives. They are a building’s armour in a fire, blocking fire and smoke from spreading. Closed fire doors give people a route to evacuate safely, and the emergency services have a protected route into the building, if required.
What are the penalties for wedging open fire doors?
Poor fire door safety causes damage, injury and loss of life. Last year a care group was forced to pay a fine and costs totalling £410,000 after putting the lives of their residents and staff at risk. Donwell House Care Home in Washington had serious fire safety breaches including fire doors wedged open. The risk assessment had identified the need to install hold open door devices that closed in an emergency but this had not been actioned.
The breaches came to light after a fire in September 2014 where a pensioner had to be rescued from her window and taken to hospital. The door was wedged open in the room where the fire started, which allowed smoke and heat to spread to the communal corridor and into a bedroom which also had a wedged open door.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Community Safety Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:
“This fine imposed by the judge is one of the most significant we are aware of for a case of this kind. It should serve as a warning to businesses, and especially care home operators, that failure to carry out their responsibilities regarding fire safety can and will have serious consequences.”
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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?
For Fire Door Safety Week 2020 we spoke to Darren Young from 1st Aid Fire, who shared his knowledge on the importance of fire doors and how to maintain them.