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Saving lives with fire doors

About three million new fire doors are manufactured, bought and installed in the UK every year, and the vast majority are made from timber. Hannah Mansell, Head of Technical Research & Insight at the British Woodworking Federation, explains how to make sure Firedoors do what they're supposed to do in the event of a fire, namely save lives!

One really important use for wood in buildings is in the manufacture of fire doors. About three million new fire doors are manufactured by BWF members, bought and installed in the UK every year, and the vast majority are made from timber.

Fire doors are often a vital line of defence against the spread of fire and smoke. They literally save lives. However, the sad reality is that fire doors are often poorly installed or maintained. They might be damaged or even just left propped open which defeats their purpose and significantly increases the risk of serious injuries or death in the event of a fire.

It’s for this reason that we launched Fire Door Safety Week (24th-30th September 2018). Now in its sixth year, Fire Door Safety Week aims to stamp out the legacy of fire door neglect, raise awareness of the important role that fire doors play and urge landlords and tenants to prepare by familiarising themselves with the fire safety protections and plans  in their building.

Research conducted to coincide with Fire Door Safety Week found that the public’s awareness of fire safety, or would they should do in the event of a fire, is worryingly low and that people have  lost confidence in their buildings ability to delay the spread of fire and smoke.

Almost three quarters (72%) of flat tenants we surveyed would ignore the guidance to ‘stay put’ if there was a fire in their building and their particular flat was not affected by fire or smoke.

When residents were asked why they would not follow the stay put advice, 39% said they do not have confidence in their building’s ability to stop the spread of smoke and fire, 28% said they do not understand why the ‘stay put’ advice is in place and 61% stated they would rather take matters into their own hands.  In the last year, only 25% of tenants have been reassured or had discussions with their landlord about fire safety in their building.

The research also highlighted confusion around who is responsible for maintaining fire doors, with only 38% correctly identifying the landlord, while 16% of tenants believe it’s the fire brigade, 8% the residents association and 15% the management company. 14% do not know who should be maintaining or repairing their fire doors.

Landlords and tenants should all be taking responsibility and checking the safety of their fire doors through this simple 5 step check:

The 5 Step Check

  • Check for certification: Is there a label or plug on top (or occasionally on the side) of the door to show it is a certificated fire door?
  • Check the gaps: Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently around 3 mm when closed. The gap under the door can be slightly larger (up to 8mm is not uncommon), but it does depend on the door - as a rule of thumb, if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big.
  •  Check the seals: Are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are usually vital to the fire door's performance, expanding if in contact with heat to ensure fire cannot move through the cracks. Many fire doors also have a smoke seal around the perimeter as well as the intumescent seal. This brush or fin seal should fill the gap when the door is closed.
  • Check the hinges: Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws?
  •  Check the door closes properly: Is the door easy to operate and does it close fully? Open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame? A fire door only works when it’s closed – it is completely useless if it’s wedged open or can’t close fully.

We hope that Fire Door Safety Week will have a real impact this year; a third-party certified, properly installed and maintained can save lives. We need to keep the fight for industry change alive.

For more information please visit: www.firedoorsafetyweek.com

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