Unlike any other item of fire safety equipment installed in our buildings fire doors are often subject to high levels of use which make them especially vulnerable to the effects of wear & tear.
Add to this the potential for damage, either accidental or deliberate, caused by staff & visitors & it is not difficult to imagine why many of the fire doors installed in our buildings are unlikely to deliver the required level of protection in the event of a fire.
Indeed it is estimated by BWF Certifire that in excess of 80% of installed one hour fire doors will in reality not provide one hour fire rating. Based on our experience of inspecting numerous fire door installations we would suggest that there is nothing unique about the way in which 30 minute rated fire doors are specified, installed or maintained that will significantly alter this failure rate.
As a vital element in the overall fire strategy of a building, fire doors are designed to retard the passage of fire, smoke & hot gasses whilst at the same time providing a safe means of escape for building users.
Perhaps surprisingly for such an important item of fire safety equipment many doors are not subject the “suitable system of maintenance” required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 & as is clearly demonstrated by the accompanying photographs, neither are they “maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order & in good repair”, another key element of the RRO.
The absence of a suitable inspection & maintenance regime undoubtedly increases the risk of prosecution, fines & even custodial sentences for building owners & managers but should the worst happen the consequences could be nothing short of catastrophic.
What follows are just a few photographs of the many, many issues that have been identified by our team of inspectors during their inspections of fire doors in a wide range of buildings. They demonstrate very graphically the huge variety of ways in which the expected performance of a fire door can be undermined.
If they do nothing else they highlight the need for the regular & systematic inspection of fire doors by a knowledgeable individual. Moreover, they clearly support the view held by BWF Certifire that “the installation of a fire door is a complex procedure requiring a detailed understanding of the important role played by each component & therefore needs to be undertaken by someone with the correct training”.
If you have any concerns about the condition of fire doors in your building or would like to discuss the ways in which Checkmate Fire Solutions can help inspect, remediate & install fire doors please do not hesitate to contact us.
Along with the correct specification for the fire doors and hardware the selection of a skilled and knowledge contractor to install the doors is a key stage of the process of building in fire compliance. In this instance a good quality door appears to have been specified and supplied to site but on further investigation there were a number of issues giving cause for concern. The most obvious of which being the hanging of the door leaves on 2 hinges. A minimum of 3 and occasionally 4 hinges per leaf are required.
Possibly the single most important item of fire door hardware, the hinge has a vital role to play in ensuring that the fire door leaf remains in place for the required period in the event of a fire related incident. To work as tested they have to be installed correctly using the correct size and number of fixings. Instances such as this are simply the result of poor quality workmanship and a lack of attention to detail but a failure to identify and deal them could have serious repercussions in the event of a fire.
For door closing devices to function they clearly have to be correctly installed and securely fixed to the door and frame. Whilst the problems associated with these particular examples are easy to identify and relatively straightforward to fix, the question of how long they had been in this condition remains. The introduction of a regular inspection and maintenance regime would go a long way to ensuring that fire doors are in good condition and can be relied upon to perform as required should the worst happen.
The gap between glazing and the glazing bead is a potential weak point in the overall construction of a fire door. For this reason it should be protected with an appropriate intumescent glazing system. The use of general builder’s sealants or fillers is never the right thing to do.
The use of multiple push plates or the fitting push plates where they would not normally be required is often a sign that there may be unsealed penetrations through the door leaf. Whilst push plates may offer very limited protection against the passage of smoke they do nothing to reinstate the integrity of the door.
Damaged or missing smoke seals should be replaced with minimum delay.
The need to provide “make up” air to an area protected by fire doors can often be the cause of major issues. It is simply not sufficient to cut a large hole in the door, install a louver cover and expect that the door will continue to perform as a fire door. Unless steps are taken to install a suitable intumescent grille and to prevent the passage of cold smoke through the door then the overall fire rating of the door will be destroyed and it will offer no protection to the building or its occupants in the event of a fire.
The routine and systematic inspection of fire door should identify problems such as this as they are so obviously wrong. In many instances however the presence of louver covers to both faces of the door can make some issues difficult to spot. Whilst there are certain clues that can help the process often the best solution is to undertake a more invasive inspection.
The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 place a mandatory obligation on building owners and managers to install appropriate fire door signage. In the same way that escape route signage should be clear and consistent throughout a building so as to avoid confusion should the need to evacuate arise, fire door signs should also present a clear, consistent message to building users. What are staff supposed to do when confronted by signs identifying doors as fire doors which should be kept shut but at the same time advising them of danger if the doors are not left open?
As with all aspects of the management of fire doors it is important that a regular and systematic inspection regime is in place which would identify issues such as this and take steps to rectify them.
There are almost as many different methods of wedging a fire door open as there are designs of door. Staff wedge open fire doors for a variety of reasons but in almost every instance they are fully aware of the need to ensure that doors are not prevented from closing. Clearly, a wedged open fire door provides no protection for the building, its’ occupants and the vital equipment and information that may be present. Where found, wedges should always be removed but staff will invariably find alternatives methods of holding the door open. A variety of automatic hold open devices are available that will allow staff to have the door open but ensure the door will close in the event of an activation of the fire alarm.
The installation of additional services in the vicinity of any fire compartment line can often result in damage being caused. In many instances the damage is either left unrepaired or is repaired using incorrect materials. In this instance the contractor made life easier for themselves by running cables around the door leaf using the channel intended for the intumescent strip. The result is a fire door that can no longer deliver the required fire rating and of course a repair bill for the building owner / manager. The selection of a competent contractor to undertake any works that impact on the performance of fire doors is a critical first step to ensuring continued compliance.
Whilst fire doors have a vitally important role to play should the worst happen it must be remembered that many of the fire doors installed in our buildings are also in regular use by staff and visitors. Coming across a door that is difficult to open can be both inconvenient and frustrating in the normal course of events but being confronted by such a door when you need to evacuate a building in an emergency situation can be nothing short of dangerous and even life threatening. Current requirements are that a force not exceeding 30 Newtons should be required to open the door from closed to 30 degrees open.
Identifying any problems by carrying out a quick and simple test is the first step to ensuring compliance.