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Are fire doors doing their job?

At a glance

  • Fire doors are a vital safety feature in many properties
  • However, increased fire losses resulting from fire door failures are surprisingly common
  • We explain what property owners and tenants should do to ensure their fire doors are working as they should

This article counts towards accumulating your annual CII CPD structured learning hours for Real Estate.

By reading this article, and correctly answering the three questions underneath, you will have achieved the following learning outcome: Describe some of the key risks associated with Modern Methods of Construction.

Visit the CPD Hub to log in and begin accumulating CPD hours.

Fires represent one of the greatest threats to your customers’ tenants and properties, but fire doors can play a pivotal role in minimising losses.

There are on average 162 building fires in the UK every day, with 80% occurring in residential properties.

Fire doors, if fitted correctly, are a vital safety feature in buildings as they help to prevent the rapid spread of fire and are a legal requirement in a significant proportion of residential properties. However, they are not always used to best effect.

Here, we look at some common challenges and explain what your customers can do to help improve fire safety in their properties.

Fire door failures are surprisingly common

Figures from the London Fire and Rescue Service suggest that in around a dozen fires each year in the capital, there are significant failures due to fire doors having been replaced, left open or fitted incorrectly.

Common fire door faults can include:

  • Wedging open of self-closing doors
  • Damage to, or removal of, self-closing devices (typically over-head closers)
  • Damage to the integrity of the door leaf – typically mechanical or malicious damage
  • Removal of fire-resistant glazing
  • Straining of hinges, preventing closure of the door
  • Movement/misalignment of the doorframe, preventing door closure
  • Removal/damage to intumescent strips and smoke seals
  • Incorrect specification/installation of fire doors/doorsets

Other potential hazards can include – incorrect signage, unsuitable hinges, damage to the floor and a gap of more than 3mm between the door and its frame.

Selecting the right fire door

Fire doors are given a rating based on the amount of time it takes for the door to perish in a fire. The most common ratings, as referenced in UK Building Regulations and Standards, are FD30 and FD60, although higher-rated doors such as FD90 and FD120 are available and offer additional protection.

Tip 1: Fire doors are tested for limited smoke passage and a fire door with smoke protection requirements will be described with the suffix ‘S’, e.g. FD30S.

Find out more about how to choose the right fire door.

Case study

In 2011 two women died following a fire in a 16th floor flat in south-east London.

An investigation found the fire door in the flat had been prevented from closing by a metal security door fitted immediately in front of it, which accelerated the spread of smoke to the lobby.

Earlier this year, the property owner was fined a large sum after pleading guilty to failing to properly maintain the fire doors and keep its Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order Fire Risk Assessment under review.

Challenges when refurbishing properties

If your customers are refurbishing their properties, it is important that they understand how specifications, installation and alterations, such as glazing, could impact on fire door performance.

Manufacturers test their fire doors in laboratory conditions with suitable door hardware (such as locks, latches, hinges and door closers), which helps them understand the type of configuration in which the door may be used and the type of door hardware that may be fitted with it.

Tip 2: Your customers should ensure they check the door manufacturer’s installation instructions and data sheets to ensure they install the doors that will work best for individual locations.

Helping prevent major loss from fires

Fire doors are designed to prevent fires spreading and causing major loss as they can make a real difference to the impact of a fire. Tragedies have occurred as a result of a failure to ensure they have been installed and are being used correctly.

As such, door repairs, maintenance and replacement should be carried out by a knowledgeable specialist who has the necessary competence and expertise.

Tip 3: The Architectural and Specialist Door Manufacturer’s Association (ASDMA) has produced a Best Practice Guide to Timber Fire Doors for anyone involved in the specification, procurement, installation, use and maintenance of timber fire doors.

If you would like further information on the topic of fire doors, please speak to your local Zurich contact.

You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire Risk Resource.</strong

Image © Getty

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