Fire door safety: have you checked yours recently?

Did you know that during the last week in September it was fire door safety week? It was particularly timely from my perspective as recently in virtually every assessment I’ve done there’s been some kind of problem with the fire doors. Doors not closing properly, doors missing seals, doors not having sufficient hinges… the list goes on and on. In fact, I have even come across several doors with fire door signage on them and then discovered they are not even fire doors!

Fire doors play a critical role in delaying the spread of smoke and fire and in keeping occupants and fire fighters safe. But they can only do their job if they are correctly specified, fitted and maintained and inspected. And left closed! Because even the best maintained fire door cannot do its job if it’s been left propped wide open.

Getting the message out about how important fire doors are is at the heart of the safety week. It’s a national campaign run by the British Woodworking Federation, the Fire Door Alliance and the Fire Door Inspection Scheme, in conjunction with the Home Office’s National Fire Safety campaign. The week aims to highlight just how vital a role fire doors have. After all, they don’t really seem like the most obvious bit of fire-fighting kit so they do tend to get disregarded. But a door that can hold back an advancing fire, giving people precious time to escape out of a building? That’s a pretty impressive achievement for such a humble looking piece of kit! 

Hopefully I’ve got you thinking about your fire doors. So what should you do about them? Well, as a starting point, you could do this simple 5 step check:

Check for certification

You need to find the label that identifies a certificated fire door. You’ll usually find it on top of the door so (unless you are exceptionally tall) you’ll find it helpful to use either your phone to take a photo or a mirror so you can see if there’s a label up there.  

Check the gaps 

Could smoke and fire quickly get through any gaps around your door? To do an approximate check on this, see if the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when it’s closed. Use a one pound coin (which is around 3 mm thick) to help you judge.  The gap underneath can be a bit more – even up to 8mm- but it depends on the door.  If you can see light underneath, it’s likely to be too big a gap to be safe.

Check the seals 

An intumescent seal swells up if exposed to heat, increasing in volume and blocking fire and smoke from getting through the gaps. They’re located around the door or frame and it’s essential they are intact with no sign of damage, otherwise they won’t offer the protection they should.

Check the hinges 

Are there three or more hinges that are firmly fixed in place? There shouldn’t be any missing or broken screws. It’s an important indicator of a well maintained door and essential for holding the door in the correct position to maintain the necessary gap space.  

Check the door closes properly 

A fire door should be able to close cleanly and firmly onto the latch. It shouldn’t catch on the floor or on the frame. Check by opening the door to around halfway then let it close by itself.

If you’ve any cause for concern then you need to act immediately to get it sorted because you have no idea when you might need to rely on that fire door.

Remember while the 5 step check is useful for identifying any immediate issues that need attention, it doesn’t replace a full inspection by a qualified specialist and it doesn’t take into account the specific nature of your premises or occupants.  If you’d like to find out more about our fire door inspection services or arrange to have your fire doors inspected, please do get in touch with us.

Posted: 1st October 2018

Debbie Thomas