Fire Doors - bit of a nuisance?

We see them everywhere, in offices, public buildings, shops, restaurants, everywhere? But what is the point of fire doors and do we really need them?

We are all aware that fire can kill. People can be burned by fire but far more commonly it is the smoke that kills and injures people. In the last year, for which we have complete statistics (2013 – 2014) there were just under 170,000 fires in total across all types of incident, resulting in 275 fire deaths and 8,132 non-fatal injuries.

It is interesting to contrast fires, deaths and (non-fatal) injuries between dwelling fires (homes) and other non-dwelling buildings, particularly as the use of fire doors is very common in non-dwellings, much less so in homes.

As can be seen in the table above, you are roughly twice as likely to be involved in a fire in a residential dwelling such as your home, than in other types of buildings. Even ignoring the greater frequency of fires in the home, we can see that you are less likely to be injured or die as a result of a fire in a non-residential building.

There are other means of protection used in non-residential buildings, which are not often found in the home such as sprinklers, fire-resistant construction methods, smoke curtains, etc. Even taking this into account it would appear that it is much safer in non-dwellings, as far as fire is concerned.

One of the principle reasons is fire doors. So in answer to the original question, ‘do we need fire doors’, the answer is yes! Generally buildings are compartmentalised to prevent the spread of fire and smoke, however people still need to move around the building whilst maintaining the protection, and that is what fire doors do. Fire doors prevent the spread of fire (of course) and importantly smoke. Smoke not only has the potential to cause injury and death, it also reduces visibility and can cause panic, and so preventing it from spreading through a building for as long as possible is important.

Some fire doors contain intumescent strips, to prevent the spread of fire through the gaps around the edges; others contain intumescent and smoke strips, although more modern designs tend to have an all-in-one strip that combines both. The door will be marked with a code, such as FD30, indicating that it should resist the spread of fire for 30 minutes. Where it also has a smoke seal this is indicated by an ‘s’ suffix, as in FD30s.

No matter how good a fire door is at doing its job, it is rendered useless if it is wedged open. Smoke can spread very rapidly along corridors and into rooms when fire doors are open. Next time you are in a building and see a door incorrectly held open, remove whatever is being used to wedge it open; you may just save someone’s life!

If you have questions about fire risk assessment, or for help on any aspect of fire safety, call us on 01524 784356 today.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

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