Introduction to fire doors
Fire doors are now a legal requirement in almost all commercial buildings, most accommodation premises – including blocks of flats, sheltered accommodation, housing in multiple occupation etc and even some larger owned houses.
Why are they important?
You first need to understand the difference between compartmentation and passive fire protection. Compartmentation is the idea behind passive fire protection. The process of stopping an active fire from spreading further. It is a structural design principal requiring areas of the building to be sealed off from each other by fire resistant materials. So if a fire occurs in one area it cannot or will take a long time to spread to the other area. This is for the purpose of protecting escape routes for occupants of other areas and to hope to prevent the premises from burning down.
What is a fire door then?
A fire door is a door that stops the spread of fire. They are constructed from material designed to resist fire for a certain amount of time rather than a normal door. The most common types are either 30 or 60 minute fire resistance although you can have specialist doors made up where they have four hours of fire resistance.
You will often see fire doors around buildings where they have a blue circle on with white text stating “fire door keep shut” these signs are mandatory and identify doors within a building. Another common indicator is the existence of a door closer which is mandatory on most fire doors.
Essential items of fire door furniture
Any component of a fire door other than the actual door leaf and its frame will fall under the term “fire door hardware” or “fire door furniture” including hinges and edge guards and some pieces of furniture are considered “essential items” these are all mandatory for doors. The most important items are hinges, appropriate signage, and either a lock or an automatic door closer.
Fire doors have components such as furniture and aesthetic components which penetrate the surface of the door – or wrap around the door from one side to the other – must be fire rated. This includes hinges onto the frame such as intumescent seals and strips as well as a door closer fitted at the top.
For example it is no use hanging an FD60 fire door with a standard lock.
Intumescent seals and smoke protection
When hanging fire doors intumescent materials are often used to swell and enlarge when exposed to heat. This thus seals any gaps in and around a fire door blocking the path of a fire or smoke. Intumescent fire seals are required around the edges of doors although they can be attached to the frame as well.
Strips of intumescent material may be required between frame and hinges as well as the hinge in the door. Intumescent sealant is often used as an expanding foam between the frame and the wall and other gaps to be filled. The intumescent seals around the edges of the doors and frame will often have integrated smoke brush to stop the spread of smoke and these are called cold smoke seals.
You should be aware that smoke has a tendency to spread a lot quicker than fire. It often will not provide enough heat to activate intumescent seals allowing it to flow around the door within its frame. This often can’t be avoided but you should speak to the manufacturer. Fire doors leading to fire escapes often have a policy that they would need cold smoke seals.
Fire door retainers
Fire doors are put in properties to stop the spread of fire within buildings and they are absolutely essential. The whole purpose of fire doors are equipped with fire door closers so that when people pass through them they automatically close.
Fire door retainers are used when there is a free flow of people throughout a building and can hold a door in its position and release the door in case of fire allowing the door to close the door shut. They are an alternative but you should check whether they are acceptable in your area.
There are various different types such as electro magnet fire door holders and acoustically activated fire doors.
There is a third option which is a premium choice and includes free swing door closers. They are battery powered and acoustically triggered as a free swing door closer. The door closer mechanism remains inactive as standard and will only activate on hearing the fire alarm.
Summary for fire doors
Fire doors are an absolute crucial defence against the spread of fire. You should check with your local fire brigade on whether they are required. They are designed to contain a blaze for long enough in order for the occupants to be able to escape the property safely whilst also limiting the damage caused by the fire. They can be crucial barriers in a building.
This may change once the report comes out on the recent fire that took place on a block of flats and at the present time this is the situation.
There are different types of door retainers such as:-
- Door mouse – they are cheap retainers and have no batteries. They are installed at the top or bottom of the door or at the back of the door.
- Door guard – they are a quick install and holds the door open in its position and are perfect for a retro fit. They are triggered by loud continued noises and either installed at the bottom or the front of the door.
- Agrippa – can be fitted for a specific fire alarm sound they are installed at either the top or the bottom of the door.
- Geze T000EF – they are battery operated and very easy of opening a door. They are installed at the top of the door and the bottom at the front or the back of the door.
- Freedor – these are a cheaper installation and requires a battery change and are at the top of the door or the bottom.
- Agrippa free swing – again a cheaper installation and can be installed at the front or back of the door.
It is important as a landlord, freeholder, managing agent or right to manage that you take everything into account. Most fires can be prevented by taking some basic and common sense precautions. There are specific guidelines for shared or rented properties.
Did you know?
- About 200 people die a year in accidental fires at home.
- Not having a working smoke alarm makes the risk of dying in a fire at least four times greater.
- Faulty electrics (appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) cause around 6000 fires in the home each year.
- 2 fires a day are started by candles
- What are your landlord’s obligations to keep your home safe from fire?
- It is your responsibility to meet the safety requirements under the law. This includes making sure gas and electric appliances are safe and in a good working order.
- You must ensure that your property has at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home used as living accommodation.
- You must check that all gas appliances have a gas safety every year and are served on the tenant within 30 days and are acknowledged.
- All electrical appliances must carry a British Safety standard sign.
- As a landlord you must ensure that all furnishings are fire resistant and meet safety regulations
- You must show that you have a fire safety certificate so that you can tell the tenants and so that they can see when the gas and electrical appliances were last checked.
- You must ensure that carbon monoxide alarm is present in all rooms containing solid fuel burning appliance and are used as living accommodation. Landlords must test these and are required to have smoke alarms on the first day of the tenancy.
- Landlords need to ensure that there is a planned escape route at the property and that everybody knows it.
It is important that a fire risk assessment is carried out every five years in relation to your property to ensure that you are secure.