Q & A: How to keep fire doors compliant with Fireco's expert
In 2019 the Fire Door Inspection Scheme carried out research which uncovered that a shocking 76% of doors inspected were deemed unfit for purpose!
Many of our products are either installed onto fire doors or are related to fire doors in some way. It concerned us to realise that we were potentially installing our products onto non-compliant doors. And without specialist fire door training, we couldn’t do much other than to recommend customers book an inspection with another provider.
With many customers already asking us whether we offered fire door services, we decided it was time to take action and start getting our team certified so that we could offer a range of fire door services!
After launching the services in 2021, we’ve since introduced fire door inspections, measure up and supply, and supply and install. We’ve partnered with a range of certified door manufacturers so that we can offer compliant doorsets. And, our team has undergone rigorous training, achieving certification with BM TRADA and FDIS.
With that in mind, we wanted to sit down with Martin Pearce CertFDI, our Fire Door Consultant, to find out more about his journey into the world of fire doors and how he can help people keep fire doors compliant and safe!
Sasha: Hi Martin, thanks for taking time in your schedule to speak with me today! I thought we could start with you telling us a bit about your career background and how this has evolved into working with fire doors.
Martin: No worries! I’m glad I can share my knowledge with everyone as I don’t often get to speak to customers unless I’m out on a job.
My first job after leaving college was as a trainee manager with a timber importer. Since then I have held several different jobs, both employed and self-employed. Although I didn’t plan it, those jobs have all involved working with, within or alongside the timber industry.
S: So you already had some knowledge that could be applied to working with fire doors! Tell us more about your journey into that fire door world.
M: I joined Fireco as a Field Service Engineer, surveying, installing and servicing products used on fire doors and training others. It was an obvious step to take when I was offered the chance to be trained in fire door installation and inspection as I was already working with them.
S: Well, with that, I’d love to ask you some common questions around fire doors that will help our readers!
What are fire doors and why are they important?
For most, and perhaps all, of its life, a fire door will have the same purpose as a ‘normal’ door. It allows passage through the walls in a building. However, if there is a fire then, unlike a normal door, the fire door has to perform its primary and critical function of containing the fire, potentially suppressing the fire and protecting escape routes.
People should think of a fire door as an ‘engineered life safety product’. It’s an essential part of the fire safety system in a building, protecting people as well as the contents and the fabric of the building.
What legislation covers fire doors?
There are two important pieces of legislation affecting fire doors. The Building Regulations 2010 covers new-builds, extensions, material alterations to a building and the material change of use of a building.
Once the building is in use, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 imposes the legal requirement to manage the risk of fire and maintain the building’s fire safety systems.
In addition, the Fire Safety Act 2021 has become law and has clarified and emphasised certain requirements of the Fire Safety Order – and is likely to lead to further changes or tightening.
How often should fire doors be inspected?
And that piece of string is how long? There is no specific frequency required by legislation, but best practice recommends that fire doors are inspected at least every 6 months.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the Responsible Person to ensure that a suitable system of inspection and maintenance is in place so that fire doors are able to perform their primary function and continue to do so throughout their working life. A risk-based approach may, therefore, dictate that fire doors should be inspected more frequently than every 6 months. Especially in some cases, for example, if the fire doors are heavily used or subject to abuse.
Who should be checking fire doors?
For a fire door to function correctly in a fire, it’s essential that the door is inspected and maintained correctly. The Responsible Person (e.g. the owner of the building, employer, headteacher, landlord etc) may not have great knowledge about fire doors. They can appoint competent persons to assist them. But, the legal responsibility remains with them. The Responsible Person, therefore, needs to be certain that whoever inspects the fire doors has the necessary knowledge and expertise.
Third-party certification schemes are an excellent way to achieve that peace of mind. These schemes ensure that the person doing the work has been trained, assessed and is regularly audited. So the Responsible Person can be confident that the work has been conducted professionally and competently, and they can therefore demonstrate that they have taken steps to comply with their legal obligations.
What does a fire door inspection include?
When we talk about fire doors we actually mean fire doorsets. The door frame, the door leaf and all the fittings on the door work together and have to be compatible so that, along with the wall itself, it can perform its primary function in a fire. If the door isn’t installed or maintained correctly then the doorset’s fire resistance performance can be seriously compromised.
A comprehensive inspection will consider all aspects that affect the fire performance of the doorset – the installation, the door frame, the supporting wall, the hardware and fittings. This will determine whether the door will perform as intended or whether wear, damage or poor workmanship has compromised performance and whether maintenance or replacement is needed.
What happens if fire doors aren’t maintained?
If fire doorsets aren’t inspected regularly then how can the Responsible Person be confident that they’ll work as intended – to protect lives and property?
A normal, non-fire door, if well-fitted and closed into the frame, will probably resist fire for a few minutes. A fire doorset, if left open because the closing device has failed, will do nothing at all to stop the fire. If the fire door seals, hinges, latch, closer or the frame or door leaf itself are damaged, it may significantly reduce the length of time it can resist the fire. And, quite simply, that puts lives at risk.
In light of the recent devastating fire in The Bronx and in relation to our blog post “Some of our door closers are still missing”, what do you think about the role of self-closing devices and the responsibility of the residents when it comes to fire doors being closed?
There is a view that, if there was a fire, then a person would ensure the door was closed even if the closer had been disabled or removed or was not working, or the door jammed on the floor or the latch. But that’s not realistic. How people think they will act can be very different to how they actually act in a fire. People will panic. We become disorientated, perhaps also blinded and choked by the smoke and fumes. Panic and disorientation mean we don’t think clearly or act in logical ways.
On a separate but related note, I saw a video of a fire test on two fire doors – identical except one door had been installed correctly and the other had deliberate installation errors. A missing seal, the wrong glass, no fire stopping behind the architrave and so on. The ‘correct’ door performed as intended, resisting fire and smoke for 30 minutes. The door with errors (which would have been picked up with proper inspection and maintenance) had flames coming through it in less than five minutes, and at around 7 minutes the door was almost invisible in the thick cloud of smoke.
The lasting impression I took from that video was: if that amount of smoke was contained in the corridor of a block of flats, it’s doubtful anyone would be able to see anything at all and would be walking blind, possibly towards the fire, in an effort to escape. That is scary. That is why it’s so important to have compliant fire doors, including working self-closers.
Sasha: There’s some really interesting information there which I think will answer a lot of questions for our readers. To conclude our interview, could you tell us the most interesting fact you learnt during your training?
Martin: Probably the number of different elements there are that all contribute towards the fine line of a fire doorset working or not. The critical importance of correct installation, inspection and maintenance of fire doorsets. If the self-closer has been disabled or removed; if the door is wedged open; if the intumescent or smoke seal is damaged or missing; if the door jams on the carpet; if hinges are worn; if the latch jams on the frame and prevents the door from closing…the list goes on and on. Any of those issues can prevent the door from resisting fire and protecting lives.
To book your fire door services with us, give us a call on 01273 320650 or book an appointment via our website https://www.fireco.uk/fire-doors/.
If you’ve got some questions or concerns after reading our blog or want to know more about how to keep your fire doors compliant, please feel free to email us on email@example.com.