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Why maintain fire doors? They are one of the most important fire safety features you’ll see in a building. Fire doors are a physical and powerful barrier between you and potential injury or death. They dramatically hamper fire and its ability to cause harm and devastation to you and your property.

So, it’s just common sense that we should all pay attention to the inspection and maintenance of fire doors and make sure it happens on a regular basis (and yet they are often one of the main areas of neglect that we see during Fire Risk Assessments). Because fires are relatively (and thankfully) rare, it’s easy to become complacent about maintenance; fires like Grenfell Tower in London remind us how short-sighted that is.

What does a fire door do?

It sounds obvious, but a fire door is far more than just a door. It’s a specially engineered piece of equipment, made to demanding safety standards. Fire doors are a particularly important element of fire protection on escape routes such as stairs and corridors.

Imagine a long corridor with only one way out. You’re at one end and a raging fire is at the other, rapidly moving towards you. In this scenario, a fire door – acting as a passive fire protection system – between you and the fire would significantly improve your chances of survival.

Fire doors, located at strategic points, help sub-divide a building into compartments. This slows down the spread of fire and allows anyone trapped inside the building to escape. It also gives fire rescue teams longer to contain the fire and mount rescue operations. And while property is way down on the list of priorities at a time like this, your business continuity plans will also benefit if some of your equipment and other belongings can be saved.

Who’s in charge of our fire doors?

It’s up to the ‘responsible person’ to maintain fire doors. They should guarantee that regular checks of fire doors take place and make sure they are in good condition.

Find out more about the responsible person to make sure that someone in your business is up to date and understands their responsibilities.

Installation of fire doors – how to get it right

Building regulations relate to the entire door installation, and not just the door. So, when your fire doors are installed, you need to make sure that the frame, locks, latches and any other ironmongery have all been installed correctly and in line with regulations. It’s also important to be sure that the doors you’ve purchased have been tested by an independent organization to British or European Standards. This guarantees that in the event of a fire, a door that’s been installed and maintained correctly will be up to the job.

So, back to installation. It’s not simply a case of hanging a door so it pays to get the right person for the job. For example, a fire door will not be effective unless it’s installed with a fire door closer. The closer makes sure the door closes after it’s been opened so it needs to be large enough to handle the weight of the door to which it’s fitted. A specialist fire safety company will have years of experience of installing fire doors and if they’re third party accredited, will have been independently assessed against the highest standards.

It’s important to maintain fire doors

Once installed, a fire door should be checked regularly so that you can be sure it functions correctly and is always ready for use. It should be treated exactly the same as other fire safety equipment. For example, the testing of fire detection and alarm systems and portable fire extinguishers.

Any slight alteration to the door or its surroundings can affect performance. We always recommend that periodic checks are carried out. How often you do this will depend on your premises and how frequently people are coming and going throughout the building. If it’s particularly busy, for example, a care home or school, the checks should be more frequent.

Document your fire maintenance

A properly documented system of regular maintenance to all parts of fire doors and escape doors is crucial to the long-term fire safety of your building. This maintenance work should be carried out on all parts of the door by a competent technician. Choosing a third party accredited organisation for this work means you can relax, safe in the knowledge that all work meets regulatory requirements – and that the job will be done by an organisation which has been independently assessed and deemed fully competent.

We also recommend that you keep a maintenance log and assign all doors a unique reference number. As mentioned already, the maintenance period should be appropriate to the way in which the building is used and it should include an assessment of the door usage, location and footfall.

Have you got a maintenance contract?

The best way to be sure that your fire doors are inspected and maintained to the correct standards is to have a fire door maintenance contract in place. That way, you’ll know that you’re always within the boundaries of the law, that you’re always getting the advice and maintenance that you need and you won’t have to worry about the consequences of getting it wrong or forgetting something.

Don’t panic, it’s not an onerous task. We always suggest a Fire Door Inspection and Report to assess what’s required first, and then the maintenance contract can be jointly drawn up and any repairs and replacements can then be discussed .

Fire drills: would you spot damage on your way out?

Regardless of the size or complexity of the building you inhabit, you should always carry out fire evacuation drills regularly. It might seem inconvenient to drag people away from their desks but the effort is worth it. Of course, many will welcome the impromptu break and enjoy the chance for some fresh air and a chat.

It’s important to acknowledge that there’s often a lack of urgency even during an unplanned fire drill. People will stop to collect personal possessions or treat it as a bit of a joke. Some don’t even respond and carry on doing whatever they are doing.

And there isn’t actually a fire, so people have very little idea of what it would be like in an real fire emergency. They’d probably have to deal with unfamiliar situations. Imagine your usual exit and route around your building is blocked or unsafe? What would you do? Admittedly, this is hard to replicate in a planned drill.

Are your fire doors ok?

Take fire doors, for example. Generally, we pay scant attention to fire doors that are damaged or wedged open. Why? Because during a planned fire drill it doesn’t make any difference. In a real fire, they would notice very quickly.

Fire responds to draughts and airflow and will travel along the line of least resistance. A corridor with fire doors propped or wedged open means the fire can spread in seconds. This destroys any means of escape for people in the rooms along that corridor.

That’s where a well-maintained fire door really does matter. There’s more time to hold back smoke and fire and in turn help save lives. It halts the fire long enough for people the other side to get out by the nearest fire exit.

Whilst it is not immediately obvious to most people, fire doors are an amazing safety device. So, remember not to prop or wedge them open. And check for damaged or missing fire doors in your building.

Would you know what to look for? Would you recognize what damage looks like? How regularly do you maintain fire doors in your building? These are very important questions that you should be asking yourself – and if you’re not sure you know the answers, get in touch and let us help you make sure you and your staff are safe and legally compliant.

Drew Stewart

Passive Protection Manager

As an industry professional with over 30 years in passive fire protection, Drew manages fire door, fire stopping, integrity testing, steel fire escapes and related works for Fire Safety Services nationally.

Read more blogs from Drew.

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