Fire doors are often the first line of defence in a fire, and their correct specification, maintenance, and management can be the difference between life and death for building occupants.
We rely on them to work correctly in the event of a fire by providing critical protection within a building such as escape routes (stairs and corridors) and places of relative safety, and in separating different fire hazards in a building.
As with any other life-saving product, a fire door should be checked regularly to ensure it functions correctly and is ready to use. It should be considered in exactly the same way as testing a smoke alarm or a fire extinguisher.
Any slight alteration to the door or its surroundings can affect the performance of a door. Periodic checks should be carried out at least every 6 months, or more regularly depending on the traffic using the door.
To save lives, they must work correctly, and there are some simple checks you can undertake depending on whether you are a building owner, or manager, a landlord or occupier.
5 Step Fire Door Check
Fire Door Safety Week is an award-winning campaign which raises awareness of the critical importance of ﬁre doors in saving lives and protecting property.
They have provided these tips for a 5 Step Fire Door Check that anyone can do:
- Check for certification – Is there a label or plug on top (or occasionally on the side) of the door to show it is a certificated fire door? You can use the selfie function on your camera phone or a mirror to check. If there is, that’s good news, otherwise, report it to whoever is in charge of your building.
- Check the gaps – Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when closed. You can use a £1 coin to give a feel for scale, this is about 3mm thick. The gap under the door can be slightly larger (up to 8mm is not uncommon), but it does depend on the door – as a rule of thumb, if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big. It’s good news if the door fits the frame and it’s not damaged. If not, report it. If the gaps are too big smoke and fire could travel through the cracks.
- Check the seals – Are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are usually vital to the fire door’s performance, expanding if in contact with heat to ensure fire (and in some cases smoke) can’t move through the cracks. If not, report it – the door may not be properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not protect you long enough.
- Check the hinges – Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws? If you see problems, report it – the door is obviously not properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not perform and hold back the fire for long enough.
- Check the door closes properly – Open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame? If not, report it. A fire door only works when it’s closed. A fire door is completely useless if it’s wedged open or can’t close fully.
Assess the Risks
A risk assessment is an organised look at what, in your work activities and workplace, could cause harm to people. In the case of a fire, it is identifying possible causes of fire, the precautions you need to take to prevent something igniting and, in the event of a fire, how to reduce the risk to the occupants, building, and its contents.
5 key steps to undertaking a risk assessment:
- Identify potential fire hazards.
- Identify the people who might be at risk and their location.
- Evaluate the risks, review your existing fire precautions and take appropriate action.
- Record your findings and tell your employees.
- Review and revise assessment, as necessary.
Without the correct maintenance, the fire door could fail, so, as part of your risk assessment, you should complete the maintenance checklist by BWF-Certifire to ensure your fire doors are still in working order. Review and complete the checklist every 6 months for low usage buildings and every 3 months for high usage buildings.
If you think the building you’re living in, working in or visiting has a faulty fire door, don’t walk by. Report it to whoever manages or owns the building. You could save a life that day.