19 Sep 2023

Fire Doors – and their purpose

fire door keep shut sign screwed to fire door

Fire doors are something we probably walk past every day, without paying too much attention to them. We don’t realise their true importance. The purpose of fire doors should not be underestimated, they play a vital role in the defence against fire.

Fire doors are one element of passive fire protection (fire safety provision that is ‘dormant’ during normal conditions but becomes active in a fire situation), along with fire resistant glass, smoke curtains, fire dampeners, fire retardant material around pipes etc.

The main purpose of a fire door, is providing structural fire protection. To contain fires or slow their speed and act as a barrier to fire smoke and combustible products, such as toxic gases escaping.

Fire smoke is an even greater threat to life than flames, particularly in the early stages of fire. This is because it contains small particles that can get in your eyes, breathing system, and bloodstream. This impacts the body’s ability to function and even short-term exposure of just a few days can have serious impacts (even if you are very healthy.)

Fire doors also provide a secure means of escape, they are an essential element of survival for people in a building on fire.

What is so special about fire doors?

Fire doors are an extremely important element of your fire safety strategy. It is vital that fire doors (and the door frames) are properly designed, manufactured, (you can find a list of fire door manufacturers here (www.firedoors.bwf.org.uk/search/supplier) and installed to the certificated standard. They must be inspected for wear and tear, maintained on a PPM (planned preventative maintenance) schedule. If a repair is required, this must be carried out by a competent individual. Parts must be replaced with the correct materials and comply with the British Standard Certification.

They are not ordinary doors! There are several components to a fire door. Each specific engineered component has their own job in providing protection against the spread of fire and smoke.

Each part of the door furniture should comply with the British Standard Certification. From the fire rated hinges to the seals and glass. Each element is chosen for its specific requirements and will affect the fire rating. For instance a fire door has a different functionality to a final exit door, where quick opening latches etc are required.

Fire doors should be marked with signage ‘Fire Door – Keep Shut,’ ‘Fire Door’ or ‘Emergency Exit’ secured to the door. These are usually green, or blue with white writing.  Green safety signs = Safe Conditions, Blue safety signs = Mandatory.

How do you know what rating your fire door is?

The most authentic way is to check its certification label. This certification label will act as proof that the doors have been tested enough to a specific fire resistance level. You can find the label on the hinge side of the door, or top of the door. It will be marked with a certification and FD30 for 30 minutes of fire resistance, FD60 for 60 minutes of fire resistance.

Are fire doors a legal requirement?

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 came into force on 23rd January 2023. These regulations state that it is a criminal offence, if a breach of the regulation places one or more persons at risk of death, or serious injury in the event of a fire.

Fire doors are a legal requirement in all non-domestic properties, businesses, public buildings, and commercial premises. They are also required in residential flats and houses of multiple occupancy, or any home that has 3 or more floors e.g., a two-storey house with a loft conversion. A door that leads into a home from an integral garage also needs to be a fire door, as per the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It can be difficult to add fire doors to listed buildings, so seek advice before making any alterations.

The above buildings should have risk assessments, see our blog – Do I need a fire risk assessment? | Sentinel Safety Solutions Ltd). This is where fire risks and recommendations are identified. Risks can then be reduced or eliminated, and highlight where fire doors (and their correct rating) should be positioned.

Who can inspect a fire door?

A competent person with the correct knowledge, training, and experience can inspect a fire door. They need to provide evidence of both practical and theoretical knowledge, preferably through a fire safety accredited qualification.

How do you check a fire door?

There are many elements to checking a fire door, including the fitting of the door itself. Which is why it requires a competent person. Some of the checks are below, but this is not an exhaustive list.

Check for gaps – Gaps around the top and sides of the door should be less than 4mm, the bottom of the door no more than 8mm, you should not be able to see daylight through any gaps.

Seals – Check the intumescent seals are intact and NOT painted over. These must be fitted to the door frame and not the door itself.

Hinges – There should be three hinges or more depending on the use of the building, all fitted correctly (no screws missing) with British Standard markings on the hinges

Door closer – is it correctly attached and free from damage, and adjusted so the door does not need to be slammed into the frame.

Damage – Check all parts free from damage, no cracked glass etc

And more…….

How often should fire doors be checked?

A damaged fire door can greatly reduce its effectiveness. All fire doors should be numbered and checked regularly. If a fire door is used daily, it may get more wear and tear, such as in hospitals or shopping centre so needs to be inspected more often. A general rule of thumb for low-risk buildings is every three to six months,. If your door has a hold open device this should be checked daily. The schedule is dependent on your individual fire risk assessment, so please consult this.

For multiple occupied buildings, the regulations state quarterly checks must be carried out on fire doors in communal areas.

Annual checks on all flat entrance doors.

You must also provide all residents, staff etc with information/training on the importance of fire doors.

These fire doors checks should be documented.

Here are a few useful links.

Fact sheet: Fire doors (regulation 10) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Fire_Doors_Checklist__1_.odt (live.com)

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022: fire door guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Fire Door Safety Week – Five Step Fire Door Check

If you would like to learn more about fire doors, or need help with fire risk assessments or training, please contact us on 01527 833834 or info@sentinelsafety.co.uk and we will be happy to assist.

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