hat is a fire door and what are they designed to do?
Fire doors are specialist doors which have been tested against the elements and purpose-built to withstand roaring fires for as long as possible. They enable buildings to compartmentalise and delay the spread of fire from one area to another, and form a crucial part of a passive fire protection strategy.
Certified fire doors will be given a fire-resistance rating, which details the length of time the doorset and its materials will be able to withstand smoke and fire – either 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the rating. They are fitted with intumescent strips (or seals) which expand to fill the gap between the door and the frame.
Fire doors have a few vital safety features and really can be the difference between life and death. Two of the most important functions fire doors have are:
- When closed, they form a barrier to stop the spread of fire
- When opened, they provide a means of escape
How often should fire doors be checked?
Because of their importance in protecting lives, it is imperative that fire doors receive regular inspections – frequency is likely to depend on many factors, including the age and condition of the door, though the British Woodworking Federation, which runs the annual Fire Door Safety Week campaign, says that periodic checks should be carried out every six months as a minimum.
However, newly occupied buildings may require more frequent checks in the first year of use, while doors with high traffic volume should be checked on a weekly or monthly basis. These fire doors are far more susceptible to damage because of more frequent use, and will likely also form an important barrier in the event of a fire to communal areas – particularly in multi-residential housing blocks.
Worryingly, the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), which carries out checks on fire doors, found that three quarters of all fire doors inspected in 2021 in the UK were condemned as not fit for purpose. The scheme found similar results in 2019 after carrying out inspections, as it highlighted that all users should report maintenance issues and play a proactive role in ensuring faults are quickly addressed.
If you own a commercial or non-domestic property, there are strict regulations and guidelines to follow, ensuring the doors can withstand certain heats. Fire doors should always be fitted correctly by a competent installer, as they’re a carefully engineered fire safety device. It is also imperative that reputable and trained fire door inspectors, such as those approved by schemes like FDIS, carry out fire door inspections and trained installers fit them to ensure they are fit for purpose.
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), landlords have a responsibility to ensure their properties and tenants are safe. The ‘responsible person’ has a legal responsibility under the FSO and can be criminally prosecuted if they do not fulfill their duties. The responsibility extends to the requirement for a fire risk assessment in all non-domestic buildings, including the common parts of flats or houses with multiple occupation.v