Why a faulty fire rated door is no joking matter

To help highlight the dangers posed by a fire rated door that has become unfit for purpose, Fire and Safety Centre has signed up as a supporter of Fire Door Safety Week which runs from 14th to 20th September. Here we share some important facts that will help you check the fire rated doors on your premises to see if they really will hold back the flames.

When I was very young a favourite uncle delighted in telling me a simple joke that I never understood at the time, but that always made him laugh. He’d ask: “When is a door not a door?” Being five or six years old, I could never imagine it being anything else, and the look on my face must have said as much. At that point he’d deliver the punch line: “When it’s ajar.”

To be honest, Unc, it wasn’t very funny then, and it hasn’t really improved with age. But we can all get some extra mileage from it in Fire Door Safety Week – because, as I’m sure my old uncle would have agreed, a fire door isn’t a fire door when it’s ajar either. And that’s when it gets dangerous.

The thing about fire resistant doors is that although they’re part of a fire protection system, they may well not look like it and certainly aren’t treated like it. A fire extinguisher will wait patiently on its stand until it’s needed, if it ever is. But people often forget how important fire rated doors are, and as a result kick or prop them open, damage them with trolleys and during furniture moves, modify them to add windows and letter boxes – in short abuse them so much that they’re prevented from doing what they were designed for.

At the Fire and Safety Centre we’re great believers in the benefits of all kinds of fire protection, which is why we’d like to join in the awareness-raising week by encouraging you to check that fire door requirements are still being met on your premises. It takes just seconds to do, and you could do it when you’re using the door anyway.

How do you know it’s a fire proof door?

• Look out for the blue label that says so
• Look out for a certificate (Usually on the edge, and required by fire door regulations)
• Look out for a ‘keep closed’ sign
• Check for seals around the edges, designed to hold back smoke

What to check for with a fire door

• Is the frame firmly fitted into the wall?
• Does the door fit into the frame?
• Does it get propped or wedged open? (Ironically, fire extinguishers are often given this job. Move the extinguisher or take away the wedge)
• Are the seals in place and in good condition?
• Does the closer work properly? (One should have been fitted with the new door)
• Are the edges of the door damaged?
• Are all the hinges in good order? (There ought to be three)
• Can you see light through a gap at the bottom?
• Have openings been cut into it on site? (For windows or letterboxes, for example)

The British Woodworking Federation have produced an interesting video “Fire Door Safety – What happened if you get it wrong? Click here to view.

What to do if you find a faulty fire door

Tell the right people and ask to have it put right. That might be the building manager, the landlord, or even you. Someone has a responsibility, and needs to act promptly. Lives may be at stake, and, like Unc’s joke at the top of this blog, that’s not funny.