Fire doors explained
To put it simply, fire doors save lives.
These specialist doors are 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.
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.
Because of their importance in protecting lives, it is imperative that fire doors receive regular inspections.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will make it a legal requirement from 23 January 2023 for responsible persons for all multi-occupied residential buildings in England with storeys over 11 metres in height to:
- undertake quarterly checks of all fire doors[footnote 1] (including self-closing devices) in the common parts
- undertake – on a best endeavour basis – annual checks of all flat entrance doors (including self-closing devices) that lead onto a building’s common parts.
The regulations will also require responsible persons to provide to residents of all multi-occupied residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises (that have common parts) information on the importance of fire doors to a building’s fire safety.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt conducted an independent review into building regulations and fire safety. This review led to the creation of the Fire Safety Bill, which was introduced in March 2020 and, in April 2021, made law as the Fire Safety Act 2021.
Worryingly, the FDIS highlighted that three quarters of all fire doors inspected in 2019, were condemned as not fit for purpose.
In 2021, another report found that the most common reasons for inspection failure – which can be a result of one or multiple issues – were excessive gaps between the door and the frame (77%), care and maintenance issues (54%), and issues over smoke sealing (37%). In almost a third of cases (31%), inspections failed due to improper installation – meaning those doors were never fit to perform the task of holding back fire and smoke.
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.
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.
- For commercial or non-domestic properties, liability lies with whoever is deemed the ‘responsible person’ for that property or the employer. For example, the owner of the property, or the person in control of the property for trade reasons would be responsible.
- Thorough risk assessments must be carried out and it is advisable to get professional help with all fire-safety-related regulations. There is more to passive fire protection and fire safety than just fire doors; escape routes, lighting, warning systems and equipment checks are also required.