PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE: THE FIRE DOOR PERSPECTIVE In a fire emergency, it is a race against time to prevent flames from spreading beyond control – meaning a working fire door could be the difference between life and death, says Allegion UK Commercial Leader Pete Hancox.
t needs no mention that the tragedy at Grenfell Tower has been a sombre, sobering experience. Shock, disbelief and anger have gripped the nation in the weeks and months following the fire. There’s no question it will live long as a thorny, incredibly sad memory – especially as data has since shown at least another 211 tower blocks have failed combustibility tests following testing on their exterior cladding. Following the tragedy, the media and nation have focused on the aforementioned cladding issues, as well as a lack of sprinkler systems in Grenfell Tower and other similar tower block buildings. Other talking points have emerged around the lack of a high ladder – which did not arrive on the scene for 32 minutes for the fire brigade. As a consequence, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ordered an urgent review of the fire brigade kit after rescue delays. Of course, improving those factors is a necessity and, in due course, will raise fire safety standards all around. However, they are arguably response tactics, as opposed to prevention tactics, for a fire spreading out of control. An area of fire safety that has been given little attention to, but deserves much more credit, is the fire door. What a good fire door system
can do is buy precious time. It is a prevention method and inhibits fires from getting out of control too quickly by compartmentalising the fire. In tall and densely populated buildings especially, trapping the fire between fire doors can stop the ‘chimney effect.’ This is where stairways and corridors combust quickly through non-fire retardant materials, ripping through the building within a matter of minutes and thus blocking access to the vital escape routes. Whilst a fire door won’t put out a fire, we can clearly see how they would serve an important function. In Grenfell Tower’s case, they could arguably have been one of the most important factors, following the revelation about the fire service’s initial lack of a high ladder.
What the RRFSO States The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2006 (or RRFSO) is the key regulation for building owners and
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operators. Under the RRFSO, not only do building owners and operators have to demonstrate that safety precautions are in place, but also they are continually reviewed and monitored. Of the responsibilities, it includes regular fire assessments, implementing clearly defined evacuation procedures and ensuring adequate signage is in place. Above all, though, the priority requirement is that all doors are fit for purpose in the instance of fire. That means emergency doors must open in the direction of escape, and they must not be locked or fastened in such a way that they cannot be easily and immediately opened by any person who may need to use them in an emergency. Sliding and revolving doors are, therefore, not permitted as emergency exits.
The Fire Door System – Preventing the Spread Ultimately, it is the fire door that