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Where there's smoke, there should be a fire door

Adrian Powell, Director at Active, explains what schools need to do to maintain and assess their fire doors

Posted by Lucinda Reid | August 25, 2017 | Security & safety

As the start of the new school year approaches, facilities managers across the country are ensuring that all aspects of the school building are safe and ready for the oncoming students. Effective fire door maintenance plays a huge role in this pursuit. Not only are fire resisting doors vital for safe evacuation but they also play a crucial role in preventing the spread of fire. In light of recent events, this is understandably a major concern for both building owners and its occupants.

The main source of oxygen for a fire is in the air around us; that means the airflow between doors, windows and other openings as well as mechanical air conditioning. Closing all doors and making sure that the doors in place actually fulfil their duty is the first preventative step to stop fire spreading. Correctly specified and well-fitted doors will hold back fire and smoke preventing evacuation routes from becoming unusable, as well as preventing the fire spreading from one area to another.

Before looking at how best to maintain and assess you fire door, it’s necessary to understand the different types available.  Most internal doors are made of timber. Such doors only provide limited protection against fire spread; by contrast, a purpose-built fire door that has been tested and approved to a standard will proved the appropriate protection. Additionally, metal fire-resisting doors are also available and these must undergo specific maintenance procedures.

All fire resisting doors, regardless of their material make up are rated by their performance when tested to an appropriate standard. The level of protection provided by the door is measured primarily by determining the time taken for a fire to breach the integrity, of the door assembly, together with its resistance to the passage of hot gases and flame. Standard fire door rating is FD30 (offers 30 minutes of protection, higher rating is required for schools, hospitals (e.g. up to FD120).

Correctly specified and well-fitted doors will hold back fire and smoke preventing evacuation routes from becoming unusable, as well as preventing the fire spreading from one area to another

On the top of any fire door maintenance checklist should be whether the physical door is in good condition. This does not necessarily have to be done by a professional – anyone who is able to visually see problems or able to physically push a door is able to follow these steps:

1. Check that the gaps all around the door are less than 4mm when it is closed. You can use a £1 coin to feel this for scale as the coin is 3mm thick. (The gap below the door can be slightly larger).

2. Check the seals for signs of damage and report them if you see any. The seals should be continuous around the frame and well attached inside the groove in the frame or door leaf?

3. Check the hinges to ensure they are firmly fixed and that no screws are missing

4. Check that the door closes properly by opening the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame? If not, report it. A fire door only works when it’s closed. A fire door is completely useless if it’s wedged open or can’t close fully.

5. Check whether the glass free from damage and cracking

The summer holidays are a great opportunity for safety professionals to test out and check that their fire doors are up to correct maintenance levels. Most school or educational facilities will be empty at some point over the summer months (except if there is a summer school taking place!), and thus professionals will be able to clearly identify any risks, hazards or issues without endangering anyone.

 For more information about Active, visit their website. 

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