Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
March 9, 2022

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The 2022 State of Physical Access Control Report

Fire doors

Door closers as a crucial mechanism in fire door safety

Once again, the role of fire doors in keeping people safe from tragedy was underlined in January, as a blaze in a New York City apartment block killed 17 people. The fire, which was the deadliest in the city for over 30 years, was said to have quickly spread thanks to an open door in the apartment block – one that was designed to have a self-closing mechanism on it to prevent such a tragedy.

Much has been said about fire door safety – particularly in the UK in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, where the local council was forced to apologise for not acting fast enough to install efficient fire doors after it was found many were not working or missing altogether. But, how important are self-closing door mechanisms as a component in this field?

To summarise the opinions of experts – they are crucial. Officials in New York argue that the death toll would have been significantly lower if the self-closing mechanism had been working. Such components take the risk away from placing the responsibility on tenants to close doors – which is not always part of the daily routine, or at the forefront of their mind when evacuating in the event of a fire.

At a press conference on the Monday following the events in New York, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said: “The door was not obstructed. The door, when it was fully open, stayed fully open because it malfunctioned.”

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A fire door is made up of several door furniture components, all of which should be specified and tested in line with the door leaf. And, Richard Wilson, Product Manager for Door Closers at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA says, the door closer device is arguably the most important item of the architectural hardware, as it ensures the closing of the door to provide an efficient passive barrier to prevent further spread of the fire and smoke.

Though, as Richard also notes, it is essential that the correct type of door control is specified or selected and installed correctly in the first place, to ensure that not only does the product provide effective compartmentation but also prevents its misuse or removal.

Appropriate doors for door control use can include examples such as:

  • Corridor doors – Use of EN1155 electromechanical hold open devices
  • Room or apartment doors – High efficiency door controls with low opening forces
  • Areas subject to abuse – The use of concealed type door controls, floor springs or transoms to limit tampering or unwanted adjustment

Regulations for fire doors

Recent tragedies have clearly placed further emphasis on this argument, and the importance of full fire test coverage from independent testing bodies. Richard adds: “The majority of architects and specifiers are now insisting on full primary fire test data (primarily from door manufacturers) from an accredited third-party testing house.”

In Ireland, they’ve gone a step further with new fire regulations introduced in 2018 stating that “all fire doors should be fitted with an automatic self-closing device which is capable of closing the door from any angle and against any latch fitted to the door [p.80]”.

Meanwhile, in England, Approved Document B states that a self-closing device is required on a fire door if:

  • Subdividing escape routes to separate two or more storey exits
  • Subdividing corridors every 12m in length
  • Subdividing a dead end condition in a common corridor exceeding 4.5m in length
  • Protecting a staircase enclosure from a circulation space
  • Doors opening onto external escape stairs

In addition, in all residential type buildings, all fire doors should be fitted with a self-closing device, while self-closing devices should be fitted to the front door of each flat as well, to ensure separation of the flat from communal areas.

Historically, fire door safety in general has been overlooked, but incidents in the last few years have led to them being recognised as safety critical features, providing fire compartmentalisation and protection to all fire escape routes.

Richard concludes: “We believe that the appointment of a Building Safety Manager, combined with open dialogue with residents, will ensure that fire safety is an ongoing commitment and the responsibility of all building users. In particular, it is vital that residents of these building types are educated in terms of passive fire safety protection and the component parts that make up this. Active and passive fire protection working together is the safest way to ensure continued fire safety.

“On top of this though, we recommend that the importance of fire doors, and of their correct use, is made a priority when sharing information with residents. In particular, residents should be made aware of the importance of working self-closers on all fire doors. As recent events have demonstrated, they are a crucial part of the protection provided by fire doors, and can take some of that responsibility away from residents to save lives.”

For more information regarding self-closures on fire doors, the Fire Protection Association has put together a useful guide, which can be found here.

Find out more about the latest passive fire protection measures and fire doors by visiting FIREX International from 17-19 May 2022 – register via the box below for your FREE ticket! 

 

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Simon Ince
Simon Ince
March 9, 2022 3:02 pm

Fire doors are systems (locks, latches, closers, hinges etc), and all the components need to be fit for purpose and operating correctly to ensure the door set is capable of resisting fire. Look out for ULs latest Tech Talk on testing and certification of door hardware.

Last edited 5 months ago by Simon Ince