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September 25, 2023


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Fire door safety week

Lack of knowledge over faulty doors leading to under-reporting, according to new research

Over half (57%) of the UK public wouldn’t be able to spot a problem with a fire door, leading to a failure to report issues, new research from the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has revealed.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults found that while awareness over factors that might prevent a fire door performing properly in the event of a fire is high, the majority of people couldn’t identify a faulty fire door.

The theme for this year’s campaign, which runs from 25 – 29 September, is ‘Recognise it, Report it’ and aims to help people spot problems with faulty doors so they can be reported, then repaired or replaced.

Lack of knowledge and understanding 

Fire door propped open

In the survey, 29% of respondents said they wouldn’t report a faulty fire door due to a lack of knowledge over what constitutes a faulty door – putting themselves and others at risk.

21% said the reason they wouldn’t report in future is because they don’t think anything would get done. Almost half of respondents (49%) didn’t feel it’s their responsibility to report a faulty fire door.

According to the BWF, there was also a lack of understanding over the purpose of fire doors and how they function. More people believed that a fire door aids in stopping the spread of fire (46%) than the spread of smoke (32%). A fully functioning fire door will protect both property and life from fire and smoke, with smoke inhalation being the main cause of fire-related deaths.

“Fire doors perform an essential role” 

Despite a lack of confidence in respondents’ ability to spot a problem with a fire door, there were some positive signs. 60% of individuals would report a faulty or propped open fire door because they would feel responsible if a fire occurred that they feel they could have prevented. Also, the majority (86%) said they would report a faulty or propped open fire door in the future.

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Helen Hewitt, CEO of the BWF, which organises and funds Fire Door Safety Week, said: “Fire doors perform an essential role in the event of a fire – they are the barrier preventing the spread of fire and smoke. They simply must be in working order, and keeping them so relies on everybody who encounters them to spot and report issues, so they can be immediately addressed.

“The fact that so many say they are unable or unwilling to do so is incredibly worrying and puts lives at risk. The problem is two-fold: not knowing how to spot issues, and not having confidence that concerns raised will be acted upon. As part of this year’s campaign which marks 10 years of Fire Door Safety Week, we’re giving everybody the tools to be able to recognise major fire door faults, to boost confidence over reporting them. We need to empower people to play their role in keeping the buildings they live in and occupy safe.”

More focus on workplace over residential guidance

The survey also highlighted that the level of guidance people receive over how to spot a faulty fire door is higher in their place of work than the buildings where they live. More than a third (38%) of respondents said their employer has explained to them how to spot a faulty fire door in the building, compared to 26% of respondents’ landlords who’ve communicated this.

The BWF has said it is ‘encouraging’ that employers are taking fire safety seriously, but that increased awareness and guidance must also extend to residential buildings to ensure people’s homes, belongings and loved ones are also protected. In residential buildings, fire safety was a second priority to damp or mould, highlighting that hazards that are immediately recognisable and visible are more likely to be dealt with.

Commenting on the findings, Gavin Tomlinson, Protection and Business Safety Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), said: “This research highlights a worrying lack of awareness about the importance of recognising and reporting faulty fire doors. Everyone must understand that fire doors are a vital barrier, not just against flames but also against the deadly spread of smoke during a fire.

“We must empower individuals to take responsibility for fire safety in their homes and workplaces. The theme of this year’s campaign, ‘Recognise it, Report it,’ underscores the importance of Fire Door Safety Week. The week helps raise awareness around critical issues such as faulty fire doors, enabling people to spot and report issues so that immediate action can be taken to protect lives and property.”

Discussing the role of Fire Door Safety Week across its 10 years, Hewitt commented: “When Fire Door Safety Week started out, its intention was simple: to raise awareness of the vital role that fire doors play in saving lives. What’s evolved since is a phenomenal network of organisations and individuals who support the campaign each year, in greater numbers, and help communicate its important message.

“The campaign has forged links between those whose co-operation is essential to maintaining and improving fire safety, while reaching the general public with an impactful message. We thank everyone for their support, and this gives us great confidence that even more can be achieved in the next 10 years.”

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