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Project Engineer, UL

September 18, 2014

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Fire Door Safety Week: Don’t Forget Your Emergency Exit Doors too!

Although final exits doors are not fire doors in the true sense, they are very important in the ultimate evacuation of a building during a fire.

I know I’m stating the obvious here, but for good reason: we’ve encountered final exit doors during our site inspection work or fire-risk assessment audits where the door is locked for security purposes with no means of unlocking, or it is so warped or swollen that it either won’t open or requires great force to open.

Reaching an ultimate place of safety in the event of a fire is the end goal; ensuring the safe and timely evacuation of all employees or visitors within the building is a requirement under UK fire-safety legislation.

Fire doors do assist in this safe evacuation where they separate those evacuating a building from the compartment of fire origin, thus providing time to aid evacuate of occupants – for example those with mobility impairment who may need assistance down evacuation stairs.

Without fire doors that do their intended job, most evacuation strategies would be compromised if there was any delay in evacuating people.

Imagine that upon hearing a fire alarm and making your way to the nearest final exit door that you find it is padlocked with no means of opening it or that it just won’t open, no matter how hard you push the door.

What would you do? Return into a burning building?

Perhaps you may need to go back through a fire door and into the compartment of fire origin – into a developing fire!

What if the rest of your colleagues were heading your way expecting to escape through the same exit?  How would they react to your bombshell – that there is no way out?

Several incidents of final exit doors not working have been documented in the press, most notably the Tantons hotel fire in 2011, where an elderly guest’s final exit was blocked by a door that wouldn’t open, forcing her to return in to the building to make an escape via another route. Thankfully the fire hadn’t developed sufficiently within the building to make the conditions intolerable!

It is security precautions, such as padlocks and chains or padlocked deadbolts, that invariably make final exit doors unusable  – even external metal security shutters being padlocked externally are not unheard of.

However, poor maintenance and an absence of inspections can also mean doors are difficult or impossible to open. Blocking final exit doors by storing items in front of the door is also all too common, preventing people’s egress from the building.

With Fire Door Safety Week well underway (running from 15-19 September) I would urge building owners and operators to test their evacuation routes by walking through their fire doors (after checking them) and continuing through their final exit doors (if they can).

If you need to padlock doors when the building is totally unoccupied, you must have a fool-proof system in place to remove them when the building is occupied. This system must be risk-assessed and if the fire risk assessor is not happy with the arrangement then fail-safe security-door furniture can be purchased and fitted for a modest outlay.

Regular inspections and planned preventative maintenance will ensure that doors don’t get stuck in their frame and can be opened easily during a fire evacuation, while alerting responsible persons to the need to keep escape routes unobstructed and clear to allows exit in an emergency.

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keithwhale2
keithwhale2
September 19, 2014 10:08 pm

ifsecglobal FDSafetyWeek check it if you think it’s not rite change it if the closer is leakin fluids it will show on the door check it