August 21, 2013

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High-Rise Fire Doors ‘Not Up to Scratch’

Contractor Kier Stoke is revisiting fire doors at 12 high-rise blocks of council flats in Stoke after a report found that 66 doors do not meet fire safety regulations.

The report, conducted in March by independent inspectors for the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, found various faults with doors; many do not open or close properly and do meet the required fire resistance standard of 30 minutes. The report was commissioned after residents expressed concern about the doors, all of which were installed within the last 18 months.

Kier Stoke, part of Kier Group, will rectify the situation by conducting its own survey of the fire doors, but the council is concerned the report’s findings could indicate a more widespread problem with fire safety in council properties.

“The report only reflects a sample of all the doors possibly affected,” council leader Mohammed Pervez told IFSEC Global. “The city council asked for them to be inspected, and now Kier Stoke must inspect the rest, as there could be many more with problems.”

The council is adamant that the responsibility for resolving the problem lies with Kier Stoke, and it says it is making the report available to reassure residents that the problems have been identified. Councillor Jan Bridges said in a press release:

We took unilateral action in 2010 to upgrade fire safety in our flats, well above the standards expected by national regulations… The doors’ installation is not up to scratch and we are continuing to push Kier Stoke to resolve this as quickly as possible.

A spokesperson from Kier Stoke told us:

Kier Stoke has committed to put things right at no extra cost to the council and is working with its subcontractors to investigate what has gone wrong.
We will be conducting a survey of each fire door to ensure it is installed to the required specification.

Bridges said in the release:

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is absolutely committed to continuously improving the quality of the 19,000 homes we provide at affordable rent to local people, and we are working with the private sector to help and support them in raising their standards too.
We are busy driving ahead with a wide range of housing improvement projects, including the millions
[of pounds] we are spending on comprehensive insulation and external refurbishment of our flats… It is really frustrating that the door contract is out of step.

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johnfletch
johnfletch
August 21, 2013 1:05 pm

I’m not surprised by what we read in this article.
When will contractors understand that fire doors are an engineered fire safety device, and must be fitted and maintained by competent installers? The BWF-Certifire Fire Door Scheme has been conducting a campaign – Stick to the Spec – highlighting the worrying fact that specs are often changed for so-called ‘value engineering’ purposes. 
 Cutting corners to save costs – costs lives!! 

imcilwee
imcilwee
August 22, 2013 6:49 am
Reply to  johnfletch

Would be great to see others taking this level of responsibility, the residents and Council should be applauded for their actions here, this is how a responsible person should behave. We are getting behind Fire Door Safety Week to raise the awareness of fire door issues and hopefully encourage others to do the same http://www.firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 22, 2013 12:14 pm
Reply to  imcilwee

Yes I heard about this initiative for the first time today. Sounds like a nice idea, imcilwee.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 22, 2013 12:15 pm
Reply to  johnfletch

Well, indeed, cutting corners can only have one affect, really. It’s nice to see Kier taking repsonsibility for this, but then I feel like from a PR perspective they had no choice.

johnfletch
johnfletch
August 22, 2013 12:36 pm
Reply to  Rob Ratcliff

Pity they didn’t take responsibility in the first place!! Then there wouldn’t have to have been a crisis management issue, residents wouldn’t have been frightened because their lives were put at risk – etc etc.
But well done Stoke Council for picking it up and forcing the action from Kier. They should be congratulated for going to the lengths they have done.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 23, 2013 5:15 am
Reply to  johnfletch

Yes, well done to the council for finding a remedy indeed. I wonder if the budget to start with had anything to do with the mistakes that followed.

Sebastian Drake
Sebastian Drake
August 23, 2013 5:03 am

We have been battling this one since the beginning of time! This whole issue comes down to costs and unrealistic budgets, simple as that.No matter how you explain, show, demonstrate, you can talk yourself till you’re blue in the face, you always here the same answer, we don’t have the budget, yet the product you are being suppied/offered is value for money that saves lives, you still hear the same line.There is still a lack of knowledge on both sides being Local Authorities and Major Contractors, only when something goes bad does it show.  They should really listen to the Third Party… Read more »

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 23, 2013 5:27 am

Ah, yes I was wondering this myself in another comment. Push from the budget holders could have caused the initial problems, it would be unfair for me to say that, but it wouldn’t be surprising. I’ve been thinking about the dichotomy of investment in life safety versus tighter council budgets recently, in general.

Sebastian Drake
Sebastian Drake
August 23, 2013 5:51 am

In our experience working with Local Authorities and Major contractors, Fire Doors and associated works seem to be an area of great confusion and it’s no wonder doors and works alike are not up to scratch.  Although not through the want of trying!There appears to be lots of uneconimcal “upgrades” going on that don’t acheive what people think they do because budget suits.I realise everyone is up against it with budgets, hards times all round but don’t expect not to have repercussions like this if you chose the cheaper option.Start of right and you stand a chance, you get what you pay… Read more »

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 23, 2013 10:48 am

Such uneconomical upgrades as you say wouldn’t be thought of as uneconomical by those purchasing, of course. It’s up to responsible and quality fire professionals to prove that their quote (which may be more expensive) will be the better ROI over time. That’s the tricky part of course…

Sebastian Drake
Sebastian Drake
August 23, 2013 2:32 pm
Reply to  Rob Ratcliff

Yes and this is why there will always be cases like this thread.  There is no real definition set just recommendations and to top it off, not one person wants to be the one who says yes as in todays climate we all need a job.  

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 28, 2013 9:33 am

I’d like to think that a principled approach would pay off in the end, but I’m not sure that’ll necessarily be the case.

SunitaT
SunitaT
August 29, 2013 9:52 pm

@ Sebastian Drake, I agree with you. Definitions must be set and recommendations must be replaced by mandatory standards to be met and observed strictly. After all what could be more important than people’s lives? Independent third party monitors should be considered by the council to ensure transparency and accountability. The rest of responsibility lies with residents and council. They should not compromise safety for the sake of money.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 30, 2013 5:58 am
Reply to  SunitaT

The residents have a reasonable right to safety in these properties. They are simply tenants and are not responsible for these doors. The council has to protect them and be seen to do so.

SunitaT
SunitaT
August 29, 2013 9:52 pm

Give the devil his due. No matter if they are pushed by the Council or didn’t have any other choice, it is still commendable that Kier took responsibility and undertook to remedy the wrong done. As for the Stoke Council, it is good see them working closely with residents and responding to their concerns promptly.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
August 30, 2013 5:56 am
Reply to  SunitaT

Well, this is certainly true, and I would commend the way that this has been dealt with eventually, but I still feel it shouldn’t have come to an inspection on the scale that took place to prompt remedial action.