A Practical Guide to Fire Doors
With poor specification, installation and maintenance of fire doorsets often resulting in devastating consequences, David Hindle, Head of Door Closer Sales at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions UK & Ireland, provides advice to facilities managers on fire safety system selection.
Fire safety is paramount and a consideration that must never be subject to compromise. Although the Fire Safety Act 2021 addresses some of the shortcomings of the (Regulatory Reform) Fire Safety Order of 2005 in relation to fire door selection, it makes little reference to fire door installation.
Following a simple checklist will ensure FMs cover all the basic requirements.
Choose a fire doorset over a fire door assembly
Rather than sourcing a fire door and the associated hardware separately, a best practice approach would be to specify a fire doorset, which covers the entire system. This typically includes – but is not limited to – the door leaf and its frame, intumescent and smoke seals, hinges, hardware, signage, glazing and the glazing system, door closer, and any fanlights or sidelights.
Fire doorsets are factory prepared, which means they are machined, assembled and prepped for any hardware – tolerances included – prior to arriving on-site. All components come from one source of supply and sit under one fire test certificate, field of application or assessment. All work is completed under factory production control and ideally audited by a third-party, thereby ensuring the complete compliance of the doorset at the point of production.
In contrast, a fire door assembly is reliant on components and materials being obtained from several sources, and then being manufactured correctly on-site. This means the onus is then on those sourcing the door assembly to provide an end product that meets all the correct standards and demands, as well as detailing evidence of performance and certification.
Ensure the system meets performance standards
Testing and certification of all products that can impact on fire safety is mandatory and through impartial, third-party accreditation. To meet the necessary standards, a fire doorset must pass one or a series of rigorous tests, as well as be properly certified and rated to withstand fire for a set period of time. This testing should be conducted by an independent testing body, in accordance with the relevant British or European standards.
In one study, the Fire Door Inspection Scheme found 76 per cent of fire doorsets inspected in 2019 as not fit for purpose. The importance of ensuring these systems are up to standard cannot be underestimated. Many of the fire safety products used in Grenfell Tower were found to have not performed as they should, with a leaked BRE Global draft report noting only 17 per cent of the door closers installed in Grenfell Tower were present and working. Shockingly, 50 per cent of door closers installed did not work properly.
It is therefore essential that a thorough study is completed by the decision-maker to compare the expectations of each fire doorset – including all hardware – to make sure they are accurately covered by the certification issued by the third-party accredited body. Validation should not be based on self-certification or claims of compliancy.
Consider inclusive design needs
The guidelines governing inclusive design state that buildings must not only avoid creating access and usage issues, but also ensure all people are able to escape in the event of a fire or other emergency.
When talking about inclusive design, many people immediately think of those with a disability or specific, specialist requirements. While inclusive design encompasses the needs of these people, its key objective is to make a site inclusive for all, no matter what. Whether it’s the elderly, disabled or children, everyone should be able to access and use a building and its facilities easily and safely.
Fire doorsets for corridors can be held open with an electro-magnetic device, but safely self-close when activated by smoke detectors or a main fire alarm system. They must also close should power supply fail, or when activated by a hand-operated switch. Meanwhile, fire doorsets for individual rooms could be fitted with swing-free devices that – again – close when activated by smoke detectors, a fire alarm system, or when the power supply fails.
Select a proven supplier for installation
All fire doorsets must be installed in line with the specific manufacturers’ installation instructions and tested requirements. If not installed correctly, this can significantly impact their performance levels, compromising the safety of the building’s occupants.
Currently, there is no regulation governing fire door installation. However, some installers have adopted auditable third-party accreditation by a UKAS-accredited body, such as FIRAS, to cover the installation process, thereby demonstrating competency in this field.
In line with the Fire Safety Order 2005, the building owner – or those contracted to ensure fire safety compliance at a site, such as the facilities manager – are responsible for ensuring these requirements have been met. Forfeiting these responsibilities can, at worst, lead to loss of life in the event of a fire, but also potentially considerable fines and criminal charges.
Implement a regular maintenance schedule
Once installed, a fire doorset is subject to varying demands and pressures. Many commercial environments are busy ones, with many people passing through them every single day. Fire doorsets should be checked regularly as a matter of course, but particularly in buildings that have high numbers of people using their facilities. If neglected, these issues can cause fire control systems to fail.
Common fire doorset maintenance issues include damaged door closers; general wear and tear over time; increased gaps between leaf and frame; warping of door leaves; damaged seals or beadings; incorrect ironmongery being installed; and impaired hinges and latches.
A tailored maintenance programme is recommended, which considers how often and where within a building they are used, as this may have implications on the expected lifecycle of a fire doorset and its need for refurbishment, maintenance and even replacement. For example, a system installed in a high traffic route, which might be subjected to hard use or occasional abuse, will need facilities managers to implement a more frequent maintenance review than other installations. Furthermore, a regular, scheduled maintenance programme can help identify potential issues before they become so serious they might compromise safety.
ASSA ABLOY has published a new best practice guide on how to specify, install, maintain and inspect fire-certified doorsets, which can be downloaded for free from www.assaabloyopeningsolutions.co.uk/en/whitepapers.
The guide features advice from FDIS-trained inspectors, as well as insights and information from a range of third-party accreditation bodies and trade associations, including the Door and Hardware Federation, Fire Industry Association (FIA), and Secured By Design.