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We’ve all heard about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. In terms of fire doors this very maxim can easily come home to roost with fatal consequences.

Wedged or propped-open fire doors are a common problem in a vast array of buildings. This is often done for very good reasons; fire doors can be heavy, restrict access through the building, and prevent a free flow of air… which is exactly why people jam them open. It is most likely that this is done in all innocence without people realising that fire doors provide a very important function in preventing the spread of fire and allowing time for people to escape a fire. So, wedging them open is both dangerous and illegal.

London Fire Brigade in a statement advise that, “fire doors are specially designed to automatically close behind you in the event of fire, holding flames back, stopping the spread of the fire and toxic smoke into escape routes and corridors. It’s crucial that people don’t remove the self-closing mechanism or prop open fire doors.” London Fire Brigade also recently tweeted, “Praise for fire doors & importance of keeping them shut in case of fire after a family pet is rescued alive by crews.”

At Laidlaw, the UK’s largest independent supplier of ironmongery, integrated doorsets, balustrades and access control they know that certified compliant fire door products, together with correct installation and a regular maintenance regime is the key to saving lives. They also know that propping open fire doors can kill.

Many healthcare facilities, offices, schools and public buildings can often be harsh environments for fire doors. The corridors and communal areas need to withstand high volumes of constant traffic flow. Always in a hurry, many people unwittingly prop or wedge open fire doors to save them time. Fire doors are provided to protect the safety of the building and its occupants. In the event of a fire, they stop smoke and fire spreading into corridors and stairs, provided they are shut. Closed fire doors make sure people have a protected route to get out of the building, and they protect the building and its contents against the spread of damage. Leaving fire doors wedged or propped open disregards the safety of others. It is also against the law. If unsure, then It is safe to assume that a solidly built door with a self-closer and a sign stating, ‘Fire Door, Keep Shut’ is a fire door.

So, what is the solution in high traffic areas such as hospital or school corridors where it is simply impractical to have a closed door or an automatic door opening and shutting? Or in a care home where residents find fire doors heavy and difficult to open? There are several fire door controls available that safely hold fire doors open in normal use but automatically close them in the event of a fire alarm, ensuring compliance with fire regulations.

They carry the CE mark and therefore not only are perfectly safe and legal but they offer a simple and effective solution to a common issue. Finding the right solution will depend on the exact application and Laidlaw can advise you on this. A battery-powered wireless unit will close a fire door automatically on the sound of the fire alarm. It is perfect in a retrofit situation as the wireless technology minimises disruption during installation. Alternatively wired electromagnetic fire door controls are connected to the fire alarm or smoke detection system. The benefit of overhead electromagnetic door closers, whether they are wired or wireless devices, is to enable people to open the door easily and push it into any position. A favourite in hospitals and care homes is the door-opening magnet which can keep doors in a wide-open position. They all work to the same principle: if a fire alarm is triggered, the controls automatically close the door. In addition to this, Laidlaw’s Orbis Access Control software can be integrated with any fire or smoke detection system. As soon as a fire alarm or smoke detection system activates, it connects to the software, automatically shutting the door to contain the fire, but also allowing free access for escape routes.

As with any fire doors, Laidlaw recommends that a regular maintenance routine is carried out to ensure that the doors are always functioning correctly and safely. Fire door controls such as these are critical devices because they ensure the door closes in the event of a fire. Laidlaw has a Maintenance Guide available online which outlines the importance of maintenance and guidelines for setting up a maintenance schedule.

At Laidlaw, they have qualified FDIS Certificated Inspectors who can visit, inspect and advise on any fire safety needs. Laidlaw also highly recommend always using a reputable and competent supplier of a properly tested product that is proven to operate safely in a fire.

Useful Links

Laidlaw Maintenance Guide

Fire Door Safety Week Advice

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