Compartmentation – the deliberate containment of a fire in a public building – is a well-established and proven tactic that can help to prevent the blaze from spreading and give occupants time to escape to safety.
As part of this strategy, fire doors have an important role to play. Specially designed to withstand incredibly high temperatures for up to 120 minutes, fire doors are effective at keeping flames at bay, giving firefighters the time they need to enact a rescue of trapped residents.
However, it isn’t simply fire that these doors help to contain.
The Danger of Smoke
The public enquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster highlighted the dangers posed by open fire doors. Many residents who survived the fire reported that the self-closing mechanisms on the doors were broken or faulty, so many fire doors were left open on the night of 14th June 2017, causing toxic smoke to spread throughout the building.
In dark buildings, when fire has disrupted the electricity supply, smoke poses a significant obstacle to residents’ means of escape. Panic and disorientation make it difficult for people to navigate their way to the fire exits, particularly if their usual path is obstructed or unsafe. Furthermore, toxic smoke, which will easily spread when fire doors are left open and which may contain dangerous substances, such as carbon monoxide or cyanide, can render people incapacitated long before the fire itself approaches. In fact, up to 80 percent of fire-related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation.
Why Is a Propped-Open Fire Door a Hazard?
The self-closing mechanisms on fire doors are designed to ensure that they cannot be accidentally left open. However, fire doors are sometimes deliberately jammed open, with door wedges, pot plants, furniture, or even fire extinguishers.
Clearly, a fire door will only work if it is fully closed. Not only will it stop the spread of fire and smoke, but it will help to prevent the flow of air through the building that could provide vital oxygen for the fire and encourage it to burn more intensely.
The consequences can be serious: fire escapes may be obscured and the chance of evacuation severely diminished, leading to loss of life and irreparable damage to property.
What Are The Penalties For Fire Doors Left Open?
If fire doors are found to have been left open, insurance companies may refuse to cover the cost of damage or repairs to the property, on the basis that, had the doors been kept closed as required by law, the fire may not have spread as quickly or widely.
However, where life is judged to have been put at risk, or lives have been lost, the penalties can be severe, as these examples show:
- A care home in Blackpool was fined £200,000 for breaches of fire door regulations.
- A supermarket in Barnet, London, was fined £95,000 for similar offences.
- A landlord from Norwich received a 21-month prison sentences after a tenant received 80 per cent burns in a fire.
Contact Us About Fire Door Installation and Maintenance
At Mila Maintenance, our highly-trained and professionally accredited installation and maintenance team can ensure that fire doors in your premises meet all current regulations, giving you peace of mind that, should the worst case scenario occur, a fire compartmentation plan will protect both people and property.
To find out more, please get in touch on 0808 100 8881 or send us a message and we’ll be in touch.
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