At approximately 12:50 am on 14th June 2017, a fridge-freezer caught fire in a fourth-floor flat at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential tower block in North Kensington, London. What should have been a containable incident quickly turned into the UK’s worst structural fire in nearly 30 years, and the deadliest residential blaze since World War 2.
72 lives were lost, and the subsequent public inquiry shed light on the role fire doors played in accelerating the spread of smoke, flames, and toxic gases within the building.
In this article, we’ll explain how fire door regulations are changing and the implications for the owners and landlords of high-rise residential buildings.
Alarming Flaws In Fire Safety Standards
During the investigation into the Grenfell Tower disaster, several key areas of concern were identified:
Many of the fire doors within the building were non-compliant as they lacked self-closing mechanisms or had been jammed open. Self-closers are simple devices that restrict the spread of smoke by keeping doors closed and airtight. Because they weren’t fitted or functional in Grenfell Tower, smoke and flames were able to quickly spread to emergency escape routes, trapping residents and allowing passage to noxious gases produced by the fire.
Non-Compliant Fire Doors
Despite previous testing, fire doors did not meet the minimum legal standard to provide 30 minutes of fire resistance. This failure raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of fire safety regulations and the overall quality of fire doors installed in buildings across the country.
The cladding used in Grenfell Tower was the primary cause of the rapid spread of the fire. Consisting of aluminium composite material (ACM) panels with a flammable polyethylene core, the cladding did not comply with building regulations and significantly contributed to the fire’s intensity and speed.
The New UK Fire Safety Regulations: What’s Changing?
In response, urgent inspections of fire doors in residential buildings in the UK were recommended to ensure that they fully comply with fire safety regulations, notably:
- The requirement for self-closing mechanisms to be fitted to all fire doors and are working.
- The fire doors should be considered as part of the Building Fire Risk Assessment and regularly checked to ensure they are in efficient working order and in good repair.
Additionally, in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding similar to the type that was installed in Grenfell Tower, entrance doors to individual dwellings must now adhere to current safety standards and, if necessary, be replaced. This measure recognises the importance of fire doors, not only to prevent the spread of fire within communal areas but to provide crucial protection for residents within their own homes.
These changes in fire safety regulations are driven by the need to prioritise the safety and well-being of occupants of residential buildings. By enforcing stricter standards for fire doors, authorities aim to enhance fire resistance, restrict the spread of smoke and flames, and improve evacuation measures in the event of a fire.
It’s essential for building owners, property managers, and residents to stay informed about these evolving fire safety regulations and take action to ensure compliance. Regular inspections, maintenance, and upgrades of fire doors by a professional installer, such as Mila Maintenance, are crucial to safeguard lives and minimise the risks posed by fires.
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