Fire safety - someone else's problem?
Since last year?s Grenfell Tower tragedy, fire safety in blocks of flats has been right at the top of property managers? agendas. The issue of whether or not the front doors to people?s homes are compliant with fire safety regulations has been looked at in detail during the long-running Grenfell inquiry and the government is now carrying out an investigation into the fire door industry. Testing of fire doors to make sure they meet the standard required by the Building Regulations started in October and, so far, none of the doors has failed the tests.
While testing is ongoing, the National Fire Chiefs Council says that the additional risk to public safety is low and in the event of a fire, people should continue to follow the existing fire procedures for their building. The NFCC advises that smoke alarms should be tested regularly and the front doors to flats should ideally be fitted with a working self-closing device.
Your property manager is responsible for ensuring that the fire doors in your block are working correctly. As with any life-saving product, a fire door should be tested in the same way as emergency lighting, a smoke or fire alarm, or a fire extinguisher would be. Any slight alteration to the door or its surroundings can affect its performance. But there are also things residents can do themselves to make sure their building is safe.
First, be vigilant. Don?t leave fire doors in the common areas propped open and do alert your property manager if you think any of them is faulty - for example one is not closing properly or is damaged in some way. Here are some things to look out for:
- The gaps around the top and sides of a closed fire door should be less than 4mm. Any more than that and it may not work properly.
- Are there seals around the door or frame, and if so are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are vital to the fire door?s performance, expanding if they become hot, so if your doors don?t have seals, raise this with your property manager.
- Are the door hinges firmly fixed? There should be three or more of them, with no missing or broken screws.
- Check the door closes properly: open it about halfway, then let go and allow it to close by itself. All fire doors should be fitted with a working self-closer unless they lead to riser cupboards or plant rooms which are visited by contractors and kept locked.
Other issues that can increase the chance of a fire spreading through a block of flats are:
- any new holes produced by building works, such as installation of cables or pipes, that has not been sealed by the contractor.
- existing holes that are reopened by the removal of a service and not sealed.
- damage to external cladding or boarding.
Unless your block has on-site staff, it?s possible for problems that could impact on fire safety to be missed. So for the sake of you and your neighbours? peace of mind it?s important to take responsibility yourself and not assume that fire safety is always someone else?s problem.
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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