1. Fire doors are an engineered safety device designed to hold back flames, smoke and heat. In the event of a fire specialist fire doors play a crucial role in the safe evacuation of a building.
2. About 3 million new fire doors are fitted every year across the UK. They should always be correctly specified and installed to the correct level of fire resistance required. Many fire doors offer 30 minutes of resistance to fire but this can be engineered to much longer periods when required.
3. Fire doors consist of several elements in order to provide the necessary level of fire protection. Collectively, everything associated with a fire door is known as the doorset. More often than not the door is a solid timber frame with a fire resistant core. They can be made from other products, there are many metal fire doors. Fire doors can be constructed with or without a vision panel, which is the name given to any glazing within a door. The vision panel, if installed, must be fitted to a specific standard with fire-resisting glass to maintain the integrity of the fire protection. It is important to use certified doors that have been specially tested where the face of the door has been exposed to extreme heat to test its performance in fire conditions. Around the door leaf should be fitted a intumescent seal. This is designed to expand and seal the perimeter of the door between the door and the frame. They expand at temperatures of around 200 degrees C. In addition to the intumescent seal, or often integrated with the seal, is something known as a cold smoke seal. Combined, the intumescent and smoke seals hold back smoke, heat and flames and reduce the oxygen that the fire can draw into it. Combined, these aspects provide a high level of resistance to fire. In addition to the door and frame, is the importance of using the correct ironmongery. This includes good quality self-closing devices being installed along with appropriate fire rated hinges and handles.
4. Fire doors must be regularly maintained and inspected. It is not the case that you install fire doors and never have to do anything with them from there on in. People understand it makes sense to test the fire detectors and to service emergency lighting but often fire doors are not properly maintained. This is wrong. Fire doors can have very demanding lives working hard opening and closing several hundred times a day in busy environments. Schools, colleges, offices and factories are busy places. They are regularly mistreated, collided with and slammed against. This means they need regular inspections to check their condition. A broken fire door could cost people their lives. It is good practice to regularly check fire doors are working properly with a formal inspection carried out at least every 6 months. BS 9999 gives specific information with regard to door inspections.
5. Fire doors perform a vital role in preventing fire spread in buildings. If fire safety professionals and the construction industry do their jobs properly, fire doors save lives, help to protect property and aid business continuity by preventing a fire in one area destroying an entire property. The below photograph shows how a wall with a double fire door set held back a fire in a creative arts block in a school in Dorset. By being correctly installed and maintained the fire protection measures held back fire.
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