What effect has the pandemic had on fire safety?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have a much higher awareness of the things they touch. Whether its a shopping trolley, money or a door handle. With new research findings being released regularly, it is believed that Coronavirus can last on some surfaces for up to 28 days. This makes cleaning surfaces more important than ever to help prevent cross-contamination.
Throughout flats and apartment blocks, there are self-closing fire doors installed for the fire safety and protection of tenants and property. Although this is vital in terms of a Fire Risk Assessment, it can be a massive obstacle to someone who is shielding, self-isolating or who has high anxiety around catching the virus. To avoid touching the door plates and handles, tenants may find themselves not leaving the house or wedging open the doors to avoid touching them.
Fire doors can only do their job if they can close safely in an emergency. If tenants do wedge doors open and a fire breaks out, the fire could spread through the building very rapidly, putting lives at risk. Measures can be taken to prevent the spread of the virus, but once a fire breaks out, it is much harder to control.
Unfortunately, door wedging and disengaged door closers are not a new problem caused by the pandemic. It is something the industry has been trying to tackle for a long time.
Self-closing doors are problematic to everyday users
Most people in the fire industry would agree that self-closing fire doors are one of the most important pieces of fire protection that we use in our buildings. Many would also agree that we have a long way to go in terms of how heavy fire doors are when being operated. In fact, heavy fire doors are one of the main reasons why social housing has a high percentage of closers being tampered with.
Recently, one fire officer at a local authority told us that, during a survey of 6000 flat entry fire doors, 1700 doors had disengaged or removed door closers. That’s over 30% of their doors being made non-compliant. One may assume that this is a result of disabled people struggling to open a door, but in nearly all instances, this was done by residents with no mobility impairments at all.
So, what are the factors behind this? One resident claimed that her husband removed the closer because she struggled to get through the door with their child’s push-chair and the bags of groceries they would regularly come home with. Another was fed up of how much of a struggle it was to get into their flat with a pushbike. Others removed closers as a result of small fingers and limbs being trapped in the door as it closed. In all cases, the issue was the same – the door was just too heavy.
Improve fire safety and germ control
Tenants who are scared of catching the virus or who struggle with access to their own home will not have fire safety at the forefront of their mind when wedging doors open. Action needs to be taken to help empower tenants whilst also maintaining fire safety in the building.
We have already helped many councils and housing associations tackle these issues with our products. Freedor SmartSound and Freedor Pro, take the weight out of heavy fire doors and make opening and closing doors effortless. Improving access and avoiding the need to touch door handles, they allow the door to be placed open at any angle and when the fire alarm is activated the door will close, stopping the spread of fire. Depending on the risk category for fire door placement, we have products with different levels of compliance.
For more information on how we can help your building with fire safety and germ control, visit our website www.fireco.uk or call us on 01273 320650.