Fire Door Safety Week runs from the 21st until the 27th of September. As a landlord, what are you doing to play your part?
A booklet published by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) reminds private sector landlords that they have legal obligations to follow fire safety guidelines. These are to be found in various laws which apply to you as a landlord – the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, the Housing Act 2004, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Landlords of HMOs are legally obliged to have fire doors fitted.
Taken together, this raft of legislation underscores your duty as a landlord to be constantly aware of fire safety issues, detect the dangers through the necessary risk assessments, and take whatever precautionary measures are relevant.
Fire doors offer vital fire protection, says the London Fire Brigade. They provide an essential barrier preventing the spread of heat and smoke generated by a fire. Without the fire doors, therefore, many tenants may be prevented from a lifesaving evacuation of the premises because their escape routes are blocked by smoke and high temperatures.
Fire doors are designed to form a “compartment” within which the fire can be contained for long enough for tenants to make their escape, explains Fire Door Safety Week.
Fire doors are typically the first line of defence whenever a fire breaks out, says an article on the Awareness Days website, and can make the difference between life and death for tenants or other residents. That is one of the reasons why an estimated three million new fire doors are bought and installed in buildings across the UK each year.
To do that job effectively, however, fire doors of the correct specification must be appropriately fitted, maintained, and managed to counter what is often serious neglect.
Maintaining fire doors
All fire doors bear a specific fire rating, based on the delay they provide against the progress of a fire. So, an FD30-rated fire door, for example, is certified to provide 30-minute protection, an FD60 equals 60 minutes of protection, and so on.
The British Woodworking Federation’s (BWF) Fire Door Alliance champions the certification of fire doors by third parties – and you might want to read more about this work.
An essential feature of a fire door is the automatic closer that is fitted to it to make sure that it always returns to a securely closed position. Closers must be on all the fire doors in the common areas of any let property – the entrances to the building itself and to internal doors between corridors and stairwells. Closers on the entrance doors must be fitted to the inside, to avoid vandalism and to allow the door to be adjusted properly when it is closed.
Closers must be properly adjusted so that the doors swing smoothly and open and close with the correct degree of force. Unless they are correctly adjusted and maintained, you run the risk of the doors being damaged or failing to close properly, so that they don’t do their job when they are most needed in the event of a fire.
The London Fire Brigade, for example, points out that when the incorrect closer is used or is not adjusted properly, the fire doors can close too quickly, with a sudden bang, that disturbs tenants and residents of the building. In response, the residents may wedge open the doors to stop them from closing and making such a noise. That action leads to a weakening of the fire door’s self-closing mechanism, leaves the doors wide open, and, of course, means that they are unable to do the job for which they were designed in the event of a fire.
To ensure that you install and maintain fire doors capable of meeting the fire safety standards which you are legally obliged to keep, therefore, consider the following courses of action:
- have your fire doors installed by suitably qualified and accredited professionals;
- make sure your fire doors meet current quality standards – British Standard (BS) Parts 22 and 31 or BS EN 1154;
- ensure that each door has the necessary combination of both smoke and fire seals around its edges – not forgetting the seals around letterboxes, too;
- make sure the door handles and catches close correctly;
- fit the appropriate self-closing mechanisms to every door, ensuring that they are correctly adjusted to prevent slamming and banging – which damages both doors and their frames and is likely to annoy or even injure residents who use the doors.
Fire safety awareness is not just for Fire Door Safety Week, of course, but the campaigning and information might help you take the action incumbent on you are a landlord.