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Fire door issues “under-reported” suggest industry campaign organisers

07 November 2022

ONE-THIRD (32%, in fact) of the British public would not report a problem with a fire door, with a perceived lack of personal repercussions being one of the main reasons for this. That’s one of the key findings of new research conducted to mark Fire Door Safety Week 2022, which runs from Monday 31 October to Friday 4 November.

Organisers of the annual Fire Door Safety Week campaign suggest the research findings show that there’s a “clear lack of accountability” over reporting fire door issues and that lives are being put at risk as a result.

Despite three-quarters (75%) of survey respondents correctly believing that propping a fire door open stops it from performing its role in the event of a fire, 44% wouldn’t take action over a propped open fire door as they wouldn’t know who to report it to, while almost half (49%) do not feel it’s their place or role to report such an episode.

Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation which founded Fire Door Safety Week, commented: “There were 243 fire-related fatalities in England in the last 12 months. Individual action really is crucial in preventing tragedies. Fire doors propped open put lives at risk in the unfortunate event of a fire. Without being properly closed, a fire door cannot hold back the spread of fire and smoke to fulfil its life-saving role.”

The research has showed that propped open fire doors are a common occurrence, with 10% of respondents having seen a propped open fire door in their place of residence on some occasions and 20% in the workplace. It also identified that the two most common objects used to prop open a fire door are a wedge and a fire extinguisher.

Somewhat concerningly, 31% incorrectly believed that a fire door propped open with a wedge or a fire extinguisher was safe, while 18% didn’t believe a propped open fire door poses a risk to those in the building so wouldn’t take action. Not only was a propped open fire door incorrectly deemed as being safe, but 15% believed that keeping a fire door closed stops it from performing, thereby highlighting a lack of understanding around the role fire doors play in the event of a fire outbreak.

Saving lives

Gavin Tomlinson, the National Fire Chiefs Council’s chair for protection and business safety, commented: “We urge everyone to help keep buildings and their occupants safe and close the door on fire. A fire door can only protect from fire and smoke if it’s closed. We ask if people see a fire door propped open, they close it. It’s a simple ask that could save a life.”

Tomlinson added: “Everyone has a role in ensuring their buildings remain safe from fire and, if there are any concerns, they should be reported to the building owner or the individual responsible for the fire safety of that building. If it continues to be a problem or there’s concern about fire doors in a building, the Fire and Rescue Service can be contacted for advice and support.”

The research also found a lack of understanding over what constitutes a safe fire door. Alarmingly, 44% of respondents believed that either a fire door is a normal door covered in fire-resistant paint (13%), a fire door is a normal door, but with ‘fire door’ signage (13%) or that any timber door was a fire door (7%).

Helen Hewitt added: “There is clearly still a dangerous lack of understanding and a need for education on the role of fire doors. The encouraging news is that, when people are better informed about fire doors, they’re more likely to report issues. Half (49%) of the respondents to the study said that having a better understanding over what fire doors do and how they work would encourage them to take action.”

Hewitt concluded: “To close the door on fire, this year’s Fire Door Safety Week campaign aims to help address the lack of education and accountability around fire doors and reporting. This will be a crucial step in reinforcing the message that a closed fire door can be the difference between life and death. We must drive positive action to reduce fire-related fatalities.”