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Last year saw a 14 per cent increase in fires in England, according to UK Home Office statistics. And while around three million fire doors are installed in the UK every year, a lack of understanding during operation, maintenance and management of fire doors is still apparent. In this article, David Hindle, Head of Door Closer Sales at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions UK & Ireland, will address this issue. Importance of fire doors Fire doors are often the first line of defense in a fire, yet even after the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, fire door hardware remains a significant area of concern. In May 2018, an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by dame Judith Hackitt, have been published. The review highlighted a range of issues, but the message stood clear, the UK’s current approach to fire safety in buildings is not functioning as intended and a new, holistic approach to fire safety is required. Review of fire inspections In all fire inspections, there is a responsibility from the building owner to include checks on the fire doors In all fire inspections, there is a responsibility from the building owner to include checks on the fire doors. However, there is no legal requirement for them to complete any recommended upgrades or repairs, or to prove that they have done so. This represents a major problem, as doors that do not perform to the required standard could compromise a building’s safety and put occupants at risk. Ultimately, this could lead to liability being assigned back to the building owner or facilities manager. Need to maintain fire safety standards Fire safety is only properly maintained if standards and checks are carried out throughout the lifecycle of the product and building. This is best addressed through regular inspection, maintenance and the replacement of products when required. A review by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme revealed the most common fire door faults, ranging from missing fire or smoke seals, to unsuitable hinges and damage to the door leaf itself. Any one of these issues can render a fire door useless and can seriously impede a door’s capability to protect people from harm. Door leaf and frame maintenance Fire door hardware is often not afforded the attention it requires and is left mismanaged throughout its service life. So what needs to be done to ensure fire door hardware is working as expected? Naturally, the door leaf should not be damaged, warped or twisted, and it is vital to ensure the fire door closes correctly around all parts of the frame, with no distortion between the stiles, top and frame. Gaps between the door and leaf must not be greater than those specified in the manufacturer’s installation instructions or fire certificate data sheet, typically around 3 to 4mm all the way round. Importance of door closers A door closer ensures a fire door returns to its fully closed position and the door seals correctly in the door frame A door closer ensures a fire door always returns to its fully closed position and makes sure that the door seals correctly in the door frame, when not in use. There are three steps to ensuring these components are working correctly. First, open the door fully and check that it closes without dragging across the floor. Next, open it to approximately 5-10 degrees and again check that it fully closes, engaging any latch or seal. Finally, check the door closing speed is approximately five seconds from a 90 degree angle, ensuring the door does not slam shut. Intumescent fire and smoke seals Fire and smoke seals should be in good condition, fit the full length of the door and be secure in the groove. If seals are badly fitted, damaged or painted, then they must be replaced with exactly the same size and intumescent material that was originally specified. If the smoke seals have to be replaced, then they should be fitted in one continuous length, if possible. To ensure hinges are in good condition, check for visible wear, dark marks or stains around the hinge knuckle that could indicate wear and impending failure. Hinges must be strong enough to carry the door mass, plus robust enough to work efficiently no matter the level of usage. The hinges should be firmly screwed into the door and frame, ensuring that the seals at the top and sides of the door are not damaged or missing at any time. Intumescent pads should also be used with hinges, as these are required for the door to get its appropriate fire rating. Locks and lever handles To measure a handle’s condition, one needs to ensure the lock lever fully returns to a horizontal position after use Wiping any metal dust deposits off the handles will help ensure that the latch-bolt is engaging smoothly and completely into the keep during use. To measure a handle’s condition, one needs to ensure the lock lever fully returns to a horizontal position after use. If it does not, the lever may, at best, need adjusting or lubricating. At worst, it may need replacing, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Again, ensure the lock case is protected by intumescent material. Maintaining record of fire door inspection No matter the component, a record of inspection and maintenance should be kept for all door hardware. Furthermore, those responsible for ensuring the fire safety of a site should encourage others to report any issues with any of the door components. Faults should be fixed as soon as possible, using the correct and fire-rated components. To check the compatibility of components, always consult the fire certificate data sheet or contact the manufacturer.
Maintaining adequate staffing is a key challenge facing many volunteer fire departments. While not a new issue, increasing population and call volumes along with the expanded services many volunteer departments now provide have made recruiting and retaining volunteers a top priority in the fire service. The federal government supports volunteer recruitment and retention through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). SAFER has provided more than $300 million in grants to help fire departments recruit and retain volunteers from FY 2010-2017 and will distribute approximately $42 million in the FY 2018 grant cycle, expected to open in the near future. Annual Contribution Cap Give volunteer emergency responders increased access to mortgage and other housing assistance programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture The National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC) legislative agenda for 2019 is heavily focused on recruitment and retention. In addition to advocating for funding for SAFER, we will be asking Congress to: pass legislation exempting nominal benefits that volunteers receive as a reward for their service from federal income and withholding taxes clarify the tax status of length of service award program (LOSAP) to make plans easier to administer (the NVFC was successful last year in doubling the annual contribution cap on LOSAP from $3,000 to $6,000) make volunteer emergency responders eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program through the U.S. Department of Education, which forgives the student loan debt of public servants who have served for at least 10 years give volunteer emergency responders increased access to mortgage and other housing assistance programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Free Department Portal In addition, the NVFC recently received a SAFER grant to continue its work with the Make Me A Firefighter campaign. Launched in 2014, this is the first national volunteer recruitment campaign of its kind. Fire and emergency service agencies can use the free department portal to find resources and tools to help them with recruitment as well as post their volunteer opportunities in a national database. Department composition should reflect the community’s demographics, and yet many groups, such as millennials, women, and minorities The campaign also works to raise public awareness of the need for volunteers and connects potential recruits with their local fire department through the web site. With the new grant, additional focus will be given to retention of volunteers. Department composition should reflect the community’s demographics, and yet many groups, such as millennials, women, and minorities, are drastically underrepresented in the fire service. Diversify Their Ranks These target groups present significant areas of opportunity for fire department recruiters. As part of the Make Me A Firefighter campaign, the NVFC is working to help departments diversify their ranks and reach these key audiences. Volunteers make up 70% of the U.S. fire service, and most small, rural communities depend entirely on volunteers to respond to emergencies of all kinds. Recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters, EMS providers, and support members is critical to ensure adequate protection of our residents. The NVFC will continue to provide advocacy and resources to help local departments in their efforts.