Articles by Karen Trigg
With Grenfell inquiries continuing to uncover a number of fire safety issues, it’s clear that decision makers must learn from critical mistakes in a bid for better fire safety standards. Karen Trigg of Allegion UK highlights the key lessons that must be taken from Grenfell to help ensure a disaster of this magnitude never happens again. On the 14th June 2017, UK witnessed a tragedy. A myriad of critical issues, whether the result of mistakes, oversights or neglect, led to the largest fire disaster in modern memory - Grenfell Tower. Since then, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has taken steps to uncover what went wrong that morning. But equally important is identifying and learning from the fire safety issues that were in play that day, so as to help ensure an incident like this never happens again. Taking Responsibility With that in mind, decision makers, construction companies, installers and manufacturers are amongst those that, in reviewing the reports, can make clear, steadfast plans to help improve fire safety for everyone. For that, a change in education towards fire safety - and the various solutions that make it possible - must be at the forefront of one’s activity. Because in reality, one is not just talking about ancillary products here, but lifesaving solutions. In November 2020, it emerged that Grenfell Tower suppliers were aware their cladding was dangerous In November 2020, it emerged that Grenfell Tower suppliers were aware their cladding was dangerous, with an inquiry citing, “These companies knew their materials would burn with lethal speed”. Despite the inquiries still bringing issues to light years later, it’s important to move forward on the critical topics that have already been identified. safety hardware manufacturers Aside from cladding, from the viewpoint of fire safety hardware manufacturers, two other key issues stood out from the reports; the failure of compartmentation and flat entrance doors failing to close. Combined, these themes proved fatal. Compartmentation in particular is crucial to containing the spread of fire from one area (in this case, apartments) to another, giving building occupants a safe space and protection from the fire. Commonly, over a building’s lifespan, compartmentation can become compromised with a number of different retro-fitted products. With this, installers (who may not be fully aware of the importance of fire protection) can potentially leave holes where there were none before, thus giving fire and smoke a place to breach the defenses the building once had. On this occasion, learning from the fire doors - which also play a critical part in compartmentalization - is key. ineffective fire doors As stated in Phase I of the Grenfell Inquiry, “The performance of fire doors in the tower, in particular, whether they complied with relevant regulations, their maintenance and the reasons why some of the self-closing devices do not appear to have worked.” In the same section of Phase I, it was made clear that ineffective fire doors allowed smoke and toxic gases to spread throughout the building at a quicker rate than they should have. The market has developed to offer solutions designed to meet the many needs of a building and their users The absence of effective self-closing devices in part led to the failure of compartmentation and was therefore a reason why the doors failed to perform their essential function. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that fire doors (when operating with fully functional hardware) play an essential role in preventing or inhibiting the spread of smoke and toxic gases and are a key factor in preserving effective compartmentation in buildings. delayed closing mechanisms With this information, questions must be asked as to why there was an absence of effective self-closing devices? There could be many reasons as to why there was a lack of self-closing devices, for example, the doors being too difficult to open, or perhaps closing too quickly and were thus removed. Yet the removal of those devices is never the true answer and instead it puts residents at risk. Today, the market has developed to offer solutions designed to meet the many needs of a building and their users, including those with delayed closing mechanisms that can ease access and egress. Yet it’s key to remember that fire doors and their accompanying hardware are there to save lives and property in the event of a fire and can only do so if the correct solutions are present and correctly installed. fire safety education The lessons taken from Grenfell must further prompt an area which is still not as good as it needs to be - fire safety education. It’s fundamental to ensure facility managers, installers and residents all understand the importance of fire safety solutions - from why they’re there to how they operate. The installation process is paramount, too. There are common issues with installation that simply must be ironed out. Aside from this, stricter guidelines need to be implemented as a way of preventing fire incidents such as Grenfell Commonly, the speed to which installers are required to work isn’t leaving enough time for door closers to be fully adjusted and therefore suit the environment in which it’s being fitted. To combat this, suppliers must do what is necessary to support installation - from supplying self-adhesive templates to improve efficiency, to offering spring adjustable door closers which are perfect for time-impaired installers. preventing fire incidents Aside from this, stricter guidelines need to be implemented as a way of preventing fire incidents such as Grenfell. Fire safety solutions such as door hardware are accompanied with certifications but should stricter guidelines be in place for those installing them? Furthermore, when it comes to testing, should higher risk buildings not be treated in the same vein as the everyday vehicles where regular servicing and MOTs are required to ensure they continue to perform? These, amongst others, are the questions that must continue being asked. Finally, a push for improved competence across the board is key. From the product design stage right through to constructing, inspecting, assessing and managing and maintaining all public buildings, including higher risk residential buildings as Grenfell once was. Only when key mistakes are learnt from, and competent bodies placed in the overseeing of refurbishments or new builds of high-risk residential buildings, can everyone truly feel that they are one step closer to complete fire safety
As fire safety continues to make the headlines, Karen Trigg of Allegion UK outlines the importance of hardware selection and reminds decision makers of how routine checks can save lives. Door hardware plays a role in the operational integrity of a building, and more crucially, is a key element of a facility’s fire safety and security. Putting fire safety measures at risk Fire doors, and their accompanying hardware in particular, require special attention from facility managers and installers. Installing inefficient equipment could suddenly put a whole building’s network of fire safety measures at risk. And in light of this year’s debate on the government’s planned fire safety reforms, the importance of fire door hardware is now more valued than ever. The importance of fire door hardware is now more valued than ever The expanding role of hardware is also giving decision makers extra considerations to make when selecting hardware. From ease of integration to the flow of movement – various factors can dictate a decision, potentially overwhelming some. Yet, decision makers must recognize the responsibility they carry in ensuring both a door and its hardware operate effectively – even after installation. A cultural change Fire doors are designed to protect occupants from the spread of fire, smoke and toxic fumes. Because of this, hardware (including handles, closers and hinges) must meet certain standards and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. Yet, as phase one of the Grenfell Inquiry has once again reminded us, not all buildings are meeting these requirements. Detailed Grenfell reports have raised questions over the integrity of the building’s fire doors, focusing on the failure of compartmentalization and broken self-closing mechanisms on flat entrance doors. With incorrect hardware selection or failed maintenance to blame, this case, like many others, should become the catalyst for change – before the safety of others is jeopardized. Industry experts are calling for a change in fire safety culture Today, hardware adaptable and designed to tackle almost all fire safety, security and operational challenges that a building can present. From access and emergency egress elements to the more unique and defined details such as flow of movement, its importance simply can’t be understated. But too often, purchase decisions can be led by cost, as opposed to quality. With this in mind, industry experts are calling for a change in fire safety culture. Although there are various elements and touchpoints to consider, one area that must change quickly is how we choose our door hardware. Manufacturers, architectural ironmongers and installers must all recognize that a ‘one size fits all’ solution doesn’t exist and, instead, make adequate, proactive choices – moving away from reactive decisions because fire safety requires extra consideration, even after a hardware decision has been made. Inspections and checks Even with the correct door hardware in place, its operational life can be significantly reduced if basic maintenance is neglected. Previously, best practice guidelines have suggested that the performance of self-closers should be checked once every six months. However, the ‘Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’ has in 2020 proposed quarterly fire door checks as part of their updated fire safety reforms. Building owners must ensure all doors are well kept and operational to meet health and safety requirements, including all door furniture and panic and emergency exit hardware. With most building entrances enduring repeated use, durability can sometimes become an issue – especially in areas of high footfall. However, as part of regular maintenance periods, both occupants and qualified teams can undertake a number of hardware checks. Visual inspections can determine whether a door and its hardware has attained any damage. Both the physical door and its surrounding frame and hardware can become damaged over time. However, if its functionality is being effected, the damaged area should be replaced immediately. The physical door and its surrounding frame and hardware can become damaged Taking the right steps Aside from visual inspections, functional checks can also be made and are key to maintaining a door’s fire safety and operational elements. Functional checks will reveal whether hardware is still operating effectively, without requiring any undue force. Seals or weatherstripping can sometimes become loose and inhibit the correct operation of a fire door and may need to be replaced. Similarly, some fixings may need to be tightened to ensure that the door can swing freely. By completing these checks, not only will facility managers expand the lifespan of their hardware, but they’ll also protect the lives of occupants. The choice of hardware will always be integral in the success of a facility’s fire safety. With various high profile failings being publicized it’s clear that a change in approach to fire safety is long overdue. And with the development of new fire safety reforms, we now should be guiding those responsible to better standards within their own buildings. After all, it only takes the failure of one designated fire door to spell disaster.
With so many of us having been confined to our homes over the past few months, it’s fair to say that we have started to notice more about our living environments. As we’ve become increasingly familiar with our surroundings, some of us have had the urge to change them. DIY projects have surged, gardens have been given a new lease of life and the rooms around our homes have been decorated (twice in some cases). Doors and fire safety It’s always nice to put up new wallpaper and apply some fresh paint to the skirting boards and doors. But, when doing so, how many of us have really looked at our doors? In particular, the ironmongery. With so many of us getting carried away with maintenance projects at home, some door closers may have been removed to fill and paint the door – not realising the importance of the closer in the first place. Some homeowners may have even painted over hinges, not aware of their importance to aid the closer to shut the door correctly. To use the analogy of a bucket full of holes, a fire door with no closer or a poorly working, inefficient closer will make it impossible for the door to operate as intended – rendering it useless in the case of a fire. How many of us are truly aware of the importance of a fire door and its ironmongery? being aware of the consequences Again, we must question how many of us are truly aware of the importance of a fire door and its ironmongery? It’s common for people to notice a wedged open fire door and not think anything of it – despite the potential consequences. Simply put, we become so used to our surroundings that sometimes we become too comfortable. Fire doors are everywhere. Where we work, where we visit and where we live. They are fundamental to the safety of people and property. When operating correctly, they allow time for escape in the event of a fire. But without closers (or closers that aren’t operating as they should), valuable time is lost. As we know, fire spreads at an alarming rate but when fire doors are closed, the rate is slowed. Yet, despite their importance to our lives, fire doors are generally ignored until they become difficult to open or shut. Testing firedoors The integrity of a fire door itself is also of high importance. All fire doors will have been tested with all the correct ironmongery attached. They are tested to withstand fire and smoke for a specific period of time (commonly 30 to 60 minutes) and any break in their integrity could cause the door to fail. Similarly, if the door has been altered in any way, this runs the risk of both fire and smoke being able to flood through any gaps that have been left as a result of that modification. Gaps around the fire door should be maintained at no more than 3mm around the top, hinge side and the latch/lock side. If the floor levels differ from threshold to floor, then it’s important to seek products that can help overcome this whilst maintaining the recommended gap under the door. And yes, door closers can sometimes seem like an inconvenience. This is especially true in our homes as we navigate through rooms, arms laden with shopping, holding a pushchair or even for people with mobility issues. However, doors should not be difficult to open. Problems and solutions Should you experience an issue with your door and its hardware, there are solutions out there. Any reputable architectural ironmongery manufacturer should be able to direct property owners to the best possible product to suit the situation. In terms of door closers, the best options are adjustable. With the use of an Allen key, an adjustable door closer can adjust on the body of the closer, allowing individuals to fine-tune the unit to compensate for any change in air pressure. For example, a door that operates well in the winter can sometimes begin to slam shut in the summer months, in which case, an adjustable closer can fix this. Managing Fire escape routes Finally, fire escape routes are also critical to the safety of a building’s occupants. For example, most hotel guests may have noticed fire escape stair shafts littered with objects that can deter a safe escape in the event of a fire. Yet, it is an offence to block any escape route and property owners are responsible for keeping these areas clear. Achieving maximum fire safety in your building will leave you with peace of mind Generally, when designing a building and its entry points, it’s important to seek the advice of professionals and look to manufacturers for assistance on product selection and budget. In a field that can feel confusing, they will provide products that suit the environment, ensuring that new installations are fully certified and equipped for the task at hand. In the end, achieving maximum fire safety in your building will leave you with peace of mind. So, as the DIY projects continue and in anticipation for when we’re finally ready to explore the outside world again, it’s key to change our approach to fire doors. Instead of resenting them or forgetting their purpose, we must remember that fire doors and their ancillary products should be rejoiced for what they’re there to achieve – complete fire safety.
After the recent events at Bolton University, where a student accommodation tower went up in flames, Karen Trigg of Allegion UK looks into how campus management must improve their fire safety and security strategies to keep students safe. Universities are more aware than ever of their responsibility to keep students safe and secure from all potential fire and security threats. However, after the recent events at Bolton University, where a fire ripped through the Cube building (an accommodation block that is home to more than 200 students) in a matter of minutes, there’s an apparent issue. Low-Rise residential buildings Two years after the Grenfell tragedy, this shocking case has once again brought to light the serious issue of fire safety standards in high-rise and low-rise residential buildings, but most recently in the universities. Now, there is mounting pressure on facility managers, security teams and the government to not only re-evaluate building design, but also fire safety and security protocols. Alarmingly, the ban also fails to include 966 existing university and school building projects Whilst the government is banning combustible materials on new high-rise homes and has committed to replace aluminum composite material (ACM) panels on public sector high-rise residential buildings above 18m in height, there’s still thousands of existing buildings that fall outside the scope of the ban. Alarmingly, the ban also fails to include 966 existing university and school building projects. What’s more, other areas such as fire door hardware, evacuation and lockdown procedures and also campus security are all crying out for re-evaluation too. So where should facility managers begin? building evacuation procedures A university campus is a complex environment. The size and complexity of the buildings involved presents a challenge in itself. Adding to that, with student numbers rising, it would appear that facility managers have an increasing number of occupants to consider, and for that safety protocols need to improve. In the last five years, more than one in four universities have received complaints from students, staff or the public regarding fire safety or building evacuation procedures. Pair this with the state of student buildings, which in many cases are years old and not regularly maintained, it’s not surprising that safety standards need improving across the board. Although facility managers may not have full control over the physical building itself, they do usually have jurisdiction for the interior. facility and occupant safety It’s critical for facility managers to ensure that all buildings are well maintained by conducting basic risk assessments With this in mind, it’s crucial for facility managers and security teams to invest in technology and infrastructure, such as door hardware and access control solutions, to maximize security and guarantee student safety and wellbeing. To guarantee the safety of the students, it’s critical for facility managers to ensure that all buildings are well maintained by conducting basic risk assessments. This will involve completing a full evaluation of existing systems, such as fire doors and escape routes - reviewing what could be implemented to enhance facility and occupant safety. Having a well-fitted fire door is a fundamental element of this. Under the Fire Safety Order, universities and colleges must demonstrate, that in the event of danger, it’s possible for people to evacuate a building as quickly and safely as possible – and the state of fire doors falls within this. Cloud-Based security systems In the circumstance of a fire, to help contain it, it’s vital that fire doors are correctly installed and maintained. This involves making sure that the door hardware (including hinges, handles, door closers, locks and signage) is certified, functional, regularly serviced and maintained. There’s a range of innovative technologies that can be integrated into a university campus Educating staff and students on what to look out for when checking fire doors and how to spot any potential damage is also important. Simply putting up fire safety posters and guides can go a long way in helping students avoid easy mistakes (such as propping open fire doors) that could otherwise have detrimental consequences. From fire detection to cloud-based security systems, there’s a range of innovative technologies that can be integrated into a university campus. Advanced security systems have a huge number of benefits that universities simply can’t ignore. integrated security system With most universities being designed as ‘open environments’, where people can freely move about, the implementation of an integrated security system is key, especially when aiming to streamline the flow of movement without substituting security. With cloud-based access control, facility managers can simply issue and retract access credentials meaning entry can be allowed or denied based on person, access point or even time of day. In the event that someone has wrongly gained access to a facility, to preserve student, staff and even equipment safety it’s essential to have an effective lockdown procedure in place. To avoid any security risks, a lockdown strategy should be based on two critical factors, these being security layers and people and protocols. Regarding layers, every campus is made of the exterior (such as the parking area) and interior (like lecture theatres), therefore the plan must cover this. effective lockdown procedures It’s no doubt that the safety of students should be a constant goal for facility managers and security teams There must also be trained people on site to make sure protocols are followed in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, in the possibility of a safe escape, appropriate digital signage, which can switch between a number of escape routes and guide people towards the safest exist must be clearly seen and understood. Not only this, there must be a designated meeting place for students and staff to meet in the event of a fire. As facility managers continue to see the importance of both fire and security elements, it appears more and more educational establishments are now integrating fire and lockdown into one critical incident plan. It’s no doubt that the safety of students should be a constant goal for facility managers and security teams. Through education, one can improve their investments into fire safety hardware, their understanding of effective lockdown procedures and the integration of increasingly holistic procedures and infrastructures. Only then can they be confident in the efforts to protect students.
How can a building’s fire systems be integrated with access control and other security systems to ensure effective function of both? It can be a challenging and delicate endeavor. Integration of fire and security systems provides multiple benefits and some challenges to be addressed. It is useful to consider fire and security systems as part of the same overall mission to keep a building and its occupants safe, while also being attentive to the differing roles of the systems and how they can complement each other. integrating security and fire systems Integrating security and fire systems is becoming paramount to create improved efficiency “There’s a conflict between life safety and security systems,” says Karen Trigg, Business Development Manager, South East, for lock company Allegion (UK) Ltd. “We must secure buildings without impeding the flow of movement and hindering immediate escape should a fire incident occur. To do this, we must have a greater understanding of building requirements.” In today’s world, integrating security and fire systems is becoming paramount to create improved efficiency and effectiveness of a building’s safety technology — and this integration can provide monumental benefits, says Eric Widlitz, Vice President of Sales for North America for access control company Vanderbilt Industries. video management systems For example, in the event of a fire, an alarm from a fire system can trigger an access control system to release locks on fire escape doors, as well as generate muster reports to provide information on who is inside the building, says Widlitz. “Additionally, video management systems have the ability to provide access to real-time, remote video footage of the fire’s actual location, helping firefighters and other emergency personnel to assess the situation and respond with greater accuracy.” Many challenges and opportunities that facilities face when integrating systems relate to whether a building’s infrastructure is designed well enough to connect security and fire systems, says Julie Brown, Institutional Market Leader for Johnson Controls. By conducting a site assessment first, owners and managers can better determine where physical building updates may be needed. Integration Of Video Surveillance And Fire Alarms Adjusting design in this case can eventually help make the integration of video surveillance and fire alarms easier" For example, if video surveillance is obstructed in certain areas, owners need to identify if the cameras can be moved to a better location or if physical alterations to the building are needed. “Adjusting design in this case can eventually help make the integration of video surveillance and fire alarms easier,” says Brown. “In the event that a fire alarm sounds, owners can have peace of mind that their cameras have an unobstructed view and that they can be automatically alerted to provide visibility into the area affected and potential cause of the alarm. It is critical to occupant safety that building owners address any design hurdles. Budget is often an issue,” says Trigg. “Although a challenge, understanding budgets – not only for the system in place but also ongoing maintenance and upgrades – helps uncover the correct solution, showing that the ‘cheaper option’ may cost more in the long run for some.” thermal imaging cameras Joe Byron, Vice President for the Americas for MOBOTIX Corp, says integrating fire and security opens the door to a world of possibilities. “When specifically looking at industrial applications, these systems require an added layer of reliability in order to guarantee workplace safety and operational efficiency,” he says. This technology is tied into the fire-suppression system and can monitor the temperature of specified machines" Byron points to a specific deployment as an example: MOBOTIX’s work with KUHN RIKON, a world-renowned cookware manufacturer. In 2015, during mechanical pot polishing, an abrasive component spontaneously combusted causing a large-scale fire, leading to a dust explosion, says Byron. “While an unfortunate tragedy, this led to an opportunity to outfit the plant with thermal imaging cameras,” he adds. “This technology is tied into the fire-suppression system and can monitor the temperature of specified machines. With built-in logic, the cameras can alert technicians to heat warnings and, if not acted upon, can automatically shut-down the machinery and queue fire systems if required.” Fire And Security Systems A well-designed and integrated control room can help to organize, automate and streamline critical sensors by implementing workstations that transmit only the most critical information at any given time. “Additionally, operators are better equipped to make more educated and timely decision by leveraging audible alarms, visual LED indicators and video displays with built-in intelligence to change content based on triggers from third-party systems such as fire, building automation and access control,” says Dan Gundry, Director of National Control Room Sales for Vistacom. At the end of the day, fire and security systems are two elements of the same mission: To keep buildings and their occupants safe. However, the two systems often operate independently and may not be integrated. More integration offers benefits, but there are pitfalls to be avoided.