Articles by Karen Trigg
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.
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.