The terrible tragedy of the fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell has once again highlighted the importance of fire doors and their role in containing the spread of fire and allowing people to escape.
A correctly fitted and functioning fire door can help to suppress a fire by restricting the amount of oxygen available to it and will restrict its spread - a closed fire-resisting door is designed to endure direct attack by fire for a specified period of time. This should allow time for active fire protection resources such as sprinklers and fire fighters to perform. It will also protect escape routes and continue to provide some protection for fire fighters.
Too often at the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers, our members see examples of fire doors which have been fitted with ironmongery which is either inappropriate or not fit for purpose, often as a result of lowest tender purchasing policies. But this should not be allowed to cloud the perception of fire doors because they can - and do - save very many lives every year.
Since the Regulatory Reform Order came into effect in October 2006, responsibility for maintaining fire and escape doors has been placed firmly with the building owners and operators.
Building owners in England and Wales must show that they have carried out a risk assessment on their premises - and this includes ensuring that fire and escape doors have the correct hardware fitted and, importantly, that it is appropriately maintained. They must also be able to produce the documentation to show that the products are suitable for their application, proving that all parties have exercised due diligence in fulfilling their duty of care.
Gary Amer, chief executive, Guild of Architectural Ironmongers