Safelincs operates a fire safety forum where people’s fire safety questions are answered by professionals. We followed the numerous queries regarding fire exits in businesses and have created a list of the main concerns that were raised and answered:
Just for clarification – What do we mean with fire exit (doors) in this article?
Mostly, this terms refers to final fire exit (doors) leading to the outside of a building, although the term is also correctly used for all doors inside the building on routes that are leading to the final fire exit. In this article we refer to FINAL fire exits when we mention fire exits or fire exit doors.
Any door leading to the outside is potentially a fire exit, including your normal entrance
In the event of a fire it must be possible for staff and visitors to evacuate your premises as quickly and as safely as possible. This is often through the door by which your staff or the public entered. However, additional fire exits will often be installed to reduce the escape distance or to provide an alternative exit in case the main entry/exit is blocked by fire. Sliding or revolving doors must not be used for exits specifically intended to be used as fire exits. Doors leading to enclosed courtyards might also not be suitable as fire exits.
Final Fire exit doors can be left open
Security may of course be a separate issue, but it is completely acceptable to have final fire exit doors standing open on, for example, hot days. The only time that this should not happen is if the final fire escape door is also acting as a fire resistant door – although this would be very rare. The issue of fire exit doors left standing open is getting regularly confused with the issue of internal fire doors which must be kept shut.
Fire exits must be easily openable from inside the building
Fire exit doors must not be locked or fastened in a way preventing them being easily and immediately opened by any person who may use them in an emergency. There are a variety of ways to secure fire exit doors in a way that allows easy opening by anybody from the inside in the case of an emergency:
• Panic bars (also called push bars or crash bars) are used where large numbers of people are attempting to travel at speed through a fire exit, as minimal pressure on the bar releases the locking mechanism.
• Emergency push pads are similar to push bars but feature a small pad as opposed to a horizontal bar. They should only be used where a panic situation is unlikely to arise in an emergency evacuation scenario e.g. when only staff familiar with the building and not members of the general public are using the exit.
• The Redlam emergency bolt (often wrongly called Redlam panic bolt) is designed for emergency doors which are not in normal everyday use and should only be opened for maintenance and testing. The bolt is NOT suitable for public areas.
• The Kingpin emergency bolt is similar to the Redlam bolt; when the handle is pulled, the Kingpin breaks into two pieces, allowing the spring-loaded bolt to retract and thus release the door. The door can, at all times, be used for non-emergency purposes by a key holder. Again, this bolt is not suitable for areas used by the general public.
• A maglock (short for magnetic lock) holds the door shut using an electromagnetic force between a magnet and a steel plate. Typically they can have a keypad for access from outside and a green quick release button inside for use in an emergency. These systems can be wired into alarm systems that automatically release if the fire alarm system activates or the power supply fails.
Fire exit doors must not be locked whilst a building is in use
However, when a building is unoccupied it can be locked as securely as required. If dramatic security measures like chains, padlocks or steel bars are required, the first person entering the building in the morning must remove all of these. It is generally recommended to create a wall mounted board in the entrance area with the shapes of the security devices (eg padlock) used painted red on which the removed padlocks etc are then hung. This is a visual aid to stop staff forgetting that doors are still locked. Forgetting to unlock security devices could lead to severe prosecution. We would therefore recommend to only use proper panic bars etc. These can offer excellent security and allow safe escape in case of an emergency.
Fire exit doors can be any colour
The important thing is that the exit doors are clearly signed.
Fire exit doors should open in the direction of escape
However, in the workplace it may be permissible to have an exit door opening inwards if it is providing excess for less than 60 staff without public access.
The more people use a building the greater the number of fire exits required
The minimum width for a fire escape catering for 60 people or less is 750mm. For full details of width requirements versus number of users and for the number of exits required, the Building Regulations area of the UK Government’s Planning Portal should be consulted. (Approved Document B – Fire Safety) http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_AD_B2_2007.pdf . See also our full help guide
Emergency routes and fire exits must be indicated by signs
Fire exit routes need to be marked clearly with emergency exit signs and have to be sufficiently lit, even when the electric power supply has failed. Therefore emergency routes and fire exits usually require emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of the normal lighting. Final fire exits signs can be illuminated themselves or externally lit by an emergency light.
Emergency routes and fire exits must be kept clear of obstruction
Final fire exit doors should never be blocked from the inside or outside. Equally, the internal escape routes must not be blocked. Items that are a source of fuel, pose an ignition risk, or are combustible and likely to increase the fire loading or spread of fire, should not be located on any corridor, stairway or circulation space that will be used as an escape route. Such items include portable heaters, (bottled gas or electric radiant heaters), gas cylinders, etc.
If the fire exit leads onto a road or car park a sign is needed to say ‘No Parking’
If possible a barrier could also be put in place.
To emphasise the advantages of the P50 service free extinguishers to end users, Safelincs created a short promotional video demonstrating the benefits and cost savings of the extinguisher.
The P50 extinguishers:
- Do not require external service engineers. A simple annual visual inspection by the end user is sufficient
- Do not require a refill after five years, as the firefighting chemicals are guaranteed for ten years
- Can even be refurbished after ten years to give another ten year life
These extinguisher also help to reduce your carbon footprint, save time and even space, as the superior ratings mean that less P50 units are required to cover a building when compared to traditional extinguishers.
With rising costs in care for the elderly and Government cut backs to services for those with medical and learning difficulties, many families are looking for solutions that will help promote independent living. Recognising the kitchen as the area most at risk of fire in the home, Finnish manufacturer, Innohome, has developed the Stove Guard intelligent self-learning heat sensor that actively PREVENTS an electric cooker fire from igniting.
Constantly monitoring the cooker top temperature and its rate of rise, the Innohome Stove Guard acts as soon as a hazardous situation is detected. As well as sounding an audible alarm, the Stove Guard heat sensor sends a wireless signal to a control unit, discreetly fitted behind the cooker, which cuts the cooker’s electricity supply off. This innovative technology not only acts before the formation of dangerous smoke levels but also stops a fire from igniting.
Unlike traditional heat alarms, the Innohome Stove Guard has many features and benefits to accommodate the user’s needs. To avoid false alarms, the heat sensor has an ability to learn the user’s cooking styles by reducing its sensitivity during normal cooking conditions. Its safety features include an intelligent timer, alarm removal detection as well as smoke, CO and gas alarm recognition, all of which trigger the control unit to switch off the cooker’s electricity supply.
Boasting an impressive 15 year sensor working life and 5 year warranty, the Innohome Stove Guard provides our customers with value for money as well as peace of mind. For more information on how the Innohome Stove Guard can benefit you and your loved ones, please visit our dedicated Innohome approved supplier website at www.safelincs.co.uk/innohome.
Investing in safety is a necessary expenditure – but one where getting value for money is still going to be important. At Safelincs we believe that safety products with a long lifespan will save money and give long term peace of mind.
Many of our products therefore come with a ten year guarantee to give our customers the confidence that their purchase will last:
• Safelincs has introduced DecaMed, the UK’s first longlife first aid kit that is guaranteed for ten years. Developed and manufactured by Germany’s leading first aid manufacturer, the DecaMed first aid kit saves time and money by eliminating the need to replace components every year due to passing expiry dates. All sterile components are certified by the BSI. Everything is contained in a durable case and the first aid kit provides massive cost savings compared with standard kits.
• The P50 service free fire extinguisher is also guaranteed for ten years, after which time it can be refilled and used for another ten years. What sets it apart from standard extinguishers is that it does not require service engineer visits and does not have to be refilled/replaced after 5 years. A simple annual visual check can be carried out by a member of staff rather than calling in an external engineer. Even on a relatively small estate, savings on servicing can run into thousands of pounds.
The longevity is due to the materials used in the construction of the P50s which are 100% corrosion proof. The extinguishers come in powder and foam versions. They are kitemarked by the BSI to BS EN3, the British and European standard for fire extinguishers.
• The Kidde longlife digital carbon monoxide detector uses the latest battery and sensor technology, allowing Kidde to offer a ten year warranty. Fitted with a sealed lithium battery and digital display, this model is the best and most efficient unit on the market. Its sealed long life battery guarantees a ten year lifespan with an audible signal sounding at the end of that time. The units are kitemarked to EN 50291-1: 2010 and CE marked.
• We also offer a longlife fire blanket with a 10 year lifespan and warranty.
Other products with 10 year guarantees include panic bars, emergency push pads and fire door closers.
One of the products with the longest warranty is the Saffold fire escape and access ladder which features a 15 year warranty!
Safelincs also sells a number smoke and heat alarms with sealed-in ten year lithium batteries, which last the full life of the smoke alarm. No battery changing, no unauthorised removal of the battery and a tamper-free design make these products a safe and economical choice.
Smoke alarms should be changed every ten years. For those people with mains powered alarms there is a simple and low cost way of achieving this. Safelincs and Ei Electronics have developed a range of replacement smoke alarms branded ‘easichange’ which can be installed in less than a minute by the householder. The easichange alarms come supplied with the removal tool needed to take the old smoke alarm safely off its base and with a new alarm head which can be installed by simply sliding it onto the existing base.
We recently heard reports that a school had removed all of their portable fire extinguishers following a fire risk assessment. After our initial surprise at this story we had a closer look at fire extinguishers in schools. Certainly, schools are environments where the vast majority of people on site have no knowledge about fire extinguishers. There is also a risk of extinguisher misuse and with it a risk of injury. Added to this comes the difficulty that the surprisingly still popular CO2 fire extinguishers, which can cause significant injuries, have no pressure display to show that they have been discharged. With vandalism a concern, this is of course unacceptable. Is it therefore right to throw out all extinguishers?
We believe that schools should carefully re-assess what really is required, how they can minimise the number of extinguishers, reduce vandalism and costs. At the same time we feel that there are very valid reasons to still have portable extinguishers in schools. The number required could be reduced, though and safer ones than currently deployed should be installed. When assessing the need for extinguishers it is important to focus on basics. Portable extinguishers are not meant to fight fires once they have got established. They are designed to tackle small, smouldering fires, as soon as they have been detected. At this stage a fire can easily be tackled with an extinguisher by almost any member of staff and successfully extinguished; staff would of course ideally need a little training beforehand. A FIA (Fire Industry Association) study from 2010 clearly shows that fire extinguishers work. The study showed that the use of portable fire extinguishers was successful in about 90% of cases. The only type of extinguisher with a relatively weak track record at the time were CO2 extinguishers. We would therefore recommend that CO2 extinguishers are restricted to specialist applications, such as server rooms.
There is also a need for extinguishers that can be used on the widest possible range of fires and are completely safe if accidentally used by a child or aimed at a person. Luckily that type of extinguisher now exists. Dry water mist extinguishers can be used for all standard types of fires including even deep fat fryers and electrical applications and will not injure people if aimed at them.
We created an article that explores the best extinguishers to be used in schools. You can also ask our engineers and risk assessors to visit your school to recommend the best and most cost efficient fire fighting cover. We are there to offer you the best solutions. Putting a fire out whilst it is still small could save the school thousands of pounds in damages as well as saving lives.
Kidde Safety, one of the leading manufacturers of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, has recently released the UK’s first combined optical smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. The new alarm, which is powered by a single 9V battery instead of the usual 3 x AA cells, carries a 10 year warranty and features an ‘end-of-life’ warning to alert the user that the alarm has reached the end of its operating life.
Kidde have included several simple but clever features with the 10DS, such as a front mounted battery compartment which allows the battery to be replaced without removing the alarm and dual voice warnings of either ‘FIRE! FIRE!’ or ‘WARNING! CARBON MONOXIDE’ depending on the danger detected.
The Kidde 10DS is also the first combined unit to be kitemarked for both the optical sensor and carbon monoxide sensor separately. Add in the test/reset/hush feature and the peak level memory function and you end up with a great all round alarm suitable for use in homes, holiday chalets, caravans and even boats, saving space and potentially lives.
Following strong interest in our range of stainless steel fire extinguishers and accessories such as stainless steel stands by the hospitality market we have created a dedicated business arm specialising in designer fire safety products to satisfy high end customers.
Henry Wolfe offers quality and aesthetic fire safety products and matching hardware for use in hotels, designer offices and other design-focused spaces. The Henry Wolfe team has scoured the market to identify the most inspiring fire safety manufacturers. It has been very pleasing to work with specialist fabricators in the UK, one of which has developed a unique and remarkable fire safety product range for use in designer kitchens for us. We also discovered a number of international manufacturers engaged in the creation of designer fire safety products. The full range will be presented at the Independent Hotel Show at the Olympia Exhibition Center this October.
The range is continuously expanding and the latest products being added include luxury fire and security safes and prestige lighting, which is not only beautiful but also equipped with emergency light functionality.
Contact the Henry Wolfe team to help you protect staff and visitors while maintaining the looks of your design spaces.
Despite several campaigns to increase their numbers, the restricted availability of automatic external defibrillators (AED), and poor understanding of how to use them, is contributing to the stubbornly high number of deaths from heart attacks occurring outside hospitals, a recent study suggests. The machines work by giving an electric shock to the heart to restore its rhythm.
The research was carried out in Hampshire by the University of Southampton and South Central Ambulance Service and is published in the online journal Heart. It set out to discover how available external defibrillators are, given the push for their deployment in public places, such as shopping centres and train stations, over the past decade.
During the study period of one year, 673 known PADs (public access defibrillators) were located in 278 Hampshire locations. Researchers found that, out of 1,035 emergency calls, the caller could access a defibrillator in only 44 cases. The caller was actually able to use the defibrillator in only 18 cases, and the report’s authors said that more education was needed to give bystanders the confidence to use the machines, which can save the lives of patients while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
The research highlighted the need for more defibrillators in public places with doctors saying they should be as common as fire extinguishers.
The type of AED is essential when selecting defibrillators suitable for public use where no prior training is likely to be given. Fully automated defibrillators will make the use of the defibrillator as easy as possible. The units not only offer spoken and visual indicators about each step, they also automatically analyse the heart rhythm and will automatically select the correct level of shock for the person with the heart attack.
In 2008 Safelincs donated vehicle extinguishers and telescopic ladders to Mercy Ships, a global charity operating a fleet of hospital ships and land-based programmes bringing medical aid and the hope of long term sustainable development to some of the world’s poorest regions.
Earlier this month one of these extinguishers was dramatically called into action when a fire broke out in one of the Land Rovers operated by the charity in the Congo. Quick thinking by one of the Mercy Ships workers, who was passing the vehicle on its way out of port, allowed the fire to be quickly extinguished. An official from the charity stated that without this prompt action there could have been injury to the patients on board and the vehicle would probably have burnt out.
“It’s good to know that something we contributed back then has helped save the day,” commented Harry Dewick-Eisele, Managing Director, Safelincs. “The Land Rover is now back in service, but without our donation and one individual’s quick thinking it could have been a different story.”
A recent fire at the National Archives in Kew, home to some of the UK’s most important historical documents, was tackled by 20 firefighters. The blaze was caused by two disused water towers at the site in Richmond, South-West London.
The National Archives is the official UK government archive and publisher and holds 11 million historical documents of national importance, some dating back more than 1,000 years. Among its collection are the Domesday Book, parchments, electronic records, photographs, posters, maps and paintings.
Fortunately everyone was evacuated from the building safely and no documents were damaged although the building was closed to the public for a short period for recovery.
This type of incident focuses people’s attention on the importance of preserving key documents and items of irreplaceable value, not just for large national institutions but also for businesses and individuals. For this reason more and more people are looking at ways to preserve such items in the event of a fire.
Safelincs has a range of solutions ranging that start with fireproof document boxes for under £30 and go right up to high capacity fire safes for storing computer media and files.
And, in the light of recent floods we are increasingly being asked for safes that will provide water protection as well. We have a range of fire and waterproof safes for paper documents and digital media that start at under £200. These fireproof safes with water protection have UL certification and have passed submersion testing to ensure their suitability.