Almost a quarter of the UK’ s population will be aged 65 and over by 2035. Older People’s Day challenged the stereotype of older people as frail, vulnerable and a burden on the rest of the population. Instead, it recognised the experience, knowledge and contribution that older people make to society and the economy.
However, research shows that older people are at the highest risk of fire in the home – those over the age of 80 are ten times more likely to die in a fire than those 30 or under, and older men are more likely to die than older women. Between April 2011 and March 2012 there were 380 fire deaths in Great Britain of which 178 (47%) were among people aged 60 or above.
Even a small fire can impact on an older person’s quality of life, resulting in an individual losing confidence in his or her ability to remain safe whilst living independently.
The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) was a key partner of Older People’s Day on October 1st and has drawn up a six-year Ageing Safely Plan. Mark Cashin, CFOA Lead for Home Safety said: “We are committed to engaging with older people and helping them to access the information, advice and tools they need to protect them from deaths and injuries caused by fire in the home.
“Older People’s Day allows us to work with partners across the country, and to showcase the types of activities, such as Home Fire Safety Checks, that our fire and rescue services do every day to help older people to stay safe, independent and ‘Full of Life’.”
Safelincs supports Older People’s Day and has a range of fire safety related products that help to prevent fires and related injuries for older people:
Smoke alarms for the hard of hearing
Stove fire alarms to notify you if your pan is boiling dry and overheats
Gas alarms to alert you if the gas on the cooker was left on
Fire Kills, part of the Department for Communities and Local Government, will again be running its campaign to encourage us to test their smoke alarms at the same time as we put our clocks back at the end of October.
Smoke alarm maintenance has long been the primary message of the Fire Kills national advertising. With smoke alarm ownership levels at around 88%, it is evident from the statistics and real-life cases that not all of these work. The latest evidence shows that you are four times more likely to die in a fire in the home if you do not have a working smoke alarm.
Between April 2011 and March 2012 there were 380 fires deaths, many of which might have been avoided had smoke alarms been fitted. Indeed, there have been incidents where firemen at the scene of a tragedy have found that smoke alarms were present and the batteries had been allowed to go flat or, in some instances, removed to power other appliances.
The campaign will include advertisements on commercial radio stations. In the past it was felt that the campaigns lacked a catchy tag line which it now has – ‘Tick, Tock, Test!’
There will also be advertisements in the national press and and a social media campaign with videos on You Tube.
Safelincs has worked in conjunction with a local authority and the fire service to solve an issue that arose with a child suffering from severe emotional and behavioural problems.
The child resides with a foster family and everything in his bedroom has to be padded and any sharp objects are removed to prevent him from harming himself. The same degree of prevention could not be carried out in the rest of the house which meant that the child needed to be confined to his bedroom at night.
The concern with locking a child or a person with behavioural problems in their bedroom is that if a fire should break out the person would be trapped and unable to escape.
The solution was to fit a magnetic lock outside the child’s door. The strong electromagnet keeps the door closed but if a smoke alarm anywhere in the house is triggered the electricity fails and the magnet loses power, releasing the door which can then be opened. There is a switch next to the bedroom door for opening of the door as well as an override in the kitchen, so that the lock can be released manually at any point in time and from different parts of the building.
The bespoke solution was put together by Safelincs utilising existing products. The foster parents are now able to sleep in the knowledge the child cannot come to harm in his own room.
“We worked closely with the fire service and the Children’s Services at the local authority,” explained Stuart Baxter. “Our solution could easily be replicated for people in similar circumstances.”
We get occasionally calls from customers worrying why their CO (carbon monoxide) alarm has not gone off when their house is smelling strongly of a gas leak from the gas supply system (eg if the pilot flame in a boiler has been extinguished).
A lady rung the other day, stating that the pilot light of her LPG heater had gone out, leaving unburned flammable gas leaking into the room. She had quickly identified the smell of the gas (due to the risk of explosion from flammable gases, the gas suppliers add odorant to their gas which adds a strong smell, allowing people to detect a gas leak swiftly). Our customer was worried, as she had expected that her CO alarm would also pick up this leak. This is, of course, a misconception. CO alarms only detect the poisonous, odourless by-products from burning processes called carbon monoxide (CO). CO gas is created when flammable gas is burned without enough oxygen. CO detectors cannot detect flammable gases.
Chemically, carbon monoxide and flammable gases from a piped or bottled gas supply are very different.
Carbon monoxide consist simply of two atoms: 1x carbon and 1x oxygen.
Flammable gases (methane, propane, butane being the most common) have larger structures:
methane (1 carbon, 4x hydrogen atoms)
propane (3x carbon, 8x hydrogen)
butane (4x carbon, 10x hydrogen)
If you wish to protect yourself against leaks of flammable, unburned gases, specialist gas detectors need to be purchased.
Fire doors save lives and property. Fire Door Safety Week is all about raising awareness of this critical element of fire safety in every commercial, public and multiple occupancy building. The British Woodworking Federation, with a number of industry partners has created Fire Door Safety Week to:
raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance.
- encourage building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and to report those that aren’t satisfactory.
- engage and educate people, helping with the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.
Safelincs supports this campaign and offers information about fire doors. Safelincs also offers a range of standard (FD30 – 30 minute) fire doors which are available in the most common sizes, styles and colours including 4 panel, 6 panel and glazed with a variety of shapes of pane.
In addition we can supply custom built fire doors to your particular specification. Our simple online system allows you to easily configure and order a custom FD30 fire door within minutes. You can choose it with or without frame with your specified features including veneer, design and glazing options.
All standard fire doors have a delivery lead time of 7-10 working days from the date of order. Customised made-to measure doors have a delivery lead time of 1-3 weeks.
Safelincs also provide a range of associated products including fire door closers, fire door seals and hinges.
It is illegal to wedge open fire doors but with Dorgard it is possible to hold fire doors open legally to make access to rooms easier. These fire door retainers will hold a door open but immediately a smoke alarm sounds the sonic waves trigger the release mechanism allowing the door to close.
The P50 service free extinguishers from Britannia are introduced into more and more public organisations and fire safety services. The latest formal introduction of these extinguishers, which do not require external servicing visits, was by the Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service who gave a written endorsement on the 6th of September 2013:
‘Following our supply of the P50 Powder fire extinguishers I can confirm that all Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service front line fire appliances now carry this extinguisher.
Feedback from crews using them at incidents have found them to be very effective leaving less residual media, they are lighter and easy for stowage than our previous steel bodied extinguishers.
Simple weekly visual inspections are carried out by operational crews and any refills are carried out by our fully qualified BAFE registered staff.
Massive savings in service costs over the 10 year period are hoped to be achieved.’
The weekly visual inspections are, of course, the standard regular visual checks that all extinguisher owners should carry out.
The P50s do not require annual servicing and do not have to be re-filled after 5 years.
Mr PC, in London, bought a 4kg UltraFire powder extinguisher from Safelincs back in 2011. He contacted us again a few days ago to tell us how he had used the extinguisher to successfully put out a dangerous BBQ fire. As Safelincs offers free ‘after the fire replacement’ he, of course, asked for his free replacement extinguisher which we have sent him
. This service, exclusive to Safelincs, ensures that our customers never hesitate to use their fire fighting equipment and that they are protected again as quickly as possible.
Mr PC had started his almost new gas BBQ (it had only been used once before) at around 5pm and was entertaining his guests when later that night at around 11:30pm the flames of the fire went from ‘controlled’ to ‘uncontrolled’, as the fat at the base of the BBQ caught fire. The lid of the BBQ was immediately shut to starve the fire of oxygen, however, the opposite happened. Drawing air from the holes in the bottom of the BBQ the fire really heated up with flames licking out from underneath the lid.
The gas was turned off but the fat fire still continued. Mr PC evacuated his guests, then fetched his 4kg powder extinguisher from his house and extinguished the fire.
The heat of the fire had been so extensive that the mesh of the BBQ was deformed by the heat!
So, while gas fired BBQs have the advantage of exact control of the heat while everything works as expected, it is still wise to position a gas BBQ away from the house, ensure that fat cannot build up and to have some form of fire fighting means ready.
BS5839 part 1 :2013 standard ‘Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises‘ is the key standard for commercial fire alarm systems with central control panel/s. It helps customers and installers to specify, design, install and maintain fire alarm systems.
It is a substantial document and to help our customers find their way through the standard we have created a summary of the standard. The summary covers:
- Why might I need a fire detection/fire alarm system for my premises?
- What are fire detection and fire alarm systems?
- What is meant by ‘category of system’?
- What are the main design considerations for an appropriate fire detection/fire alarm system?
- What are the main installation issues?
- What hapens once the installation is complete?
- Commissioning, Documentation, Certification
- Maintaining the system: what is involved?
- User’s responsibilities and premises management: who does what?
Safelincs, the UK’s most progressive and customer friendly fire safety company offers its customers nationwide maintenance of fire alarm systems as well as a range of fire alarm system components:
We get often asked if gaps are allowed underneath fire doors and if so, how big they can be. We researched on your behalf and compiled this blog to explain the current recommendations.
What happens in case of a fire? There is positive pressure in a room on fire (until the fire is vented) but at the base of the fire the pressure must be negative to draw in the air for the fire to receive oxygen. The smoke and the fire will try to push through the side and top gaps around a fire door while (usually) drawing air from underneath the door.
The Development of Fire Door Testing
The old test of fire doors to BS 476 Part 8 (for fire resistance) was carried out simply in a furnace increasing the temperature to that found in rooms on fire and the door was checked to ascertain when the fire would breach the door, usually at the gaps at the head and sides of the door. This was changed in the eighties to BS 476 part 22 which was similar, however, the furnace was now pressurised. Old BS 476 Part 8 fire doors failed this new test (usually after around 20 mins for a 30 minute FD30 fire door), so intumescent strips, also called fire door seals, were introduced to ensure fire doors passed the test. However, cold smoke can still seep through the gaps around the door and cause death from smoke inhalation. In some applications therefore fire doors with cold smoke protection around the sides and top are required (recognisable by the ending ‘s‘, e.g. FD30s). This is usually achieved by installing fire door seals with integrated cold smoke brushes.
Fire doors tested in accordance with the cold smoke test requirement BS 476 part 31 ensure that in the early stages of a fire, the cold smoke does not percolate into escape routes and makes them impassable. At first the standard was only concerned with the gaps at the head and the sides of the door, as the air passing though the threshold gap to feed the fire keeps the smoke in the affected room. However, now the standards have changed and for fire doors requiring cold smoke control, the threshold gap does now have to be considered as well.
This is quite confusing, as fire fighters were always taught that at floor level there is a layer of an inch thickness of fresh air no matter how severe the fire is and if you get caught, get your nose on the floor to breathe. Consequently, the threshold gap was never considered important and BS 8214:1990 reflected this by stating a threshold gap of 6/8mm was acceptable.
Nevertheless, in BS 8214:2008 this changed and it states that under-door (threshold) gaps should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the particular doorset design. When fitted, smoke seals should give an even contact with the floor but should not exhibit significant increased frictional forces that could interfere with the closing action of the door (see BS 5588-11). BS 5588-11 is now withdrawn and BS 9999 is the current standard. BS9999:2008 recommends for fire doors with cold smoke control that the threshold gap should be either less than 3mm in height or should be fitted with a threshold seal.
When speaking with manufacturers, however, a common statement is that a fire doors gap of up to 8 mm underneath the door is permissible. This is probably just referring to normal FD30 applications, as the fire door manufacturer is not involved in upgrading fire doors to cold seal protected standard (FD30s).
Ask your fire door manufacturer for their recommended threshold gap. If this information is not available it seems reasonable to permit a gap of up to 8mm for general fire doors (eg FD30). If you have a requirement for cold smoke control (eg FD30s) your threshold gap should be less than 3mm or you should fit a threshold smoke seal.
This advice applies for most applications, however, special requirements must be considered in a your fire risk assessment.
Interlinked smoke alarms notify residents of a building if a fire breaks out in a distant room, where there could be a risk of not hearing the smoke alarm. Here is an example: a fire starts in the kitchen at night while the occupants of the house are asleep in bed. The alarm in the kitchen detects the fire and starts beeping, this message is relayed to the interconnecting alarms throughout the building to alert all occupants and will also rouse them from their sleep, allowing for a safe escape from the fire. An interlinked system for such a scenario will consist of at least one heat alarm in the kitchen and a smoke alarm in the bedroom or on the landing.
There are different ways of interlinking smoke alarms, most of them involve cabling between each unit. Wireless smoke alarms, however, do not require a cable between each alarm; they pass the signal between the different detectors as a radio frequency signal. This way of passing a signal is accepted by British Standards as an alternative to wiring between alarms.
Wireless smoke alarms,have broadly speaking, four power supply options:
The mains powered alarms, while using RF (radio frequency) signals for the communication between themselves, have, of course, some wiring for the power supply. Each of these smoke alarms is supplied with power from either the nearest light fitting or a separate mains power supply circuit.
Mains powered wireless smoke alarms fully satisfy the standard BS5839-6:2013 Grade D, however the sealed ten year power supply of the Ei600TYCRF wireless fire alarm series is usually also accepted as Grade D alternative by Building Inspectors and fire safety officers. Please ask your Building Inspector or fire safety officer before installing the ten year Ei600TYCRF series if your building requires Grade D alarms.
Each of the above smoke alarm series include a range of different fire detection sensors, usually:
- Ionisation smoke alarms – Detect the electrical property changes of the air in case of a fire
- Optical (photoelectric) smoke alarms – ‘See’ smoke when it enters its detection chamber
- Heat alarms – Detect the increase in temperature from a fire
Depending from the application and the room, a specific sensor type is necessary. This can be quite confusing if you are not an expert.
To aid in this selection process Safelincs has developed a website dedicated to explaining wireless smoke alarms. We have also created a system selector tool to help you pick the correct units for your building. Just select the power supply type, enter the number and type of rooms to be protected and the system will place the correct smoke alarms into your basket.
If you still have questions, please contact our friendly customer service on 0800 612 6537 and we are happy to help you.