Chip Pan Fire Risks

Chip pans pose serious fire risks

Chip pans, or deep fat fryers, are the leading cause of injury from home fires in the UK. Nearly 20 people are killed or injured every day by chip pan fires. These cause damage to homes, and severe burns to users.

Why are chip pans dangerous?

Chip pans are dangerous because they use large amounts of heated oil to cook food. Fires can happen if the oil in the pan becomes too hot and catches fire. They can also start if the oil splashes or spills onto the hob. Either of these can happen very quickly, and are very difficult to prevent.

This is incredibly dangerous because cooking oil fats cannot be extinguished with water. Attempting to do so can cause the burning oil to splash and spread, and can even cause explosions. Watch this video to see what happens when water is added to a cooking oil fire.

The risk of chip pan fires becomes even higher when they are used in households with children and pets, by adults who have been drinking, or when they are left unattended.

Water Mist Extinguishers on Class F Fires

Do not try and put out a chip pan fire with a standard water extinguisher, as it can cause splashing. However, small Water Mist fire extinguishers for household or small kitchen use often have F class ratings. Because water mist extinguishers dispense de-ionised water in microscopic droplets through the special nozzle, they prevent splashing. This makes them suitable for use on hot cooking oil.

To extinguish a chip pan fire, apply the fine spray to the blaze in slow circular movements. This allows the curtain of water mist to fall gently onto the surface of the fire without causing the burning oil to splash and spread. The mist also cools the flames to extinguish the fire.

What to do if my chip pan catches fire?

Hot oil in chip pans can quickly catch fire

If your chip pan or deep fat fryer catches fire, do not attempt to put it out with water. Where you have a fire blanket or F Class fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and it the fire is still contained within the pan, you may attempt to extinguish the blaze.

If the fire has already begun to spread, or an attempt to safely extinguish it is unsuccessful, evacuate the building and call the emergency services immediately. Do not stop to collect your belongings – chip pan fires can spread very quickly and you may become trapped in the burning building.

How to use a fire blanket

  1. If you need to use a fire blanket, turn off the heat source if it is possible to do so.
  2. Pull the black dangling tapes downwards to release the fire blanket from its container.
  3. Wrap the corners of the blanket around your hands to protect them from the fire, then place the blanket over the object that is on fire.
  4. Leave the blanket in place until the fire is out and the object is cool.

Read more about how to use a fire blanket.

How to reduce the risk of chip pan fires?

The best way to reduce the risk of chip pan fires is not to use them at all – opting for oven cooked chips or using an air fryer is a much safer option. Particularly if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the safest option is to order takeaway chips.

If a chip pan or deep fat fryer is being used, here are some ways to mitigate the risks:

  • Read the instructions carefully – ensure you do not over fill the pan
  • Have a working heat detector in your kitchen, and working smoke alarms throughout your home to alert you to fire quickly – these should be tested regularly
  • Fit a Class F fire extinguisherwater mist or wet chemical units can be used on chip pan fires
  • Install a fire blanket in the kitchen

Ensure that the chip pan has the full attention of a responsible adult when in use – this equipment should never be used by children, or adults who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Improving fire safety in the home

Chip pans pose a significant fire risk, causing more than 20 fires a day in the UK alone. However, this is not the only way that home fires can start. To learn more about fire risks in your home, and how to reduce them, use our free Home Fire Safety Check tool. This quick survey provides personalised tips and advice tailored to your home and its occupants.

You can also read more information about cooking oil fires in our blog, or contact our friendly team on 0800 612 6537 for advice about the best fire-fighting equipment for your home.

Magnetic Locks on Fire Exits

Securing your building against unauthorized entry whilst maintaining a swift and safe fire escape can be challenging. Magnetic locks (also known as maglocks) are designed for this purpose, to provide secure access control into a building.

Magnetic locks
Access Control Systems & Magnetic Locks

How do magnetic door locks work?

Maglocks use a strong, electrically powered electromagnet to hold the door closed. If the power fails, or is interrupted by a fire alarm signal, the magnet loses power and releases the door. During normal use, the door is released by pressing an INSIDE button, with external keypad overrides available.

Magnetic lock kits

Magnetic door lock kits can include the following release methods:

  • Key fobs
  • Card reader units
  • Release switches
  • Digital keypads
  • Emergency break-glass units

Of course, if the fire alarm is activated, the maglocks will be released automatically in any system. The maglock devices are powered by a 12V power supply.

We have a range of magnetic access control kits that keep out uninvited guests. Linking up with fire detection units and releasing doors in the event of a fire. These kits also come ready to be installed by a qualified electrician.

For a range of other access door control equipment, take a look at our exit door security range.

To find out more about magnetic locks, contact our customer service team at 0800 612 6537 or email

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a deadly gas released by fuel burning appliances, as a result of incomplete combustion. The dangers of carbon monoxide are caused by its structure, which is similar to oxygen. Because of this, CO can bind to red blood cells, which stops them from being able to deliver oxygen to organs. The gas has no colour, smell, or taste, making it impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide alarm.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?
Carbon monoxide can be fatal

What are the dangers of carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a risk even at very low levels. It is dangerous because it binds to haemoglobin of red blood cells where oxygen should bind, and becomes stuck there. As a result, the amount of oxygen that can be carried by the red blood cells is reduced. Carbon monoxide therefore starves the organs of oxygen, causing them to shut down.

Symptoms can start as headaches, nausea, dizziness and tiredness. If ignored, this can progress to stomach pains, breathlessness, and collapse as the body’s organs shut down; CO poisoning can be fatal. Read more information on the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dangers of CO at low vs high levels

Exposure to low levels of CO can have subtle symptoms, which can easily be dismissed as sickness from a virus. Victims may feel drowsy and unwell when inside a building with a CO leak, but feel better when they leave. Over a period of days or weeks, this can have long term effects as the body’s organs, starved of oxygen, become damaged. This is why it is essential to install carbon monoxide detectors in any buildings with fuel burning appliances. 

The dangers of CO at high levels are considerably elevated, and in extreme cases, include death. Symptoms will be harder to ignore, but due to the risk of confusion and collapse, it may not be possible to get to safety.

Carbon monoxide alarms detect this dangerous gas
Carbon monoxide is dangerous as it has no colour, smell, or taste

Combatting the dangers of carbon monoxide

You should ensure that all your appliances, such as cookers, fires, and boilers are serviced every year. If you live in a rented home, this is the responsibility of your landlord, and is a legal requirement. Ask to see the annual certificates or reports if you can’t see an in-date sticker on the appliance. If your landlord can’t produce them, insist that the service is carried out again.

Further to this, in between the annual service or checks, be aware of signs that the appliance isn’t working properly. This may include soot marks around the appliance, excessive condensation in the room, or a lazy yellow or orange coloured flame in your boiler instead of a bright blue one. If you notice any of these signs, arrange for an engineer to check it immediately.

The best way to combat the dangers of CO is to install a carbon monoxide alarm. This will alert you to the danger even at low levels, before symptoms begin, and before long-term damage can be done to your body.

Do you need a CO detector if you don’t have any fuel burning appliances?

Yes, it is recommended that even if you don’t have any fuel appliances in your home, you have at least one CO detector fitted. Carbon monoxide can seep through walls and as such you are at risk of CO poisoning from your neighbour.

Buy a carbon monoxide detector for your home and test it regularly to protect your household from this dangerous gas. For more information, read about what to do if your CO alarm goes off. Alternatively, contact our friendly customer service team for advice about the best alarm for you on 0800 612 6537, or email

Maintained or Non-Maintained Emergency Lighting?

The installation of maintained or non-maintained emergency lighting should be decided based upon building type, its occupants and its usage.

What is the difference between maintained and non-maintained emergency lights?

Maintained Lights

Maintained emergency lighting is on at all times. These lights are mains powered and used as part of the normal room lighting system. However, should the mains power fail, it will stay lit for a specific duration powered by a back-up battery.

Maintained lighting could include lit fire exit signs, bulkhead lighting or recessed downlights.

This type of emergency lighting is generally used in non-residential places of public assembly such as leisure centres, cinemas, shopping centres etc. In public venues where the normal lighting is often dimmed e.g. cinemas, theatres or bars, maintained luminaries are always required.

Non-maintained Lights

Non-maintained lighting only comes on for a specific duration when the power supply to normal artificial lighting fails. These light fittings are powered by a battery that is charged from a constant trickle of mains power. This battery should have enough charge to remain lit for a duration of 3 hours if the mains power fails. Regular testing of emergency lighting is required to ensure that it is working and will be effective in an emergency. Read more about testing and maintenance.

Non-maintained emergency lights are normally suitable for buildings which are usually lit when occupied, for example, workplaces, offices, and schools.

Illuminated fire exit sign next to a door

Can an emergency light fitting be both maintained AND non-maintained?

Yes. Maintained emergency light fittings or signs used as part of a normal room lighting system can also be wired to perform as a non-maintained fitting if required. This especially useful if your property has multiple uses, where you have a mix of maintained and non-maintained lighting requirements, only one type of light needs to be purchased. Many maintained fittings are available as switchable units, meaning they can be switched between maintained and non-maintained modes using an ordinary light switch. However, non-maintained light fittings cannot be wired for use in maintained operation.

If you are unsure which emergency lighting is best for your environment, it is best practice to conduct a fire risk assessment. This must be conducted by a ‘competent person’. A specialist risk assessor will advise the most suitable option in line with the current regulations if your organisation cannot complete this in house.

Fire Risk Assessments
Fire Risk Assessments
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  • Expert advice from our qualified fire risk assessors
  • Comprehensive report with clear indications of areas for improvement
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Watch our video to learn the difference between maintained and non-maintained emergency lighting

Which type of emergency lighting do I need?

British Standards guidelines 5266-1:2011 requires emergency lighting to be installed in all high occupancy residential, public or commercial buildings. It outlines the duties of the ‘Responsible Person‘ and focuses on emergency lighting fixtures ensuring escape routes are illuminated when the mains power fails. There are often more specific requirements given by local authorities in each area; check your local government website for more information.

Whether maintained or non-maintained emergency lighting is needed is largely a question for fire risk assessors based on each individual property. If non-maintained lighting is deemed sufficient, it is also worth considering the reduced environmental impact and lower energy cost of using non-maintained lighting over time.

Help guides

More information about all aspects of emergency lighting can be found in our emergency lighting guides.

British Standards

There are various British Standards that set out the regulations for emergency lighting where further guidance can be sought:

  • BS5266-1 Code of practice for emergency lighting of premises sets out general guidance on what emergency lighting should be provided in each environment
  • BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8 Emergency escape lighting systems details minimum emergency lighting provision and testing for each type of environment

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

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Protecting Your Home With A Heat Alarm

Kitchens produce great amounts of steam and smoke when cooking which may set off smoke alarms, therefore heat alarms are advised instead. The majority of fires in the home are started in the kitchen, making fires in houses without heat alarms go undetected for a much longer period. You miss out on the ability to detect rises in temperature and the sound of an alarm to alert you of a fire.

What does a heat alarm do?

A heat alarm is a type of fire alarm that detects a rapid rise in temperature, rather than the presence of smoke. Heat alarms contain a thermistor that is set to respond to temperatures above 58°C. When heat enters the sensor chamber in the alarm, it triggers the heat alarm to sound, alerting occupants of a fire. A heat alarm serves as a key component in fire safety systems. By alerting occupants to dangerous temperature increases, heat alarms help to reduce the risk of fire-related injuries and property damage, allowing for swift evacuation and intervention measures.

What is the difference between heat alarms and smoke alarms?

Heat alarms and smoke alarms work together to provide the best fire detection system in homes. While smoke alarms are designed to detect the presence of smoke, heat alarms are specifically engineered to respond to rises in temperature. The difference in detection makes heat alarms advantageous in environments prone to smoke exposure, such as kitchens and garages. Unlike smoke alarms, which may sound an alarm in response to smoke from cooking or other non-fire-related sources, heat alarms remain unaffected, reducing the likelihood of false alarms. Smoke alarms (optical alarms) are ideally suited to hallways, landings, living areas and bedrooms where false alarms are unlikely.

Where should I put a heat alarm?

Heat alarms should be installed in places where smoke alarms would be prone to false alarms, such as kitchens and garages. Smoke alarms would detect smoke from cooking in the kitchen and exhaust fumes in the garage, therefore it is wise to have a heat alarm in these areas instead.

Heat alarms will have positioning instructions within the supplied user manual, but ideally should be installed in the centre of the ceiling. It’s recommended to position the heat alarm at least 300mm away from walls and light fittings/decorative objects. This is because air does not circulate effectively in corners, and objects like light fittings can obstruct heat from entering the heat alarm’s sensor chamber.

Heat alarm placement

On a sloped ceiling, the position of a heat alarm should be measured vertically from the peak, and can be installed within 150mm of it. It’s still important to position the detector as central to the ceiling as possible.

Heat alarm placement on sloped ceilings

Are heat alarms a legal requirement?

In Scotland, all domestic premises are now required by law to have a heat alarm in the kitchen. For the rest of the UK, legal requirements regarding heat alarms vary depending on the type of property and its specific circumstances.

If your home had heat alarms fitted when you moved in or they’re required by building regulations to be fitted as part as an extension or renovation, then you must have heat alarms. Regardless of the law, fitting a heat alarm in the kitchen allows you to have the best level of protection for you and your family in the event of a fire.

Do Landlords Have to Provide Fire Extinguishers in HMOs

More than half of UK housefires start in the kitchen

HMO’s (‘homes of multiple occupancy’) are rented properties with shared communal spaces, like kitchens and bathrooms, where the tenants lease independently. A common example of this is student housing, while HMOs are often habituated by recent graduates, and other young people. Shared communal spaces often have neglected responsibility for safety and general housekeeping, meaning that the risk of fires in HMOs is raised.

The Responsible Person for the building has a duty to maintain and promote fire safety in rental properties. This includes installing the right fire detection systems, educating tenants on fire safety, and maintaining fire doors. In the event of a fire, domestic firefighting equipment can be a lifeline for tenants.

Should landlords provide fire extinguishers in HMOs?

At least one suitable fire extinguisher must be provided in every kitchen of a large HMO (more than 5 tenants). Water Mist extinguishers are ideal for this, as they can be used on solid and liquid combustible fires, as well as small cooking fires. This covers most home fire risks. The landlord, or Responsible Person for the property must ensure that all extinguishers are well maintained. They must also be serviced annually (if applicable), and replaced if used or damaged.

Fire extinguishers can be used to aid a tenant in safe escape from a building. They may also be used to tackle small flames before they become out of control.

In private rentals, landlords are not obliged to provide fire extinguishers, although it is recommended.

Should landlords provide fire blankets in HMOs?

Fire blanket should be fitted in a kitchen in HMOs
Fire blankets can prevent small pan fires from spreading out of control

Landlords must provide one fire blanket per kitchen in every HMO, no matter how many tenants are resident. These should be hung on a wall away from the likely source of fire (cooker), regularly checked, and replaced if used or damaged. Fire blankets provide a simple and effective solution to frying pan fires, which cannot be extinguished with water. Accidents in the kitchen which cause fires can be devastating if allowed to spread.

The provision of fire blankets in private rentals is not mandated. However, more than half of all UK house fires start in the kitchen. Installing a fire blanket protects both the tenant and the property from fire.

Are tenants expected to fight fires?

Tenants cannot be expected to put themselves at risk to fight a fire. By providing fire fighting equipment, such as extinguishers and fire blankets, the tenant is provided with the option to tackle a small fire before it spreads, and only if it is safe to do so.

When a new tenant moves in, they should be provided with guidance about what to do in a fire. This includes instruction on how to use fire-fighting equipment if it has been installed, but only to attempt this if it is safe. More importantly, tenants should be told how to raise the alarm in the event of a fire, and how to safely evacuate the building. This is particularly important in flats and HMOs.

Misuse of fire extinguishers in HMOs

Educating tenants on the correct use of the extinguishers installed in HMOs is essential; getting this wrong can be fatal. Where more than one type of fire extinguisher is installed to cover different fire risks, there is a risk of the wrong type being used. This can be incredibly dangerous, not only because the extinguisher will not work, but because it could make the fire worse, and spread the flames. The only way to avoid this is to install one type of extinguisher. However, this extinguisher must be suitable for all present fire risks. A Water Mist extinguisher is therefore a good example of a versatile extinguisher that provides good all round coverage for most common risks.

There is also, of course, a risk of vandalism to and with fire extinguishers in HMOs. This could involve damage to the extinguisher, or unnecessary deployment of the extinguisher. The best way to avoid this is educating residents on the importance of extinguishers for fighting fires. This is particularly important as if there are repeated incidents of vandalism, the risk assessment may find the risk of this to outweigh the risk of fire. In this case, extinguishers would need to be removed, meaning that they would not be available in a fire.

Installing Water Mist extinguishers overcomes some of the dangers associated with accidental or unnecessary deployment. These units contain only deionised water, which is non-toxic, and will not cause damage to furniture or property.

How can landlords prevent the spread of fires?

Fire doors in HMOs
Fire doors slow the spread of smoke and flames

Fire fighting is a last resort in stopping the spread of fires. Tenants and the properties they live in must be primarily protected by preventative measures. This includes:

  • Maintenance of fire doors – use our free fire door inspection checklist to monitor the condition of fire doors in HMOs. From January 2023, in buildings over 11m in height, flat entrance door must be checked annually, while doors in and entering onto communal spaces must be checked quarterly. This includes checking door closers for vandalism – appropriate action must be taken where these have been deactivated due to tenants with mobility issues struggling with heavy fire doors.
  • Fire detection systems – Every HMO must have a suitable fire detection system, which is maintained and tested regularly.
  • Educating tenants – when they move in, tenants should be given guidance about good house keeping in relation to fire safety. They should also be advised on how to respond to a fire, including how to raise the alarm and evacuate.
  • Fire suppression systems – in some buildings, such as blocks of flats, suppression systems like sprinklers may be appropriate. Sprinklers reduce the damage caused by fire, and to allow tenants time to escape.
  • Fire-fighting equipment – fire blankets must be installed in the kitchens of all HMOs, and tenants should be advised on how and when to use them. Similarly, where fire extinguishers are installed, tenants should be given guidance on when they might attempt to use them, and which type of extinguisher to use.

Are tenants liable for fires?

There are over 30,000 house fires in the UK every year. These accidents are often devastating for the residents, who may lose all of their belongings. Landlords’ building insurance is therefore essential for the protection of their property from fire.

Tenants cannot be held accountable for failing to fight a fire that breaks out in their home. However, they may be liable for causing the fire if the subsequent investigation finds them to have been at fault. Tenants should therefore invest in contents insurance, including fire damage caused by accidents, faulty appliances, electrical issues.

It is Responsible Person’s duty to ensure that fire, and the damage they cause, are prevented in their property. This can be done primarily through education of tenants. Further to this, the maintenance of fire doors, fire detection systems, fire blankets, and fire suppression systems reduce the damage caused by fires. In large HMOs, or if the risk assessment deems it appropriate, install extinguishers for the control of small fires, or to assist tenants in safe escape from the building.

Office Fire Safety

Fire safety in offices

Who is responsible for fire safety in my office?

If you are the owner, landlord, employer or occupier of a business premises, including offices, you are responsible for fire safety under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and are known as the ‘responsible person’.  Accordingly, as the responsible person in your office, you must:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment and review it regularly
  • Identify risks from the fire risk assessment, and put measures in place to reduce or manage them
  • Inform staff of the risks ,and of their responsibilities to ensure good fire safety is achieved
  • Ensure adequate fire safety measures have been put in place and maintain them
  • Have an appropriate fire safety procedure and communicate this to staff and visitors
  • Provide training to staff to ensure they know what to do in the event of a fire

Office Fire Risk Assessments

Fire risk assessment being carried out
Office fire safety depends upon a comprehensive risk assessment

Fire risk assessments are mandatory for all offices. This must be followed up with the mitigation of identified risks and a comprehensive evacuation plan for the premises. Because risks can change, the FRA should be reviewed frequently and documented and reconducted if there is a change of use of the premises, or a fire safety incident occurs.

Fire risk assessments are important for the safety of employees and property. They provide a detailed review of your office space to identify fire risks and provide recommendations to either mitigate, reduce, or manage them.

A competent person can use our free fire risk assessment form to carry out a fire risk assessment if they have the required skills and knowledge to do so. This must be carried out in conjunction with the appropriate official fire risk assessment guide for offices.

Alternatively, you could instead, you can book a professional fire risk assessment for your office. Following this, you will receive a comprehensive fire risk assessment and detailed guidance should any recommendations for improvement be required.

For more information about fire risk assessments, visit out help guide.

What fire safety measures are required in an office?

To ensure that you are meeting all your legal obligations you will need to look at the following areas:

  • Are your emergency evacuation routes and exits clear from hazards and well signposted?
  • Do you have adequate means to detect a fire and warn others?
  • Do you have appropriate fire fighting equipment and is it in the right place?
  • Are any dangerous substances stored correctly?
  • Think about the people who are in your office (both staff and visitors), particularly those with mobility issues
  • Provide fire safety information and training

Evacuation and exit signage in offices

Fire exit signs
Photoluminescent fire escape route signs

Staff escaping a building must be visually directed to the safest and fastest route leading to the nearest fire exit., hence emergency lighting, is mandatory. Likewise, installing photo-luminescent (glow in the dark) fire escape route signs helps to ensure that the exit route is clearly visible. This ensures that even if the mains power fails, all escape route signs, stairs, and uneven floors are lit sufficiently for safe escape.

More information:

Conducting fire drills in an office

Carrying out regular fire drills in an office helps to ensure that all staff know what to do if the fire alarm goes off. Ensure that you also include practising alternative routes, so that staff are prepared in the event that their nearest fire escape is blocked by fire. Every member of staff must be made aware of where the nearest fire exits are and which routes to take when exiting the building. The induction of new staff members should therefore include a ‘fire walk’. This enables you to show staff all the fire escape routes and where firefighting equipment is located.

Further to this, your evacuation plan should include guidance for the evacuation of staff and visitors with reduced mobility. This could be due to a long-term condition such as low-sight or wheelchair use, or a temporary illness or injury. Evacuation chairs offer a safe and easy solution to ensure that everyone can escape safely in the event of a fire. Because these are considered to be medical equipment, staff who would be expected to operate this device in an emergency must recieve specialist training.

Unsure if your office needs an evacuation chair? Find out who needs an evacuation chair.

What fire extinguisher is best for offices

Choosing the right type of extinguisher

Fire extinguishers installed in officed can be used to prevent small fires from becoming catastrophic, or to assist in safe escape from a building on fire. Staff should be encouraged to use these fire extinguishers only if they have been trained, and only if does not put them in any danger.

Water Mist Fire extinguisher
Water Mist fire extinguishers are safe for use on live electrical fires

It is paramount that you have the correct type of fire extinguisher or extinguishers to tackle every type of fire that could occur in your office. The types of combustible material that your office requires cover for will be identified by the fire risk assessment. If you are still unsure of which type of fire extinguisher you need in your office you can book a fire extinguisher site survey

For more information about fire classes or types of fire extinguisher visit our help guides. Fire extinguisher types guide.

In most office settings, only type A (solid combustibles) are a risk. Where this is the case, Water Mist Fire Extinguishers, which are suitable for use on fires involving electrical equipment, are a versatile solution. These units use deionised water to fight fires, meaning that they are non-toxic and safe for use indoors, while having just one type of extinguisher improves the confidence of staff to use the equipment in an emergency – they don’t have to make a decision about what type of extinguisher to use.

Installing extinguishers in offices

Ensure that your extinguishers are commissioned and installed by a service engineer at your premises. You will also need the correct signage and to ensure that they are hung in the correct location.

Fire Extinguisher maintenance

All extinguishers must have a monthly visual check to ensure that there is no visible damage to the unit:

  • Are there any signs of damage to the exterior?
  • Are there any blockages in the hose?
  • Are there any signs the extinguisher has been tampered with?
  • Is the extinguisher pressurised?

If you have steel extinguishers installed, you must also ensure that an annual service is carried out by a trained engineer in accordance with the British Standards.

By installing P50 Service Free Water Mist extinguishers in your office when your steel extinguishers reach the end of their life, this annual service is not required.

Instead, a yearly visual inspection by a competent member of staff is sufficient. This must be documented in your fire safety log book. Service-Free extinguishers therefore reduce costs and administrative work associated with booking servicing, as well as the carbon footprint of your organisation, because an external engineer is not required to travel to your site.

Fire alarms and manual call points in offices

The responsible person must ensure that there is an adequate fire detection system in place. The size, configuration and use of your office will define what sort of fire alarm system you require.

Ensure that employees know to activate the nearest manual call point if they discover a fire. This activates the alarm system, which alerts all staff to the fire. New staff must be shown the call points during their induction period.

Generally, where multiple organisations share the same building, this has implications for fire safety. Therefore, you should ensure that there is a system in place to notify all building occupants to a fire.

Free fire safety log book for offices

We offer a free online log book, with custom reminders. Keeping an online log book will ensure that it is protected in the event of a fire. It is essential that you keep a record of all your fire safety checks and fire drills in a fire safety log book.

Fire Exits and Regulations Information Guide

What is a fire exit?

The final exits on escape routes in public buildings are known as fire exits. These doors should open easily and immediately. Wherever practicable, they should open “in the direction of escape”, i.e., outwards into a place of safety outside the building. Push pads and panic bars are often fitted on fire exits to ensure this.

Sometimes fire exit doors are, under normal circumstances, part of the usual route of traffic, such as a front door. Fire exits can also be for emergency use only, and not used during normal operation. Sliding or revolving doors must not be used for exits specifically intended as fire exits.

Emergency routes and fire exits must be well lit, and indicated by appropriate signs, e.g. “Fire Exit – Keep Clear”. In locations that require illumination, emergency lighting of adequate intensity must be provided. This ensures that if the normal lighting fails, signs remain clearly visible.

Red fire exit door, partially open
Fire exits are final exit doors from a building to a place of safety

Who is responsible for maintaining fire exits?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005 charges the Responsible Person in control of non-domestic premises with the safety of everyone on site, including employees, visitors, and contractors.

Under Article 14 of the RRFSO, this duty of care includes ensuring that “routes to emergency exits from premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times” (14: 1). These “emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety” (14: 2: a).

This means that the Responsible Person must ensure that the entire escape route, remain unobstructed at all times. ‘The entire escape route” includes outdoor routes from the final exit of a building to a place of safety. To achieve this, staff should be educated educating staff on the importance of good housekeeping for fire safety. This encourages the whole team to maintain clear exit routes.

What type of door is on a fire escape route?

Fire doors are doors with a certified fire rating, meaning that they have been tested to withstand fire for a set period of time (usually 30 or 60 minutes). Fire doors halt the spread of flames and smoke for this time, slowing the spread of fire throughout the building. This is called ‘compartmentation’, which provides time for building users to evacuate. Further to this, compartmentation limits damage to the building before emergency services can get the fire under control.

In most cases, the final exit door, which leads to the outside, is not a fire rated door. Doors along the escape route, however, usually need to be certified fire doors. That is because these doors are involved in compartmentation of the building.

For more information on the differences between fire exit and fire doors, visit our blog.

Can a fire exit be locked?

Fire exit doors must provide building users with immediate access to the outside of the building. This means that they cannot be locked internally. Instead, fire exits must be fitted with appropriate ‘panic hardware’ (push pads or panic bars) to enable rapid escape.

To prevent misuse of fire exit doors in non-emergency situations, tamper seals or security alarms can be fitted. Alarms will sound upon opening of the door, which notifies security of a breach. Tamper seals snap easily, so the door will open in an emergency. When installed, they to discourage misuse, while ‘tracking’ unauthorised entry/exit from the building. If the tamper seal is broken, the door has been used, which can be logged. These products are, of course, only suitable for doors which are for emergency use only, and do not serve as access doors in normal circumstances.

These mechanisms can be fitted with outside access devices, so that the door cannot be opened from the outside. This prevents unauthorised access, while maintaining an effective fire exit.

Outside access device with pin pad
Outside access devices allow fire doors to as security doors and emergency exits

Holding fire exits open

Fire doors, involved in compartmentation, should never be held open without a fire door retainer. However, it is permitted to hold open a fire exit, either to improve accessibility or ventilation.

A ‘hold-back’ device can be fitted on panic and emergency exit operating mechanisms, enabling fire exit doors to be held open.

What are panic bars?

Panic bars are designed for use by visitors to public premises, who are not familiar with the building. In these circumstances, a ‘panic’ situation could easily arise if the fire alarm sounds and people have suddenly to evacuate.

A panic bar will open the fire exit even when people are pressed tightly against the bar and door. In a panic situation, this is useful when dense crowding causes people to eb unable to move their hands. All final escape doors that could be used by members of the public during an escape are therefore categorised as ‘panic exit doors’. These must be fitted with escape hardware that has been certified to BS EN1125.

In order to open fire exit doors, fitted with panic hardware, from the outside, an appropriate outside access device will have to be fitted: for example, a knob or lever operated unit with either a cylinder lock and key or a heavy duty keypad lock. This secures the fire exit against unauthorised access.

What are emergency push pads

Emergency push pads are designed for use on the final exit on an escape route in commercial premises, like offices. These pads are smaller than panic bars, so they require more precision for activation. Staff in commercial premises should be familiar with the building layout, and have appropriate training with regular fire drills. This training ensures that staff do not panic in an emergency, and can safely operate the push pad.

Fire safety guidelines set out by the former DCLG, now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, state that “premises with limited numbers of staff or others who are familiar with the building and where panic is not likely may use alternative devices (to panic bars), for example push pads or lever handles”. All final exit doors that are used only by trained personnel are categorised as ’emergency exit doors’. These must be fitted with emergency exit hardware certified to BS EN179.

Outside access devices for use with push pads include knob or lever operated units with cylinder or keypad locks.

Panic Bar
Panic Bar
Push Pad
Push Pad

Bolts vs latches on panic hardware

Latch fastening is suitable for use on single doors or the active leaf (i.e. the first opening leaf) of rebated double doors. When the panic bar or push pad is pressed, the latch retracts, releasing the door.

Bolt fastening features a vertical bolt that secures the door at the top and bottom. When the panic bar or push pad is pressed, the bolt retracts simultaneously from top and bottom to release the door. If an attempt is made to force the door from outside, for example by levering the bottom bolt out of position, the top bolt will remain in situ, and vice versa. This security feature is known as “two-point independent locking”. Non-rebated double doors should be secured with double bolts.

Single vertical bolts are suitable for use on single doors and the inactive (i.e. second opening leaf) of rebated double doors. In the latter case, pressing the panic bar on the inactive leaf and pushing against the door will also cause the active leaf to open.

Both types of mechanism can be fitted with an external locking system for security purposes.

Maintenance of panic/emergency exit hardware

Regular testing of panic and emergency exit hardware is essential for the maintenance of escape routes. Points to check and address as necessary include:

  • Exit device function
  • Component condition
  • Security of fixings

In addition, the exit itself must always be kept clear of any obstruction that would hinder the function of exit hardware or the escape of people from the building.

What is the minimum width for fire escapes?

New and structurally altered buildings

Corridors in new buildings or building extensions which are part of a fire escape route must be at least 1200mm (1.2m) wide along the full length. If the width is less than 1800mm (1.8m), 1800 x 1800mm passing places should be integrated. This accounts for wheelchair accessibility.

Fire exit doors on these corridors should be no less than the width of the corridor minus 150mm. Therefore, a fire exit door on a corridor must be at least 1050mm. For fire exits from larger spaces, like sports halls, offices, and classrooms, a narrower doorway may be permitted, assuming the fire risk assessment deems it appropriate for the maximum capacity and expected use of that area of the building.

Existing buildings

In existing buildings, corridors should be at least 1000mm wide, or 1200mm if wheelchair accessibility is required. Fire exit doors in these premises are usually required to be at least 800mm wide.

Cartoon showing measuring tape being opened
Are your fire exits wide enough?

How wide are fire exits required to be?

Further to the guidance on minimum widths, fire exits must be wide enough to ensure that all occupants can evacuate in an emergency. This calculation is based on the maximum number of occupants that each exit would be expected to serve in an emergency and the number of fire exits available, as well as the use of the building, and other specific risk factors on the premises.

If a storey or room has two or more exits, it should be assumed that a fire might prevent the occupants from using one of them. The remaining exit or exits therefore need to be wide enough to allow all the occupants to leave quickly. Therefore, when calculating the required widths of exits, it must be ensured that requirements can be met even if one of the exits is inaccessible.

Guidance for new buildings

Current building regulations contain guidance on the widths of escape routes and exits for new-build, non-domestic properties, and communal areas in purpose-built blocks of flats. “The Building Regulations 2010, Fire Safety, Approved Document B, Volume 2 – Buildings Other Than Dwellinghouses” provides guidance on how to calculate the required fire escape widths in a premises to comply with legislation. As a general rule, the minimum allowed fire exit door width is 750mm, but this depends on how many people are expected to use the exit, among other factors.

Guidance for existing buildings

The current BSI “Code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings” (BS 9999: 2017) takes a complementary approach to this calculation. This approach is based on occupancy characteristics and fire growth rate. It is especially significant to escape routes and fire exits in existing premises, particularly if they are of a historical or heritage nature.

Combining these two factors creates the risk profile of a specific building. This means that in existing buildings, there is scope for an interpretative approach. Competent judgement on a case-by-case basis can therefore take into account the specific features of an individual building.

The ‘occupancy characteristic’ is determined according to whether the occupants are familiar or unfamiliar with the building, and whether they are likely to be awake or asleep. The Standard rates this risk from A (lowest) to C (highest) risk.

The fire growth rate is estimated according to the nature and quantity of combustible materials in a specific building. The standard rates this risk from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) risk.

Based on these characteristics, buildings are given a letter and number rating, from low (A1) to high (C3), which determines their level of risk. This ‘risk profile’ along with the building capacity can be used to calculate the required minimum width of fire exits.

How many fire exits are required?

The number of fire exits required depends upon the capacity and use of a building, as well as the width of the fire exits. For example, two double door fire exits may be more suitable than four single doors.

Government guidelines state that, if there is only one escape route, the travel distance should not be more than 18 metres. This reduces to 12 metres where there is a high risk of fire starting or spreading, but can be increased to around 25 metres in low-risk areas.

If there is more than one escape route, the travel distance should not exceed 45 metres; this reduces to 25 metres in high fire risk areas and can be increased to 60 metres where the risk is low.

Fire exit signage (arrow showing 'ahead')
Fire exits must be clearly signposted and well lit

Escape route and fire exit signage

In accordance with Article 14 (g) of the RRFSO, “emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs”.

This is because an escape route will not necessarily be the route people would use under normal circumstances. In a fire situation, the travel distance to a place of safety must be as short as possible. Well-lit fire exit signs facilitate this by identifying the nearest escape route(s). The travel distance should be measured from the farthest point in a room to the door leading to a protected stairway or, if there is no protected stairway, to the final exit of the building.

BS 5499 and BS ISO EN 7010 compliant fire escape route signs affix easily to walls and are available in three sizes, with a viewing distance of 30 metres, 22 metres and 17 metres. The signs all show a man running through a rectangular doorway with a directional arrow pointing the way and may read “Fire exit” or “Exit”. Photoluminescent (glow-in-the-dark) versions of these signs are useful in areas of low visibility, accompanied by separate emergency lighting.

Illuminated Fire Exit Signs

Illuminated fire exit signs are recommended along escape routes in public places, where occupants are likely to be unfamiliar with their surroundings. Therefore, if the fire exit door requires a ‘panic bar’, fitting illuminated exit signage alongside separate emergency lighting is advised. These are battery powered (trickle charged from the mains electricity supply) and will light the escape route in the event of a power failure. They can be mounted on walls or ceilings, or suspended from chains where ceilings are high. Again, they show the man running, a directional arrow and a rectangular doorway, and may read “Fire Exit”.

Fire exit doors should also have appropriate signage, e.g. “Fire Exit – Keep Clear”, with an illuminated fire exit sign above. The panic exit hardware must carry a “Push Bar to Open” sign. For emergency exits in commercial premises, each push pad must have a “Push” sticker where the pad needs to be pressed.

Helpful Links:

HM Government fire safety risk assessment guides

Door and Hardware Federation: Code of Practice Hardware for Fire and Escape Doors

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Fire Safety: Approved Document B

BS 9999:2017 – Fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings. Code of practice

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How to fill gaps in floorboards

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(Left) DraughEx being fitted. (Right) Draughtex partially fitted.
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Read more DraughtEx reviews.

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Intumescent Strips for Fire Doors

What are intumescent strips?

Intumescent strips are fitted to the edges of fire doors. In in extreme heat, these strips expand to seal the gaps between the door leaf and its frame. This allows closed fire doors to act as a barrier to the spread of smoke and flames throughout a building. Therefore, it is essential that fire doors are installed, maintained with their seals intact. They must also be kept shut when not in use.

Intumescent strip fitted to fire door
Intumescent seal on a fire door

Smoke seal vs intumescent strip

‘Intumescent strips’ are embedded in the door, and are dormant under normal conditions. These strips respond to heat, causing them to expand greatly in the event of a fire. This closes the gap between the door and its frame. These seals activate at temperatures that are above human survival levels. Therefore, there is no danger of them expanding and trapping people trying to escape.

A ‘brush’ seal or smoke seal will prevent the escape of cold smoke around the edges of the fire door. While these seals are also intumescent, smoke inhalation can be more dangerous than the fire itself. It is important, when fitting smoke seals, that they do not hinder the full and effective closure of the door.

Do all fire doors need intumescent strips and smoke seals?        

In order to be effective, all fire doors must be fitted with intumescent strips. Without these, the door will not ‘seal’ to the frame in the event of a fire. These seals are essential to slow the spread of the fire throughout the building, providing occupants time to evacuate. If intumescent strips are found not to have been fitted in the event of a fire, the Responsible Person could be prosecuted.

Smoke seals, however, are required as specified in the fire risk assessment. Most commonly this is included on doors approaching escape routes and doors which open on to a common space.

White fire door in a corridor leading onto stairwell
All fire doors must have intumescent strips fitted

Why fit intumescent strips and smoke seals?

Intumescent seals only react to extreme heat, so they don’t seal up until the fire is very close. Before this, smoke from the fire which has accumulated will be able to pass through the gaps around the door. This puts building occupants in danger of smoke inhalation, which can be fatal. Smoke seals prevent this, and are typically either a soft brush or a plastic / rubber flap.

When should smoke seals not be fitted?

There are some applications where a gap should not have smoke seals: e.g. if the fire door has been installed on the exit of a room which has no smoke detectors on its own. In this case, the fire alarm system can only be triggered if smoke can leak out around the fire door and set off the fire alarm system in the circulation spaces, but these cases are quite rare.

Fire door ratings and smoke

Fire doors are rated in accordance with the length of time they will resist a fire. Therefore, a door rated ‘FD30’ will resist the passage of fire for 30 minutes, an ‘FD60’ for 60 minutes. If a fire door is rated FD30s, (‘s’ meaning ‘smoke’), it should have been fitted with the appropriate seal to resist the passage of cold smoke for 30 minutes as well. For more information about how fire doors are rated, visit our blog.

Fire door gaps and smoke seals

British Standards set out details on the permitted gaps around a fire door. The gap along the sides, top, and between the leaves of a double door, must be between 2mm and 4mm. Responsible Persons can use a gap gauge to ensure that their fire door gaps are compliant.

Under-door (threshold) gaps should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the particular doorset design. This blog provides more information about threshold gaps.

Gap gauge being used to check the gap size around a fire door
Intumescent seals can only be effective with the correct gap size between the door and frame

Can smoke seals be painted?

Fire doors can be painted with ordinary paint. However, fire accessories, including intumescent seals should not be painted, as it can prevent them from being effective in the event of a fire.

Are intumescent strips required in letter boxes?

If a fire door has a letter box installed, this must have been tested and rated to the same standards as the door itself.

If an intumescent letter box needs to be added to a fire door retrospectively, this can only be done if specified in the scope of the fire door’s Certifire Approval documents, and in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. Further to this, alterations can only be made by a trained professional, and with certified hardware. This ensures that the performance of the door, and its associated certification, is not compromised.

What does the threshold drop seal do?  

If smoke protection is required by Building Regulations or the fire risk assessment, the maximum gap underneath the fire door is reduced to 4mm. If the gap under a fire door is too large, surface mounted drop-down smoke seals or rebated drop-down smoke seals can be fitted to existing fire doors. When the door closes, a plunger makes contact with the door frame and lowers the seal to the floor, closing the gap under the door. This is usually a suitable solution for gaps of up to 14mm.

Can fire door seals be replaced?

Where a fire door rebate already exists, or the existing rebated fire door seal has been damaged, rebated intumescent fire door seals can be fitted.

Can fire door seals be fitted retrospectively?

Some older fire doors do not comply with the latest specifications. In some cases, this means that they do not have the appropriate intumescent or smoke seals. Fire door seals can be retrospectively added to these fire doors.

To avoid having to cut a rebate in either the door or the frame, surface mounted fire door seals can be fitted. These are stuck to the frame or door with their self-adhesive backing and sometimes nailed as well to give them increased longevity.

Rebated intumescent seal being replaced in a door frame by a qualified professional
Replace intumescent seals if they are damaged

Who can fit fire door seals?

Fire doors should always be professionally installed, as should any work which structurally alters the door or its hardware. Therefore, rebated fire door seals can only be fitted by a qualified professional, whether as a replacement or retrofit.

Surface mounted fire door seals, on the other hand, can be fitted by a ‘Competent Person’. If new fire door seals are fitted for the first time, make sure that fire door hinges, fire door closers and, where necessary, intumescent door lock protection are fitted as well.

Visit our website to see Safelincs’ full range of fire door seals. This includes ‘fire only’ (intumescent) and ‘fire and smoke’ (intumescent and brush) fire door seals. Safelincs supply both rebated and surface-mounted application, in both FD30 and FD60 ratings. If you are still unsure what type of seal your door requires, or whether a retrofit is appropriate for your door, contact our friendly fire door team on 0800 433 4289 or by emailing


Can fire door seals be fitted to the door instead of the frame?

Yes, fire door seals can be fitted to either the door or the frame for a single fire door.

Double doors or door and a half fire doors will need to have fire door seals fitted to the door to ensure that the gap between each leaf is taken into consideration.