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.

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

Why are fire doors so heavy?

Old fashioned weighing scales
What does a fire door weigh?

Why are fire doors so heavy?

Fire doors are usually heavier than non-fire rated doors due to their flame-resistant construction. However, because doors are hung on hinges, the force required to open day-to-day wouldn’t be noticeably greater than opening a ‘normal’ door. Fire doors feel heavy because of the door closers attached to them. These are installed to ensure that the fire door is kept shut when not in use, and are shut in the event of a fire.

Can fire doors be held open?

For people with mobility issues, heavy fire doors can be challenging. It can be tempting to deactivate door closers or prop fire doors open. However, this is unsafe, as it could allow a fire to spread through a building uncontrolled. Responsible Persons therefore have a legal duty to ensure that door closers are effective and maintained.

To overcome this issue, safe and legal ‘hold open’ devices have been developed. These can be installed during construction or retrospectively to improve accessibility for disabled people, older people, and young children.

According to the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where necessary for anyone with a disability. Under the same act, landlords are required to make reasonable changes to accommodate disabled tenants, and can access funding to do so. Installing hold open devices is a simple solution to heavy fire doors, which improves accessibility.

Young wheelchair user at his desk, on a phone call.
Wheelchair users often struggle with heavy fire doors

Holding open fire doors for people with disabilities

Fire door retainers improve accessibility for people with mobility issues, older people, and young children. Some devices attach to a fire door and an adjacent wall, allowing it to be ‘held’ in the open position through electromagnets. Other devices use a ‘plunger’ at the bottom of the door to fix the door open. When the fire alarm is activated, the devices are deactivated and the door closer will shut the door. Different devices detect this activation either through sound, or electronically.

Dorgard Fire Door Retainers
Dorgard Fire Door Retainers
  • Hold fire doors open legally
  • Wire-free plunger based door holder
  • Certified to BS EN 1155:1997 & BS EN 1634
  • Acoustically triggered at 65dB
  • FREE extended 5 year warranty
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£87.29 ex VAT
£104.75 inc VAT
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Geofire Agrippa Door Holder
Geofire Agrippa Door Holder
  • A Legal fire door holding solution
  • Acoustically triggered by the specific sound of your fire alarm
  • Wire-free magnetic door holder device
  • Certified to BS EN 1155:1997
  • FREE extended 5 year warranty
  • FREE shipping
£103.39 ex VAT
£124.07 inc VAT
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Dorgard Pro
Dorgard Pro
  • Safe & legal system to hold open fire doors
  • Acoustic and wireless activation technology
  • Certified to BS EN 1155:1997
  • Safelincs EXCLUSIVE extended warranty
  • FREE site survey

Fire doors in care homes

Hold open devices for heavy fire doors are particularly useful in care homes, where beds and wheelchairs are transferred between rooms. This can also improve independence for those with frailty and weakness associated with ageing in a care setting.

How to make heavy fire doors easier to open

As an alternative to fire door retainers, electronic fire door closers have been developed to reduce the force needed to open the door during normal use. This can make heavy door easier to open.

When ‘on’, these devices have a significantly reduced closing force, allowing the door to swing freely, like a normal door. When the fire alarm is activated, as with traditional retainers, the free swing function will deactivate, causing the fire door closer to shut the door.

Geofire Agrippa Free-Swing Door Closer
Geofire Agrippa Free-Swing Door Closer
  • Fixed power size EN 4
  • Door operates without resistance in normal use
  • Adjustable closing speed and latching action
  • Capable of learning the fire alarm sound
  • Wireless installation and programming
  • 12 month manufacturer's warranty
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£336.47 inc VAT
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GEZE TS4000EFS Free-Swing Door Closer
GEZE TS4000EFS Free-Swing Door Closer
  • Door operates without resistance in normal use
  • Adjustable power size EN 1-6
  • 120 minute fire rating
  • Adjustable closing speed and latching action
  • 12 month manufacturer's warranty
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£249.47 inc VAT
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Heavy fire doors can cause issues for lots of people, particularly those who are less mobile. Installing hold open devices, such as free swing door closers or fire door retainers, helps to improve accessibility. If you are unsure which device is most suitable for your needs, or would like to book a site survey for one of our retaining systems, call our friendly and knowledgeable fire door team at 01507 462 176 or email firedoors@safelincs.co.uk.

How heavy is a fire door?

Standard internal doors in a house usually weigh between 20kg and 50kg. Fire rated doors are often much heavier due to their reinforced construction. An average FD30 (30 minute) fire door weighs around 45kg, while FD60 (60 minute) fire doors can be over 75kg.

Calculate the approximate weight of your fire door.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning When Camping or Caravanning

Each year when camping or caravanning there are serious illnesses or even death from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Most of these could have been prevented if the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) had been more widely known and some simple preventative steps taken. In the UK around 50 people die and 200 people are hospitalised, while not all of these people will have been camping, the risks are significantly higher. As the gas is odourless and colourless there is no way to detect if the gas is present. The gas makes you drowsy and can make you unable to respond to other warning signs such as headaches and nausea.

Because tents and caravans are a confined space, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is greater. Therefore, having an audible CO alarm is an essential item to put on your packing list.

The Kidde 7DCO CO Alarm for caravans and motorhomes

Sources of carbon monoxide poisoning when camping or caravanning

Gas or coal fired cooking appliances, such as BBQ’s, are sometimes bought inside tents or caravan awnings to provide warmth or to cook. Which can fill the space up quickly with carbon monoxide gas, a by-product when burning a fossil fuel. The gas then renders the occupants unconscious and death can occur as a result.

Carbon monoxide gas can be produced due to faulty, poorly maintained or improper installation of gas appliances in caravans. It is important to ensure fuel burning appliances fitted by a qualified installer. Solid fuel appliances must be maintained and serviced annually by a reputable, registered engineer.

Carbon monoxide detectors for camping and caravanning

If you have already fitted a CO detector, ensure that you carry out your pre-holiday safety checks. This should include checking or replacing the batteries and testing smoke, heat and CO alarms. It is also advisable to check when your alarms need replacing. Sensors in these types of alarms become less effective over time and will need to be replaced after 10 years.

Not all carbon monoxide alarms are suitable for use in caravans or motorhomes. Choosing a suitable alarm is important because if the CO alarm you have isn’t recommended for use in camping environments, you may not be alerted to dangerous levels of CO gas. Choose an alarm that is:

  • Kitemarked to British Standard BS EN50291-2
  • Certified for use in caravans
  • Suitable for wall mounting
  • Battery operated
  • CE marked

Fire Exit Doors vs Fire Doors

What is the difference between fire doors and fire exits?

A fire door is an internal door, between one room or corridor and another. Certified fire doors of solid timber construction are designed to halt the spread of smoke and flames for a minimum specified length of time. Typically, this is 30 minutes (FD30), when closed. This allows fire doors to compartmentalise the building, so that the fire can be more easily controlled by fire fighters.

A fire exit is a final exit door from a building, meaning that it leads to the outside. These doors are not usually fire rated, as they are not designed to hold back flames and smoke. Fire exit doors are designed to allow quick and unhindered escape through a well-lit door into a place of safety. Often, these doors also prevent unauthorised access from the outside. Fire exit doors should never be obstructed, open easily and, where possible, in the direction of traffic flow.

An open red fire door, leading to an external escape route.
In an emergency, fire exit doors lead building occupants to a place of safety

Do final exit doors need to be fire rated?

Final exit doors, or fire exits, do not usually need to be fire rated, unless the need is identified by the fire risk assessment. Unlike fire door hardware, exit hardware, such as panic bars and push pads, therefore does not need to be fire rated. Nonetheless, exit hardware must be regularly tested and maintained so that it can be effective in an emergency.

Should fire exits have push pads or panic bars?

In environments like an office, where staff are familiar with the layout, it is permissible to install push pads. In buildings which are open to the public, such as cinemas and shops, fire exits doors must be fitted with panic bars. These are easier to operate for someone who is unfamiliar with the environment.

Lock and key door handle for securing fire exit
Fire exit doors which are security doors can be locked to the outside

Can a fire exit be locked?

For security reasons, fire exits can be locked to the outside with an external access device. This can be secured with a traditional lock and key, or a pin pad and code. However, fire exits which serve as emergency exits for the public can never be locked from the inside. Exit hardware (push pads or panic bars) must therefore be fitted to the inside of a fire exit door.

Fire doors to storage rooms, or restricted areas of a building, can be locked. This can be done with access control devices, or a fire rated lock and key system. This hardware must be installed by a qualified professional, to the manufacturer’s requirements. It is the responsibility of key holders to ensure that no one is ever locked in to an area that they cannot freely leave.

Can a fire exit door be left open?

Given that fire exits are not involved in compartmentation, it is not a fire risk to keep open a final exit door to a building. This is why fire exit doors do not have door closers fitted. Fire doors must be kept shut when not in use, so that they can be effective in the event of a fire. This has led to the common misconception that a fire exit door cannot be kept open.

Therefore, assuming it is not a security risk, it is permissible to prop open a fire exit; but never a fire door on an escape route (unless certified fire door retainers are installed).

Sign used to indicate the location of a fire exit door
Signage for fire exit doors is green, and should be well lit

Do fire doors need signage?

Fire doors should have a small blue Fire Door Keep Shut sign fitted on both sides. This informs building users, including staff and the public, that the door plays a role in fire safety, and encourages them to behave accordingly. For the purpose of fire risk assessments, fire door maintenance, and fire escape plans, the fire door’s certification sticker should also be located on its top edge.

Similarly, fire exits should be clearly marked to ensure that occupants of a building can quickly identify an escape route in an emergency. Best practice dictates that fire exit signs are fitted above fire exits. In larger and more complicated buildings, additional signage should be fitted to direct occupants to the nearest fire exit.

For more information about fire doors, fire exits, and the legal requirements, see our help guides. You can also contact our friendly fire door team on 01507 462 176 or by emailing firedoors@safelincs.co.uk.

Fire Safety on Boats

Boat fires have killed 30 boaters in the last 20 years. A fire on board, most of the time, can be preventable. Proper maintenance, regular inspections, and adherence to safety protocols significantly reduce the risk of fire. Ensuring electrical systems are up to date, monitoring fuel systems for leaks, and having fire extinguishers readily accessible can mitigate potential hazards. By prioritising prevention and encouraging awareness, we can work towards eliminating fires and preserving lives on the water.

Carbon Monoxide on Boats

Many people are unaware of the effects, symptoms and dangers of carbon monoxide (CO). Known as The Silent Killer, it is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas which is highly toxic to humans and animals. The only way to detect CO is with an audible carbon monoxide alarm.

CO is generated by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Most commonly associated with appliances such as; boilers, heaters, hobs and generators. Even routine activities like cooking or keeping warm can potentially lead to a build up of this deadly gas. It is important to ensure that all appliances are properly maintained and regularly serviced to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Recognising the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is also vital for staying safe on board. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness and confusion may indicate exposure to elevated levels of carbon monoxide. It’s essential for boat owners and passengers to be aware of these signs and to take immediate action.

Fire Extinguishers for Boat Safety

There are different fire risks on boats so it is essential that you have the correct extinguishers to deal with the different types of fire that may occur. Regular maintenance of all your electrical appliances and engine are important to help prevent potential fire hazards.

Powder fire extinguishers are suitable for an outdoor fire on a boat, such as an engine fire. Engine fires on boats can involve a variety of fuel sources, including gasoline, diesel, oil, making powder extinguishers suitable as they can extinguish a wide range of fire types. However, they are not recommended for indoor use due to reduced visibility. The water mist fire extinguishers would be ideal for an indoor boat fire. Water mist extinguishers are versatile; suitable for use on Class A and B fires as well as fires involving electrical equipment. They leave no residue and are environmentally friendly.

Smoke Alarms for Boat Safety

Smoke alarms detect smoke and sound an alarm to alert people on board of a fire. In a marine environment where fires can spread rapidly and evacuation options may be limited, early detection is critical. Boat owners should ensure that smoke alarms are installed in key areas to make sure a boat fire can be detected as soon as possible. Key areas include sleeping quarters, engine compartments, and galley areas where fire hazards are most prevalent.

Maintenance and testing of smoke alarms is important to ensure proper functionality to get alerted in the event of a fire. It’s recommended to test your alarms monthly, and to clean your alarms regularly as a build-up of dust can impact their performance.

When selecting smoke alarms for your boat, make sure to choose models specifically designed for boats. These are designed to withstand the unique challenges posed by constant exposure to moisture, saltwater, and vibration. It’s also wise to consider the size and layout of your vessel and determine the appropriate number and placement.

House, caravan, campervan and boat travel icons on carbon monoxide alarms
To determine whether your alarms are suitable for travel, look out for the following symbols and certification to (BS) EN 50291-2

Smoke Alarms for Boats

UltraFire ULLS10 – https://www.safelincs.co.uk/ultrafire-ulls10-10-year-longlife-battery-optical-smoke-alarm/
FireAngel 6620 – https://www.safelincs.co.uk/fireangel-fa6620-r-10-year-lithium-optical-smoke-alarm/

Concerns over fire safety for e-bikes and e-scooters

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of electric powered bikes and scooters being purchased. Along with the number of publicly available e-bikes and e-scooters this has created concerns over fire safety. The reports of fires starting has increased, usually when the battery is being charged, raising a number of concerns of the quality of some of the bikes and scooters available to buy.

While in general the benefits are clear; speed of travel (compared to walking), convenience, reduced environmental impact compared to other modes (such as cars) and reduced transport costs. It is likely that in time, privately owned e-scooters would be legal to use on public highways and play a role in future urban transport. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the bike or scooter that you are buying is of good quality.

Things to consider before making a purchase

  • Do your research, look online or in store to see which e-bikes and e-scooters have had good reviews and the ones that haven’t so you can make an informed choice on the best one to buy within your budget.
  • Buy from a reputable retailer for all the components, including battery pack and charger.
  • When purchasing replacements parts, ensure these are purchased from the same manufacturer.
  • Register the product with the manufacturer – to be notified quickly of any safety issues or recalls.
  • Be cautious if buying second-hand, refurbished or converted bikes. It can be hard to establish reliability, whether it is counterfeit or genuine, and whether they meet proper UK standards. Look for CE or UKCA marking.

Tips for safer charging of batteries

  • Do not store or charge batteries in communal areas, especially if they form part of the escape route.
  • If the battery is hot after use, allow it to cool before putting on charge.
  • Do not overcharge the battery – check the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not cover chargers or battery packs when charging as this could lead to overheating and possibly fire.
  • Keep batteries out of direct sunlight.
  • Do not overload sockets or extension leads – ensure the extension lead is suitably rated for what you are using it for.
  • Do not charge batteries overnight or while you are away from home. If a fire should start you will be alert and aware.
  • Regularly check your batteries and chargers, and do not use them if there are any signs of damage; replace them immediately.
  • If you regularly recharge batteries, or have several on charge at once, consider installing a Lithium-Ion Battery Containment Safe, or ask your landlord for one.

Warning signs of danger to look out for

  • Heat – it is normal for batteries to generate some heat when charging or in use. If it feels extremely hot to the touch, stop charging straight away.
  • Bulging or leaks – a common sign of a battery failing is bulging or swelling. If you see this you should stop using it immediately.
  • Noise – failing lithium batteries can sometimes make hissing or cracking sounds.
  • Smell – a strong or unusual smell from the battery could be a sign that it is failing.

Requirements for Fire Detection Systems in HMOs

What is an HMO?

HMOs are typically large houses that have been converted into flats or bedsits, such as student housing. ‘Houses in multiple occupation’ are defined by gov.uk as follows:

Your home is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if both of the following apply:

  • at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
  • you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants

It is important to note that the requirements for sheltered housing, such as supported living facilities, and self-catered rentals, such as holiday cottages are different, and not covered in this blog.

Kitchen facilities are often shared in HMOs
Shared kitchen spaces are a fire risk in HMOs

What grade of smoke alarm system is required for HMOs?

Within most HMOs, there are several acceptable options available for compliance with the Standard, depending on its size and configuration. 

The first option is to have Grade A fire alarm system installed throughout the building. This type of system consists of a conventional or addressable fire alarm panel, and then fire alarm detectors, call points, sounders and beacons are specified according to the layout and requirements of the property and manufactured to BS EN 54. It also requires a power supply to BS EN 54-4, and installation to BS 5839 Part 1.

However, in most cases, this level of coverage is not a requirement. In some small HMOs, for example, it may be acceptable to install a Grade D1 system. This is defined as a system incorporating one or more interlinked mains-powered smoke alarms (and heat alarms if required), each with an integral stand-by supply. They can be hardwire-interlinked or radio-interlinked, meaning that fire alarm panels are not required. The stand-by supply must be tamper-proof and last the full life of the alarm.

The final option, suitable for many medium and even large HMOs, is a mixed system. This involves the installation of Grade A components in communal areas, and any other high-risk areas identified by the risk assessment. Elsewhere in the premises, a separate Grade D1 system can be installed. This has become the preference, as it is likely to reduce the impact of nuisance alarms from individual flats on other occupants.

Ei Electronics and Kidde offer both RF and wired mains powered alarm systems as well as a range of accessories that can help you to test, locate and hush alarms easily. For more guidance about the alarm grade system, visit our help guide.

Mains Powered Smoke Alarms with Lithium Back-up Ei3000 Series
Mains Powered Smoke Alarms with Lithium Back-up Ei3000 Series
  • Available in Optical, Heat, Combined Optical & Heat, and Combined Heat & CO
  • Mains powered alarms with sealed lithium back-up battery
  • AudioLINK technology fitted as standard
  • Interlinks with up to 12 compatible devices
  • Compatible with Ei3000MRF SmartLINK Module for radio-interlinking
  • Suitable for BS 5839-6: 2019 Grade D1 installations
  • Also suitable for both the Welsh and Scottish 2022 legislation
£44.99 ex VAT
£53.99 inc VAT
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Fire detection categories

The coverage within the building by the detection system is divided into three distinct categories. These are described with the following codes:

LD1 (highest level of coverage): Covers all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes plus all rooms in which a fire could start

LD2 (middle level of coverage): Covers all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes plus all rooms and areas that present a high fire risk to occupants

LD3 (lowest level of coverage): Covers circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes

Diagram showing levels of fire detection systems in HMOs

Any room which a building user must pass through, from another, in order to exit the premises would need detectors installed to satisfy these Categories. For example, if all rooms in a bungalow open onto a hallway which leads outside, only the hallway is considered a circulation space forming part of the escape route; if the only exit from the kitchen is into the dining room which then opens onto a hallway, the dining room would also need a detector under LD3 minimum protection as it is part of the escape route.

What category of fire detection is required within my HMO?

Different levels of coverage are needed in different areas of the building due to the risk of fire. This includes different Grades of fire detection system, as well as different configurations of components. For example, communal areas in HMOs are required to have Grade A systems, as they have particularly high levels of risk. This is due to the shared, and therefore often neglected responsibility for safety and housekeeping in HMOs. Moreover, the exact installation requirements within your HMO will depend upon the configuration and size of the premises. For more advice for landlords about fire safety in HMO’s, visit our help guide.

Messy kitchens are a health risk, and a fire hazard.
Responsibility for housekeeping can be neglected in HMOs. This is a fire risk,

Minimum levels of requirements for fire detection systems in HMOs:

The following is general guidance on the minimum levels of installation required in different scenarios.

One or two storey HMOs, where the area of each floor is less than 200sqm:

A Grade D1, category LD1 configuration should be installed in a new, or materially altered HMO. In an existing premises of this size, category LD2 is acceptable if it is already installed, but an LD3 system must be upgraded to comply with the Standard.

Areas within HMOs with more than 3 floors, or where the area of at least one floor is greater than 200sqm

Individual, one-room dwellings, with or without cooking facilities:

A Grade D1, category LD1 configuration should be installed. This is required in a new and existing HMO premises.

Individual dwellings comprising two or more rooms:

A Grade D1, category LD2 configuration should be installed. This is required in a new and existing HMO premises.

Communal areas

A Grade A, category LD2 configuration should be installed. This is required in a new and existing HMO premises.

Suitable Fire Detection Systems in HMOs

Always ensure that a comprehensive fire risk assessment has been carried out in your property by a competent person, to determine the risks specific to your premises. This is essential to protect the occupants, particularly as many tenants of HMOs are young and / or vulnerable renters. The Responsible Person for the building may be prosecuted if they cannot demonstrate that they have made every reasonable effort to comply with fire safety requirements enforced by their local council, particularly if a fire breaks out. Compliance with the Standards is the best way to ensure that this compliance can be achieved and evidenced.  

For additional guidance, please visit our Smoke Alarm Help and Information and BS 5839 summary page.

What to do if my Carbon Monoxide alarm goes off?

CO detectors, or carbon monoxide alarms, are essential for the detection of a deadly gas, carbon monoxide (CO). This gas cannot be seen, tasted or smelt and is only detected with the use of co detectors. It is produced through the incomplete combustion of fuel, such as gas, wood, coal and oil. If your carbon monoxide alarm is going off, do not assume it is a false alarm.

What to do when your carbon monoxide alarm is going off

You should assume that there is CO present and should follow these steps to ensure your safety.

  • Stay calm, open doors and windows to increase ventilation
  • Where safe to do so, turn off any fuel-burning appliance
  • Leave the premises and notify other occupants of the potential carbon monoxide leak (you should also notify any occupant of premises adjoined to your home as CO can seep through walls and floors
  • Call Gas Emergency Services 0800 111 999 or a local Gas Safe Registered Engineer to check for the source of carbon monoxide
  • Get medical help for anyone suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: persistent headaches

Persistent Headaches

Having persistent dull headaches and tension type headaches.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: dizziness

Dizziness

Having waves of dizziness or feeling light headed and off balance.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: nausea/vomiting

Nausea / Vomiting

Feeling like you need to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting).

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: stomach pains

Stomach Pains

Pains in your stomach or lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: difficulty breathing

Difficulty Breathing

Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnoea).

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: tiredness

Tiredness

Having no energy or feeling tired, sleepy, lethargic and sluggish.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: sudden collapse

Sudden Collapse

Sudden collapse, seizures or loss of consciousness.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: confusion

Confusion

Confusion, difficulty concentrating and becoming easily irritated.

What causes CO detector false alarms?

A false alarm is when your CO detector alarms and where no carbon monoxide is detected by your engineer. There could be several reasons for this, which can often be easily resolved:

Cause of alarmWhat to do
The carbon monoxide detected did not come from your own appliances but may have seeped through the walls or floor from a neighbour.Check if your neighbours have fuel-burning appliances that might emit carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide might escape from chimney stacks allowing the toxic gas to enter your premises via a joint loft space.
The replace-by date may have been exceeded.Most CO alarms are only effective for 5-10 years. Once expired, they can sound erratically, or not sound when they should, The expiry date for each unit can be found on the information sticker on the back of the unit.
Excessive moisture from a bathroom may set off your CO alarm.CO alarms can be corrupted by steam, and therefore shouldn’t be installed in bathrooms. If your CO alarm is repeatedly triggered by steam, it may become ineffective, and should be replaced.
Lead acid battery chargers produce hydrogen gas which sets off CO detectors.If you are charging your caravan or boat battery at home, this could set off your CO alarm. Once you have made sure that the alarm is false, it is safe to ignore the alarm in this scenario, but remain vigilant for other signs. If this happens often, invest in a CO alarm with a digital display to assess the level of risk when the alarm sounds.
Freshly screeded floors emit a gas that sets off carbon monoxide alarms.If your floors have just been screeded, and you have made sure that the alarm is false, it is safe to ignore the alarm in this scenario, but remain vigilant for other signs.
The carbon monoxide alarm that you have installed may not be suitable for the type of premisesFor example if it is installed in a caravan, tent, boat or living quarters of a horsebox you will need to ensure that your alarm is Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2. Alarms tested to BS EN50291-1 are only for use in home environments and are not suitable for camping and caravanning.
Smoking indoorsA heavy smoker in a poorly ventilated room the CO from smoking may trigger an alarm. It is recommended to open a window if possible to improve ventilation. If this happens often, invest in a CO alarm with a digital display to assess the level of risk when the alarm sounds.
Homes that are adjacent to very busy roads may experience higher levels of CO in the home when windows are open as traffic fumes may enter the room and set your alarm off.If this causes persistent false alarms, invest in a digital CO alarm, allowing you to see a live CO reading. You can then determine the level of risk. For example, if the reading is high, there is probably a leak. However, if it has just tipped over the threshold due to air pollution, the alarm can be ignored/silenced without having to get an engineer in to check for a leak.
The sound that your alarm is making may not be the alarm sound to alert you that there are dangerous levels of CO present.Most alarms have several audible sounds to indicate things such as low battery warning or that there is a fault with the alarm. Keep the manual safe so that you can refer to it should the alarm go off.

Buying a CO detector

You should have a carbon monoxide detector in every room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance. Only chose CO detectors that have met the rigorous testing standards of the European standard EN50291. These alarms provide peace of mind that this vital alarm has been manufactured and tested to the highest standards. Moreover, investing in a CO detector with a digital display also provides peace of mind, as it allows you to assess the situation when an alarm goes off. This is particularly useful if you have had persistent false alarms due to pollution, smoking, or other external factors, as it allows you to check the reading to assess the level of risk before calling an engineer to check for a leak.

For more information about taking a carbon monoxide detector on holiday, read our blog on this ultimate travel essential, and what to do if you detect a leak.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarm - 7DCO / 7DCOC
Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarm - 7DCO / 7DCOC
  • Product Life: 10 years
  • Battery: replaceable AA alkaline batteries included
  • Warranty: 10 year warranty
  • Displays CO levels from 10ppm
  • Peak Level Memory - recalls highest CO levels
  • Ideal for domestic use and camping, caravans & boats
  • Kitemarked to BS EN50291-1 and BS EN50291-2
  • Also suitable for the 2022 Welsh legislation
£15.21 ex VAT
£18.25 inc VAT
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If you are unsure if you have the correct carbon monoxide alarm installed our customer care team are here to help. You can call them on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Director

Angie Dewick-Eisele is co-founder of Safelincs Ltd, one of the leading fire safety providers in the UK. Angie was Marketing Manager for many years and as Director is these days responsible for Content Management.

Managing False Alarms

Managing false alarms is a public safety issue. As reported by the BBC, in 2020 the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue – Les Britzman – asked business owners to take more care and responsibility in managing false alarms. Provided that there are no hazardous materials in the premises and there is no immediate risk to life or the community, the CFO stated that organisations should “have systems in place to go and check those buildings themselves” before calling 999 if a fire is discovered.

Despite this, a National Statistics report shows that FRSs in the UK attended 246,529 fire false alarms in 2023. This was a 3.1% increase on the previous year, and a 6.3% increase on figures 5 years ago. Last year (2023) saw the largest number of false alarms attended since 2011. This diverts essential resources from real emergencies and puts people at risk due to avoidable blue light journeys.

Islington Fire Station, London.
Islington Fire Station, London. The station is part of the London Fire Brigade network of emergency responders.

Further to wasting public resources, management and mitigation of false alarms ensures that time is not wasted by needless evacuations. Unnecessary evacuations may cause downtime of machinery, and potentially a loss of earnings. If false alarms are allowed to persist, there occupants may become desensitized to the sound. This puts lives at risk, as in a real emergency, occupants may fail to react properly.

The importance of managing false alarms

BS 5839 Part 1, the Code of Practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire alarm systems in non-domestic premises, has a focus on managing false alarms. Therefore, managing fire alarms is recommended for organisations to demonstrate that they are acting responsibly to prevent fires.  To achieve this, the Responsible Person must ensure that all false alarms on a system are logged. Each false alarm must also be investigated for a root cause, which must be addressed. Mitigating work must be undertaken as necessary to prevent the same incident occurring again. To learn more about this Standard, see our summary of BS 5839-1: 2017.

Should a real fire occur, documentation including a record of, and mitigation work following past false alarms will be required during the investigation. The maintenance of these records is not a legal requirement. However, correct documentation can prevent prosecutions of negligence. It is also highly likely that insurers will require these records when processing a claim.

How to prevent false alarms

Preventing false alarms can be as simple as fitting flip covers to manual call points to prevent accidental activations. Indeed, this is now a recommendation in the Standard, though not a requirement. However, if a false alarm occurred because a manual call point was accidently triggered, the need to mitigate against repeat occurrences may necessitate their installation.

Fire Alarm System Testing & Maintenance
Functional testing of point smoke detectors with a Solo aerosol dispenser and access pole.

Another fundamental part of managing false alarms in existing fire alarm systems is to ensure they are maintained. This includes regular testing, inspections, and servicing. This will reduce the risks of false alarms caused by faulty or improperly installed equipment, as well as ensuring that the system is effective in an emergency.

Premises with a change of use should be professionally inspected to identify whether the existing fire alarm system remains suitable. For example, replacing optical beam detectors with a system of point heat detectors would prevent false alarms in a storage warehouse that has been converted into a factory with machinery that creates a lot of dust.

Optimising new fire alarm systems

For new fire alarm systems, during the design stage the full details of the Fire Risk Assessment, the building, and its intended / current use should be made available. This ensures that the most suitable types of detector can be selected, and positioned in the correct way. Suitable detectors in the correct locations are one of the easiest methods for managing false alarms. For example, installing an optical smoke detector near kitchens or bathrooms could result in false alarms due to steam from cooking or baths and showers.

Identifying design shortcomings is not generally the responsibility of an installer. However, the Standard does state that any issues noticed during installation – particularly those arising from features of the building that might not have been known to the designer – should be brought to the attention of the designer or Responsible Person.

Fire Risk Assessments must be kept up to date and carried out by a competent person.
Fire alarm systems should be tailored to the building. It should account for the risks identified in the building’s fire risk assessment.

False alarms put unnecessary strain on UK fire services, diverting essential resources away from real fires, and putting lives at risk. Managing false alarms is in the interest of organisations as it prevents disruption.

Safelincs provide nationwide fire alarm system servicing and maintenance contracts at competitive pricing. View our Servicing and Maintenance page or call our Servicing team on 0800 612 4827 for more information.

Daniel Bennett

Senior Product Manager

Daniel is our Senior Product Manager. He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to emergency lighting, fire alarms, smart products, and fire extinguishers.

Latest Posts by Daniel Bennett

Managing False Alarms19th March 2024