Freedor free swing door closers – a case study

Freedor Free-Swing Door CloserFirefighters were recently called to tackle a blaze at Charlton House residential care home in Plymouth. The fire was promptly dealt with by two fire appliances whose job was made easier by the fact the fire had been contained to one room. The bedrooms of the home had Freedor free swing fire door closers fitted, which closed automatically as soon as the fire broke out.

Taylia Cryan, the Manager at Charlton House commented “The fire was a frightening experience, but thankfully we had the correct measures in place so damage to the home was minimal, no one was hurt and no one had to move out. It was great to see my staff do what I had trained them to do and all the equipment we have installed work perfectly. We use Freedor as the residents couldn’t cope with the heavy doors but I hadn’t realised how important they were until the day of the fire.”

Representing our supplier, Tom Welland, Compliance Manager at Fireco says “This fire is a great example of risk assessment in action. You can reduce the risk of fire by having great precautions and well trained staff but unfortunately you cannot remove the risk entirely. Accidents happen but processes don’t, the home had put effort into ensuring that when the time came the staff and equipment did what was required of them. This meant the difference between losing a room and no casualties to losing an entire home, a business and injuries. We put the same amount of effort into making our products so people can rely on us. Had the fire doors been wedged open the outcome could have been catastrophic.”

Freedor is a unique free swing device that is fitted to the top of fire doors, which allows users to hold their fire doors open at any angle. Freedor listens out for a fire alarm and once the alarm is sounding, Freedor closes the door, preventing the spread of fire and smoke throughout the building. Freedor enables greater ease of access as it does not create the resistance of normal door closers and can be used in any setting such as nursing homes, offices, schools and restaurants. Freedors are easy to retrofit, as they do not require any wiring.

Making sure businesses are ready to face a fire is vital. Charlton House had the appropriate training and had put in place the right equipment which made a huge difference and potentially saved lives and jobs.

For further information visit our Freedor page or ring 0800 612 6537 and we will be happy to help. The installation of the Freedor is included in our pricing.

Fire door closers – how to improve ease of movement within care homes

Freedor Fire Door CloserFor those confined to care homes moving freely within the immediate environment is essential for their well-being and self-esteem. However, fire regulations require that fire doors, such as they are installed in gangways and often in bedrooms, are kept closed to prevent the spread of smoke and flames in the event of a fire. The hydraulic door closers, usually installed for this purpose, make the fire doors difficult to open for the elderly and those who require walking aids. Installing a normal fire door retainer to hold the fire door open against the pressure of a traditional door closer does not fully address this problem, as it still requires the fire door to be opened in the first place before it can be retained in the open position.
This is why Free-Swing fire door closers are required. They allow the user to open and close the fire door like any other door – without any resistance. The door can also be left open in any desired position. If the fire alarm goes off the fire door will, of course, close and the occupants of the building are protected against the spread of fire and smoke.

Some of Safelincs’ free-swing door closers require wiring into the fire alarm panel to ensure the door shutting is closing the door when a fire is detected. Our Freedor free-swing door closer, on the other hand, does not require any wiring at all. Similar to the well known Dorgard manufactured by the same UK company, the Freedor ‘listens’ for the sound of an alarm system and will close the fire door, as soon as the acoustic signal is received. The Freedor unit is battery powered and is also suitable for retro-fitting on existing fire doors.

Harry Dewick-Eisele, Managing Director, Safelincs explains, “The Freedor overcomes the need to install a door closer as well as a retainer. It is fitted in the same position as a traditional fire door closer and deals with the entire issue of the safe opening and closing of fire doors. It is a huge improvement for care homes but also children centres and other public spaces where traditional door closers can lead to difficulties for users.”

If you require any further information call 0800 612 6537 where there are experts on hand to offer advice.

Keeping a fire door open legally….and safely

Dorgard Fire Door RetainersFire safety company Safelincs operates a website www.firescout.co.uk that invites visitors to submit photographs of any potentially dangerous situations they have spotted. All entries are anonymous, the idea being to educate rather than ‘name and shame’. Safelincs then offers advice as to whether the situation could incur a fine and how much, if anything, it would cost to remedy the situation.
A common misdemeanour is to prop open a fire door, sometimes with a fire extinguisher – a double transgression!

Fire doors are an essential part of the fabric of a building and have two important functions in the event of a fire; when closed they form a barrier to stop the spread of fire or smoke and when opened they provide a means of escape. They are designed to be kept closed except when people are passing through them. In some businesses, and in places such as care homes or schools, closed fire doors can act as a hindrance to general mobility and moving around to perform essential tasks. However, there is a way in which the situation can be overcome without compromising safety or breaking the law.

Safelincs provide a number of products manufactured by specialist manufacturer Fireco which allow fire doors to be kept open legally and safely. Each of these products works by responding to the sound (anything above 65 decibels) of smoke or fire alarms; the mechanism holding the door open is released and the door closer on the fire door closes it to prevent the spread of fire and smoke around the building.

Dorgard, the first innovative product Fireco, is a wireless appliance that can be screwed the base of a door in less than five minutes. The standalone device will then hold the door open at any angle allowing freedom of access throughout the building. Utilising acoustic technology, Dorgard ‘listens’ for a continuous alarm of 65dBA or higher which, once heard, will automatically release the door. Dorgard is available in a variety of colours and finishes which will blend in with any décor.

Fireco also produces System X which extends the versatility of Dorgard by linking several different devices and by overcoming the issue of noisy workplaces. A transmitter is wirelessly installed next to a fire alarm sounder or hardwired into the fire alarm system. In the event of a fire, System X will wirelessly transmit simultaneously to multiple Dorgard X or Deafgard X units within a 100 metre range. Safelincs will visit an organisation’s premises and undertake a free survey and make recommendations for siting an effective system.

The latest product from Fireco is Freedor, a unique wire free solution that allows a door to free-swing just like a normal door and to be held open at any angle – automatically closing the door in a controlled manner when a fire alarm sounds. It utilises the same technology that is employed in Dorgard but is fixed unobtrusively to the top of the door. Using Freedor allows freedom of access throughout the building for disabled people and people less able to operate the doors, and assists businesses complying with the Equality Act 2010. The purchase price includes the installation through a professional installer.

All these products have applications in a wide variety of environments and allow easy movement through a building without compromising safety or contravening fire safety regulations.
To find out more about the Fireco range go to www.safelincs.co.uk and follow the link to Fire Door and Exit Equipment or call 0800 612 6537 where there are friendly experts on hand to offer advice.

Fire doors – Common queries from our fire safety forum

Safelincs operates a fire safety forum where people’s fire safety questions are answered by professionals. One of the frequently-raised topics are Fire Doors. This blog compiles some of the key points raised by the forum.

A fire door is designed to function both as a door and as a barrier to a fully developed fire in a building

Whilst any closed door will help to delay the spread of a fire, those designated specifically as fire doors must be capable of resisting the effect of fire for a period set out in its specification – typically 30 minutes.

Strictly speaking a fire door should be referred to as ‘a fire resisting doorset’ or fire door assembly including a frame as well.

This is because the door and the door frame act together in the context of fire resistance. In information pertaining to fire resistance you will see the actual door referred to as the ‘door leaf’ or simply the ‘leaf’. Other components are hardware (closers, hinges, etc.) and seals which must be to fire rated standards.

There are two types of smoke seal

  • A brush type seal will prevent the escape of cold smoke around the edges of the fire door. 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.
  • Intumescent fire door seals remain dormant under normal conditions but expand greatly in the heat of a fire to close the gap between the door and its frame. A fire door required to provide resistance to the passage of a well-developed fire must be fitted with intumescent seals. These seals activate at temperatures that are above human survival levels, so there is no danger of them expanding and trapping people trying to escape.

Safelincs’ fire door seals contain both an intumescent strip as well as a brush to stop both smoke and fire. There are rare occasions where a brush is not helpful (if traces of smoke are required to drift through the door gap to trigger an alarm on the other side of the fire door). In these very rare cases, please contact our staff and we will supply you with intumescent strips without brush.

Fire doors are rated in accordance with the length of time they will resist a fire

A door rated FD30 will resist the passage of fire for 30 minutes, an FD60 for 60 minutes and so forth. If a fire door is rated FD30s it will have been fitted with the appropriate seal containing both intumescent and brush to resist the passage of cold smoke for 30 minutes as well.
Safelincs sells rebated or surface-mounted intumescent fire door seals which resist fire for 30 or 60 minutes (suitable for FD30 or FD60 fire doors). All Safelincs seals are available for single and double fire doors and can be fitted in the frame or the door leaf.

British Standards set out details on the permitted gaps around a fire door

BS 8214:2008 states that the gap along the sides, top and between the leaves of a double door should be 3 mm +/- 1 mm. Under-door (threshold) gaps should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the particular doorset design.
If the fire door is required to stop cold smoke as well (FDs) it should be fitted with a threshold seal underneath the door to stop the smoke. When fitted, threshold smoke seals should give an even contact with the floor but should not significantly increase friction that could hinder the opening or closing of the door.

When fitting a fire door, the door leaf can be shortened by cutting a section off at the bottom. However, the amount that can be removed at the sides is strictly limited. You need to contact the manufacturer about the maximum that can be planed off.

Fire doors should not be left open

Fire door closers have to be used to ensure that fire doors are kept shut, except when people are passing through them. There are a number of different types of closers on the market, including some which are concealed and unobtrusive – maintaining the character of a door – ideal for stylish offices or historic buildings.

It is illegal to prop fire doors open unless the door holder (also called fire door retainer) is capable of automatically releasing the door in case of a fire being detected. These work either acoustically (‘hearing’ the fire alarm) or by being wired into a building’s fire alarm system.

If users (for example disabled people) find fire doors with closers difficult to open, ‘swing free’ devices can be used

In some circumstance the force needed to open a fire door against the resistance of the fire door closers is too great for the user to manage. Bedroom doors in care facilities for the elderly or disabled and some rooms in clinics or hospitals are examples. Such doors can be fitted with “swing free” devices. These allow the door to be easily opened or closed without any door closer resitance. They also stay open in any open position required. They are linked to a fire alarm system and will resume their self-closing function in the event of a fire.

The entrance doors to flats, within a block of flats, should be fire doors

Where there a re jointly used exit routes the individual entrance doors in blocks of flats should usually be fire doors to safeguard residents in the building.

Fire doors can be painted with ordinary paint; however, fire door fittings need to be fire-rated

Door fittings include hinges, door closers and glazing. Locks just need to be CE marked (the CE marking indicating compliance with EU product legislation). Fire doors seals can be painted over although excessive thickness of paint should be avoided.

Fire doors can be fitted with glass panels

If glazing is required, this has to be carried out using fire resistant glass. There are two main types: Georgian wired and clear glass. Safelincs offers different glass types and a range of common fire door glazing dimensions. Its manufacturing plant will fit the fire door windows and certify the fire door and glazing with a BWF (British Woodworking Federation) certificate.

Fire doors can be fitted with a security viewer

Security viewers can be fitted to fire doors and offer 60 minutes of fire protection. Safelincs offer two models that will cover doors between 35mm and 62mm thick.

Fire doors should be professionally installed

Although a competent builder or joiner can install a fire door, the recommendation would be that the work is carried out under the auspices of the Accredited Fire Door Installers Scheme. This scheme has been developed by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) in association with FIRAS (installer certification scheme), with the purpose of ensuring that fire door installations are carried out correctly, safely and in compliance with current Building Regulations.

Once the fire door has been installed, it is also important that you carry out regular maintenance checks to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. Ask the installer for guidance on the issues to look for. If you choose to keep the door open with a fire door retainer, close the door at night to avoid the door warping.

Fire doors should not be confused with fire exits

Fire exits are there to ensure a safe escape for people in the event of a fire. That is they have to open easily from the inside and need to open fully. Final fire exits leading to the outside of a building do usually not have to be fire resistant. An exception are fire exits leading to major external evacuation routes. However, fire doors are also fire exits if they are on the route to the final fire exit, eg in corridors.

Fire Door Safety Week – 16 -21 September

Fire doors save lives and property. Fire Door Safety Week is all about raising awareness of this critical element of fire safety in every commercial, public and multiple occupancy building. The British Woodworking Federation, with a number of industry partners has created Fire Door Safety Week to:

raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance.

  • encourage building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and to report those that aren’t satisfactory.
  • engage and educate people, helping with the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.

Safelincs supports this campaign and offers information about fire doors. Safelincs also offers a range of standard (FD30 – 30 minute) fire doors which are available in the most common sizes, styles and colours including 4 panel, 6 panel and glazed with a variety of shapes of pane.

In addition we can supply custom built fire doors to your particular specification. Our simple online system allows you to easily configure and order a custom FD30 fire door within minutes. You can choose it with or without frame with your specified features including veneer, design and glazing options.

All standard fire doors have a delivery lead time of 7-10 working days from the date of order. Customised made-to measure doors have a delivery lead time of 1-3 weeks.

Safelincs also provide a range of associated products including fire door closers, fire door seals and hinges.

It is illegal to wedge open fire doors but with Dorgard it is possible to hold fire doors open legally to make access to rooms easier. These fire door retainers will hold a door open but immediately a smoke alarm sounds the sonic waves trigger the release mechanism allowing the door to close.

Gaps Underneath Fire Doors

We get often asked if gaps are allowed underneath fire doors and if so, how big they can be. We researched on your behalf and compiled this blog to explain the current recommendations.

The Basics

What happens in case of a fire? There is positive pressure in a room on fire (until the fire is vented) but at the base of the fire the pressure must be negative to draw in the air for the fire to receive oxygen. The smoke and the fire will try to push through the side and top gaps around a fire door while (usually) drawing air from underneath the door.

The Development of Fire Door Testing

The old test of fire doors to BS 476 Part 8 (for fire resistance) was carried out simply in a furnace increasing the temperature to that found in rooms on fire and the door was checked to ascertain when the fire would breach the door, usually at the gaps at the head and sides of the door. This was changed in the eighties to BS 476 part 22 which was similar, however, the furnace was now pressurised. Old BS 476 Part 8 fire doors failed this new test (usually after around 20 mins for a 30 minute FD30 fire door), so intumescent strips, also called fire door seals, were introduced to ensure fire doors passed the test. However, cold smoke can still seep through the gaps around the door and cause death from smoke inhalation. In some applications  therefore fire doors with cold smoke protection around the sides and top are required (recognisable by the ending ‘s‘, e.g. FD30s). This is usually achieved by installing fire door seals with integrated cold smoke brushes.

Fire doors tested in accordance with the cold smoke test requirement BS 476 part 31 ensure that in the early stages of a fire, the cold smoke does not percolate into escape routes and makes them impassable. At first the standard was only concerned with the gaps at the head and the sides of the door, as the air passing though the threshold gap to feed the fire keeps the smoke in the affected room. However, now the standards have changed and for fire doors requiring cold smoke control, the threshold gap does now have to be considered as well.

This is quite confusing, as fire fighters were always taught that at floor level there is a layer of an inch thickness of fresh air no matter how severe the fire is and if you get caught, get your nose on the floor to breathe. Consequently, the threshold gap was never considered important and BS 8214:1990 reflected this by stating a threshold gap of 6/8mm was acceptable.

Nevertheless, in BS 8214:2008 this changed and it states that under-door (threshold) gaps should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the particular doorset design. When fitted, smoke seals should give an even contact with the floor but should not exhibit significant increased frictional forces that could interfere with the closing action of the door (see BS 5588-11). BS 5588-11 is now withdrawn and BS 9999 is the current standard. BS9999:2008 recommends for fire doors with cold smoke control that the threshold gap should be either less than 3mm in height or should be fitted with a threshold seal.

When speaking with manufacturers, however, a common statement is that a fire doors gap of up to 8 mm underneath the door is permissible. This is probably just referring to normal FD30 applications, as the fire door manufacturer is not involved in upgrading fire doors to cold seal protected standard (FD30s).

Conclusion

Ask your fire door manufacturer for their recommended threshold gap. If this information is not available it seems reasonable to permit a gap of up to 8mm for general fire doors (eg FD30). If you have a requirement for cold smoke control (eg FD30s) your threshold gap should be less than 3mm or you should fit a threshold smoke seal.

This advice applies for most applications, however, special requirements must be considered in a your fire risk assessment.

Difference between fire doors and fire exits

The issue of fire doors and fire exits can be confusing for non-professionals in fire safety. If you have to replace some of the doors in your premises with fire doors or you have to improve egress from a building with panic bars on fire exits, it will be helpful to have a clear understanding of the differences between fire doors and fire exits.

A fire door is an internal door, whose purpose is to i) create/protect an escape route through a building in a fire situation; and ii) compartmentalise a fire, to stop flames and smoke spreading from one section of the building to another. Examples of locations of fire doors include stairwells, where they protect the stairs from corridors opening on to them; kitchens/catering facilities, storage areas that house combustible materials such as paper and card and boiler rooms.

Fire doors have to be kept close at all times unless certified fire door retainers are installed (not just a door wedge!) which hold the fire door open until a fire alarm is set off.

Certified fire doors of solid timber construction are designed to resist the smoke and flames of a fire for a minimum specified length of time, typically 30 minutes (FD30), when closed. Because a fire door is not simply a block of wood in a frame but an assembly of fire resistant parts – door leaf/leaves, doorframe, hardware (e.g. locks, latches, hinges, etc), any glazing, smoke/intumescent seals and an automatic closing device – it is also known as a fire doorset.

A fire exit door on the other hand, is an external door; it can be left open and does not have to be fire resistant. The purpose of the fire exit door is to allow a quick and un-hindered escape through a well lit door into a place of safety while stopping un-authorised access from the outside. Fire exits doors should open easily and, wherever possible, in the direction of traffic flow. If it is a security door that is usually kept locked but will be used by members of the public in an emergency situation, it will have to be fitted with a panic or push bar. By enabling the swift passage of people to a place of safety, the final exit door will have performed its function; it does not have to be a fire door to accomplish this. Fire exit doors can also be opened from the outside if for example a panic bar with a keylock override is fitted. Fire exits must never be obstructed and have to be clearly marked and well lit. Best practice dictates that fire exit signs are fitted above fire exits.

The importance of fire door closers

Fire safety equipment is essential for homes and businesses alike to first detect the fire and then to safely evacuate the building and minimise the damage caused by the fire. The best known fire safety products are familiar pieces of equipment such as fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, however, fire doors also play an important role in stopping the spread of fire. When closed, fire doors will stop the spread of smoke and flames for a significant amount of time (usually 30 minutes), helping people inside the building to evacuate safely.

In order for fire doors to function properly, they should remain closed between using the door. As obvious as this sounds, in a busy office building it can be difficult to ensure that fire doors are being closed. Therefore automatic fire door closers are installed to ensure that, after a door is opened, it naturally returns to a closed position where it can offer the maximum fire safety.

Door closers work by using the energy built-up when opening the door, to close it. There are a number of different types of fire door closers, some of which are even concealed within the doors themselves. Some also have additional features that can enable the doors to be held safely in an open position to allow easier access for people with disabilities. This is particularly useful in buildings where there is a lot of foot traffic. In the case of a fire the fire alarm will trigger these hold-open devices and allow the door closer to close the door.

Fire door closers are selected by closing strength which relates to the weight of the door. The configuration of the door closers will also depend from the design of the door (inward/outward closing) etc. If in doubt contact our friendly customer support line.

Why fire doors are so important

A fire door is one of the most important fire safety products on your premises. It will prevent the fire or smoke from spreading across the building and keep the fire contained to a particular compartment or room, giving occupants longer to escape and the fire service longer to rescue anyone who is trapped and put out the fire. They will also prevent more of your building and property from being lost to the fire than necessary.

The fire door can only be effective if it is installed with a fire door closer. As the name suggests, the closer ensures that the door closes automatically once it has been opened and needs to be able to handle different weights of door. We have a range of different door closers available, including all the leading brands such as GEZE and Briton. We also have concealed door closers, which are ideal if you feel an overhead closer would be unsightly or out of keeping with the building. These are also good for reducing vandalism, as most of the fixture is hidden out of sight.

Although fire doors should always be closed, sometimes this can be inconvenient or difficult to manage for customers with buggies or wheelchairs. Wedging a door open, usually with a fire extinguisher or door wedge, is extremely unsafe and illegal. Instead consider installing Dorgard fire door retainers, which will hold the door open legally and also release the fire door in the event of the fire alarm sounding. Ensuring maximum access and safety at the same time.

Do fire doors restrict your movement?

Fire doors are a necessity but their design and purpose can sometimes restrict movement within a building. To ensure that fire doors are closed in the event of a fire and to avoid putting people at risk, they are fitted with a door closer. The door closer pushes the door closed once it has been opened. The strength of the door closer can make if difficult to open fire doors.

This can affect in particular elderly people in a care home or porters who have to push wheelchairs or trolleys. Promoting the mobility and independence of the elderly is essential to maintain their well being, but how do you achieve this without breaking any fire safety regulations?

Dorgard is a fire door retainer, which legally holds fire doors open with a plunger system. This allows free movement within the building but does not compromise your fire safety. On the sounding of the fire alarm system the Dorgard will release the plunger and enable the door closer to close the fire door, keeping the occupants of the building safe from the spread of fire.

For situations where it is a necessity to close fire doors at night the units can be programmed to close at a predetermined time. This clever unit has an exclusive 5 year warranty from Safelincs and is also offered with free shipping.  They are available in mahogany, black, red and white as well as the wood effect series, Dorgard Effects, which are available in four different wood types.