Care home fire safety ruling

After the recent BBC investigation about London care homes not meeting fire safety regulations there has been an important court ruling that will hopefully change the behavior of care home owners and increase the safety of the residents.

The issue  regarding resident bedroom doors, which must be fitted with self closing fire doors, and the risk of these fire doors being wedged open in an illegal manner was addressed. Fire doors are generally heavy and when fitted with a self closing device very hard for an elderly person to open. In the case of care homes fitting bedroom doors with these devices will restrict the mobility and independence of residents. The fear was that care home owners will then wedge the doors open to allow residents to freely move in and out of their bedrooms. This practice is illegal and the judicial ruling now stipulates that self-closing fire doors must be fitted with a device that will hold the door open and which releases the door when a fire alarm is triggered, allowing the fire door to be closed with the door closer to prevent the spread of fire.

This is ruling is paramount in ensuring the safety of vulnerable residents. The solution to this new ruling need not result in having a new system wired into the premises but can be resolved with wireless devices such as Dorgard or Freedor. Both devices are wireless and can be fitted retrospectively to fire doors without the need of an electrician.

The Dorgard can be fitted to any door with a self closing device and will hold the door open until the fire alarm sounds. At this point the door retainer will lift the plunger and the fire door will close. The Freedor works in a similar way but it acts not only as a door holder but also as a door closer, incorporating the two devices in one. This device can hold the fire door open at any angle required and will then release and close the fire door on the sounding of the fire alarm.

Both fire door retainers have a night time closing feature and have adjustable  sensitivity. As the Dorgard and Freedor are both wireless products they can be fitted by a handy man rather than a costly electrician. The Dorgard has a 5 year warranty, which is only available from Safelincs Ltd.

For more information on fire door retainers and door holders please visit our website https://www.safelincs.co.uk/dorgard-and-other-fire-door-retainers/

More information about the judicial ruling can be found at http://www.cpbsonline.eu/pressrelease/pressrelease.aspx?companyname=Fireco&title=Court+Makes+Important+Care+Home+Fire+Safety+Ruling

Why should smoke alarms be replaced after ten years?

In 1992, the Building Regulations were amended requiring every new build to allow for mains-wired, interconnected smoke alarms to be installed. With many alarms installed under this Regulation still in use and potentially approaching their twentieth year, it was necessary to research a recommendation as to when mains powered smoke alarms should be replaced.

Current recommendations

  1. The majority of research found on this subject emanates from the US. The US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have issued NFPA Standard 72, National Fire Alarm and Signalling Code (2010 edition), which states:
    1. “Replace all smoke alarms, including those that use ten-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are ten years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly when tested.”
  2. US fire safety websites, along with those in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, tend to recommend the replacement of domestic smoke alarms, whether battery or mains-wired, when they:
    • Fail to respond to tests
    • Are ten years old (varying between date of installation and manufacture)

Why Replace Alarms?

Several reasons are provided to justify the replacement of smoke alarms after ten years.

  1. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety cite a nationwide study undertaken by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which states that 97% of smoke alarms should still be functioning after one year, if supplied with power. After ten years it is 73%, whereas after 20 years, this figure stands at 54%. The study also indicated that 60% of the failures were due to flat or removed batteries or a disconnected power supply and the study offered possible reasons for this. Ageing alarms may experience sensitivity drifting, which may, in turn, result in an increased frequency of accidental activation and an increase in people removing the power supply It was thought that newer alarms with a ‘hush’ feature may contribute to remedying this
  2. An NFPA report cites a study undertaken by Canada’s Ontario Housing Corporation supporting the fact that 3% of smoke alarms will fail within one year. They also say that after 30 years, nearly all the alarms will have failed. They conclude that replacement after ten years, with roughly a 30% probability of failure, is an appropriate balance between safety and cost
  3. The South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service state that smoke alarm technology has improved significantly since legislation was introduced (similar requirements to the 1992 UK ones were introduced in Australia in 1995) and replacing old smoke alarms is an ideal opportunity to upgrade smoke alarm systems. The Australian Standard for smoke alarms (AS 3786) specifies an effective life of 10 years, suggesting that after that time effectiveness may be compromised with accumulated dust, insects, airborne contaminants and corrosion of electrical circuitry
  4. In the early 1990s, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission undertook an extensive study, called the National Smoke Detector Project, to examine smoke alarm ownership and operability. Some failures were found in smoke alarms, but there were no large or systematic problems identified with detector designs or manufacturing practices that cast any doubt on their long term reliability. However, a variety of component failures, corroded battery clips and deterioration and corrosion of the horn element contacts were found in a few smoke alarms
  5. Other reports from New Zealand and Canada looked at operability of battery smoke alarms, but no further reports on the operability and longevity of mains-wired smoke alarms could be found

Testing Smoke Alarms

  1. It should be noted that the regular testing of smoke alarms should help identify inoperability as testing a smoke alarm simulates smoke and does not simply test the power supply. This would indicate smoke alarm maintenance messages remain a priority. However, it was queried whether all smoke alarm test functions operate in this way, or whether some simply do test power supply, be it battery or mains-wired
  2. The general view from UK based smoke alarm manufacturers reflects the findings elsewhere. With contaminants such as dust, insects, grease and nicotine, the smoke alarm chamber is susceptible to becoming excessively sensitive or insensitive. This may lead to either an increase in nuisance false alarms, or to eventually becoming unable to detect smoke. One manufacturer reports that contamination is extremely variable, but that field experience indicated that 10 years is a reasonable compromise

Conclusion

  1. Evidence of smoke alarm longevity appears to be scarce and inconclusive. As with other electronic items, there will be failures in the units when they are produced and failures during their lifetime due to individual component faults. Similarly, as they get older more faults are likely to occur. Problems specific to smoke detectors include increased sensitivity
  2. In all the work identified so far, none has specifically concentrated on the failure of smoke alarms when they age. Smoke alarms do fail but the rate at which they do has not been accurately determined or related to their age.
  3. Despite there not being much research, it does seem appropriate to replace smoke alarms after ten years (in line with manufacturers advice), unless individual alarm testing suggests earlier replacement.

Mains-wired interconnected alarms – Replacement kits

  1. Safelincs has developed products designed to help facilitate the process of replacing the smoke detector heads for mains-wired interconnected smoke alarms

Hotel company fined £21,000 for fire safety offences

The owner of a  London hotel, the Averard in Bayswater, has been ordered to pay more than £21,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to fire safety breaches.

After an inspection, that took place in April 2009, failings in the fire detection and alarm systems were evident, as well as a lack of external means of escape and fire door provision.

Although a fire risk assessment had been carried out in 2008 detailing failings in a number of areas no remedial actions were implemented.

It is a legal obligation for Hotel owners to carry out and act on the findings of a fire risk assessment.

http://www.info4fire.com/news-content/full/hotel-company-convicted-of-fire-safety-offences

Fire safety breaches cause retailer record £400,000 fine

On November 25 2009 New Look, a well known high street retailer, was fined £400,000 plus costs due to a number of breaches of the fire safety legislation as a result of a serious fire at its Oxford Street store, London in August 2007.

New Look were found guilty of having an inadequate fire risk assessment, which was found to fail in a number of areas. These included lack of records of actions to be taken in the event of a fire alarm. Other breaches included lack of staff fire safety training resulting in a delayed evacuation of the public from the building.

A total of thirty five fire engines were present to tackle the blaze, with some crews maintaining some presence for three days. Part of the road had to be closed for two days. The extent of damage resulted in the store being demolished and the cause was never established.

This event should remind us all of our responsibilities to our employees and the general public to ensure their safety at all times whilst on the company premises. Thankfully this incident did not result in any casualties.

Do not be caught out, ensure that you are adhering to fire safety legislation.

Ref: www.fseonline.co.uk/articles.asp?article_id=9533&viewcomment=1

Landlord Imprisoned after Breaching RRO

A landlord has been sent to prison in the first custodial sentence to be given in London under the new fire safety regulations.

A London Landlord was sentenced to four months imprisonment and his company, was fined £21,000 following conviction for serious breaches of the regulatory reform order (RRO).

The prosecution followed a fatal fire at a flat in Tottenham on 16 September 2007. After being removed from the building by firefighters, a man was taken to hospital but died later from his injuries.

Councillor Brian Coleman AM FRSA, Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority which runs the London Fire Brigade said “This fire resulted in a man dying and highlights why landlords and businesses must take their responsibilities under the regulatory reform order seriously. The London Fire Brigade works hard to bring irresponsible companies and individuals to court, which can as this case has shown result in a custodial sentence.