Kensington and Chelsea council voted on 6 June to replace all fire doors across the borough. This comes a year after the fire that destroyed Grenfell Tower and took the lives of 71 people.
The council confirmed that they will replace a total of 4,000 fire doors at a cost of around £3.6m. Councillors were asked to vote on the motion after it transpired that an undamaged fire door from Grenfell was inspected and found to have a fire rating of around 15 minutes – not the expected 30 minutes.
A spokesperson for the council said, “This is a national issue. Manse Masterdor fire doors are used in social housing across the UK and a question mark hangs over their effectiveness.
“This is not currently a legislative requirement, but this may change following the completion of the current building regulations review.”
What are Manse fire doors?
These are fire doors supplied by a company called Manse Masterdor which ceased trading in 2014.
The Grenfell fire door, mentioned above, was from the same company. When this fire door failed a 30-minute fire test, despite being marketed as meeting the 30-minute resistance standard, it triggered a government investigation. This uncovered a performance issue with Manse fire doors and obviously raised alarm bells for social housing providers.
An Expert Panel, backed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, has made it clear that the risk to public safety is low. However, it has also recommended that buildings with Manse fire doors must have their fire risk assessments reviewed.
After the announcement that the council would commit to replacing the doors, Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, Kim Taylor-Smith said, “We want you [residents] to have the safest homes and we will do whatever it takes to make them safe again.”
What role do fire doors play?
Fire doors play an essential role in passive fire protection. A fire door which is constructed using quality fire-retardant materials will slow or halt the spread of fire. That’s why it’s so important to make sure these doors are always operated correctly and are regularly maintained.
A fire door usually has a rating of 30 or 60 minutes. This means that the door has been manufactured to withstand fire and heat for this length of time before it starts to break down. In that time frame, it’s expected that the fire services will be able to rescue anyone inside the building who is being protected by the fire door.
In one of our blogs, we show how fire doors really do play their part in controlling fires and saving lives. These photos of a school in Dorset taken after the fire brigade managed to gain access clearly demonstrate the power of a correctly installed, properly maintained door.
What exactly is passive fire protection?
It’s a way of preventing the spread of fire. There are two methods that can do this; these are passive and active fire protection. Active fire protection systems are ‘activated’ during a fire such as sprinklers or fire extinguishers.
In the UK, sprinkler systems are not widely used although since Grenfell, there have been numerous debates about the wisdom of this policy. A recent apartment block fire in south London was suppressed by sprinklers prior to the emergency services arriving. And during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, which took place a few years before the tragedy, the council considered retrofitting sprinklers. The decision was taken not to do this work due to the expense.
Fire policy may well change in favour of sprinkler systems, but passive fire protection has traditionally been the main form of fire suppression used in this country. This includes any type of fire stopping including doors. The principle of ‘compartmentation’ is that fire doors and other fire-resistant materials in floors, walls and ceilings, creates a compartment that can withstand fire for a specified period of time, usually 30 or 60 minutes. The (now infamous) ‘stay put’ advice is designed for building inhabitants who have somewhere safe to wait, i.e. a fully fire-stopped compartment.
It’s extremely important to be aware that passive fire protection is effective only if all elements are in place. A fire door which isn’t 30 minute rated (such as the Manse doors) undermines the whole system. Fire stopping in ceilings which has been compromised by the installation of new pipework may no longer effective and should be reassessed.
How do I ensure my fire door is always fit for purpose?
Regular fire door inspections are recommended in BS9999 which suggests every six months. Fire doors in high-traffic areas including schools and hospitals may need more regular checks. It’s up to the responsible person to show that they’ve got an adequate inspection and maintenance schedule in place.
Our fire door inspections test every single component of the door and on completion, we produce a fully detailed report.
Grenfell is a stark reminder about the importance of fire safety. We may think it will never happen to us, but this is short-sighted – without proper maintenance and upkeep, the risk is ever-present. Why not give us a call today so we can help you assess your fire risk? Call us on 08000 234114.
Qualified marketer Nikki has over 20 years’ professional experience. She is responsible for our strategic marketing planning and implementation, including branding, website, lead generation, social media and PR.
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