Fire Door Safety
During September there is one issue of property management importance, that should not be considered lightly, and that is the importance of Fire doors. The 23rd September sees the start of Fire door Safety Week, and raises awareness regarding the importance of ensuring your homes and buildings are adequately protected from instances of fire by the use of fire door protection.
As a professional Managing Agent dealing in Property Management, Realty Management regard the health & safety and fire risks at a development of ultimate importance and therefore will regularly visit our developments to inspect the standard of fire precaution and lifesaving equipment, alongside additional inspections from our independent local contractors, and regular servicing of this equipment in line with legislation.
So how can you spot a fire door and what do we look for on our management visits?
Fire doors are typically found within communally occupied buildings and will include internal doors, and apartment doors. A fire door is a door designed to delay the spread of fire and smoke for period up to 30 minutes, some even longer at 60 minutes or more depending on the specification of the door, frame and ironmongery.
To confirm your door is a fire door, look for a label or plug identifying the door as a fire door. These are usually located at the top or side, and the label should identify how long the door should stop the spread of fire and smoke, e.g. FD30, FD60.
The gaps around the top and side of the door should be less the 4mm (approximately the depth of a £1 coin). An intumescent seal (which looks a little furry!) should surround the outer edge of the door. Look to ensure that intumescent seals are in place and are intact and free of damage, making sure they have not been painted over. Check all hinges are in place (three or more/0 and that all screws are in place. Finally check the door closes firmly without getting stuck on the latch or floor, hold the door half way open and if it closes fully, all is good.
While we ensure that communal areas are checked regularly, it is also important that leaseholders within apartments regularly inspect their own apartment doors, to ensure that these meet the required standards, and when looking to replace such features, ensuring that these are like for like replacements that adhere to the fire door safety regulations.
Realty have developed somewhat of a reputation in Manchester and the North West as ‘problem solvers’ for successfully rescuing and managing developments that have significant issues in regards to fire safety – post-Grenfell – our example below is particularly noteworthy due to its serious fire-safety compliance nature.
In 2018 Realty took on a modern development comprising 231 apartments situated across five blocks in Manchester. The previous management had failed considerably in not only general upkeep and maintenance but also fundamentally in terms of resident safety and security. Realty were asked to take over at short notice with a management commencement date of the 27th June 2018. A Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order from Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue (threatening prosecution and resident evacuation) had been issued and required action by the 28th June! No remedial works had been completed whatsoever by the previous agent despite the serious consequences of no action. The RMC approached Realty following a personal recommendation as the only company capable of getting them out of the very large mess they were now in.
For us, sometimes Property Management is about a little bit more than just profitable business and happy customers. Sometimes we can make a real difference to people’s lives. This was one of those occasions; an occasion where everything about the situation is contrary to good business, but where everything about the situation makes a massive difference to people in need. Regardless of reward we wanted to help the 231 families living in unsafe conditions and about to become homeless!
Our first job was to successfully secure an extension of the Fire Enforcement Order to allow enough time for the works to realistically be completed. At the same time we carefully began studying the Fire Enforcement Order alongside each block’s Fire Risk Assessment in order to produce a detailed specification of works that would eliminate all risk to resident safety. It was clear that one block required the most urgent attention and this became the focus – a timber framed building with almost no fire-stopping precautions that posed a significant safety-risk.
The block required considerable remedial works including, but not limited to: tens of new fire direction signs, 41 new cupboard locks, clearance of rubbish from every riser/utility cupboard in the building (which were stacked!), fire stopping fitted to all risers at all levels including 36 new fire collars, , fire boarding fitted to all required surfaces of all meter/riser cupboards, intumescent seals fitted to all fire doors meeting current hour-rating standards and replacement of 8 below standard, adjustment of all doors to fit frames and all closer mechanisms; amongst many other more minor works. This was just the first block of five!
The works were tendered to a number of previously tried and tested contractors and in turn completed efficiently. The contractor team literally had to start at one end of one floor and work their way around the building in a methodical and logical manner to ensure nothing was missed. It was necessary to visit site daily to project-manage this process and make decisions and give instructions to contractors as more and more required works became apparent whilst working through the building.
The importance of getting this right first time was not be underestimated, so our approach following completion of the works was to commission a new professional Fire Risk Assessment before Greater Manchester Fire Service returned in order to ensure that all possible requirements had been met – we knew how close the Fire Service were to evacuation and also wanted to ensure the subsequent works on the other four blocks would be completely fit for purpose.
This first block has been inspected by the Fire Officer who commented: “we were close to condemning the building and evacuating it – this is now not the case. The premises now demonstrates suitable and sufficient measures to satisfy requirements. No further actions are required other than regular review of the Fire Risk Assessment.”
Safe to say, the RMC were delighted with the outcome as their liability has been fully mitigated, their residents are now safe and without risk of becoming homeless, and not only that, the total spend has been significantly less than the £250,000 estimate suggested by the previous agent. In addition, 12 apartment sales that had stalled due to the Fire Enforcement Order have now concluded with values unaffected; and we have also secured stable insurance premiums for the development on renewal, avoiding the detrimental effects on premium / expected due to the serious fire safety breaches.
Residents have been regularly in contact with volunteered messages of thanks and for Realty this has ultimately been a hugely fulfilling project. We simply could not stand by in such a situation; and we could not be happier with the outcome.
If you are concerned with the safety of your building and looking to potentially change your managing agent as a result, then please do not hesitate to contact us a Realty for a quotation on 01614747677.
To see the difference a fire door can make, watch this video here: