As part of this year’s Fire Door Safety Week (21- 27 September), the organisers have shared research into the state of fire door maintenance, inspection and replacement programmes across local authority owned and managed housing in the UK.
Launched in 2013 in response to a legacy of fire door neglect, Fire Door Safety Week is a ‘mass market’ awareness campaign to increase public understanding of the vital role that fire doors play in protecting life and property. The campaign is managed by the British Woodworking Federation and is supported by a number of partners, including the Home Office’s National Fire Safety campaign, the National Fire Chief’s Council and London Fire Brigade.
Over half (52%) of UK local authorities responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reported delays to planned fire door maintenance and replacement in the first half of 2020. The number rises to 60% when inspection delays are also factored in.
According to the data obtained from 147 local authorities that own and manage their own housing stock, at least 26,318 fire doors were scheduled for maintenance or replacement between January and June 2020, but 16,580 did not progress – meaning 63% of individual planned works were delayed until at least the second half of the year, affecting a minimum of 9,954 individual properties.
In addition to delays to maintenance and replacement in the first half of the year, 31% of all responding local authorities stated their fire door inspection programmes were delayed, affecting at least 12,596 fire doors.
Not all responding local authorities provided reasons for delay, but over half (53%) of those experiencing delays cited COVID-19-related restrictions, including limited property access and availability of contractors due to social distancing guidelines.However, several local authorities did mention that emergency repair works to fire doorshad continued throughout the lockdown period to maintain the safety of residents.
Of those local authorities that experienced delays, 65% intend to commence works by the end of the year.
The Fire Door Safety Week organisers commented: ‘Understandably COVID-19 has impacted on service delivery across a variety of sectors, but fires don’t stop. With the UK lockdown period forcing many people to spend more time at home, people without fit for purpose fire doors have been put at risk. There is a need for continued and urgent focus on ensuring the safety of all building occupants whether in local authority or privately-rented accommodation, workplaces, or other building types.
‘Whilst we have focused upon local authority owned and managed housing stock, we strongly suspect that our insight reflects the wider market. We hope that through this years’ Fire Door Safety Week, we can draw attention to these important issues and encourage all with responsibility for fire doors to take urgent action across fire door maintenance, inspection and replacement’.
Approximately 3 million new fire doors are bought and installed every year in the UK, the vast majority made from timber. Fire doors are often the first line of defence in a fire and their correct specification, maintenance and management can be the difference between life and death for building occupants. However, they remain a significant area of neglect, often the first thing to be downgraded on a specification and mismanaged throughout their service life, propped open, damaged, and badly maintained. If a damaged door goes unidentified it cannot perform its life-saving role, therefore regular inspections carried out by trained and competent professionals are key.
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