Setting the standard
Possibly the worst example of fire door safety in the UK has gained the dubious honour of ‘Dodgy Fire Door of the Year’ from safety campaigner Theodore Firedoor.
The photo of a fire door in an undisclosed care home location exposes the worst type of ‘adaptation’. Part of the door has been neatly cut away in order to fit a stair lift, rendering the fire door completely useless. This fire door would offer no protection for the building users and a fire would spread rapidly.
Like this one, more than 40 photos of dodgy fire doors were submitted to the Theodore Firedoor Facebook page last year. As well as the ‘winning’ monstrosity, two badly damaged fire doors in a hotel and a hospital also stood out in the Top 3 most shocking pictures to be received in 2013.
The hotel fire door had sustained repeated damage to the door leaf and was missing any intumescent seal. In the event of a fire, intumescent seals expand and seal the allowed gap between the door and frame. This fire door would provide little or no protection to a hotel full of guests.
The hospital fire door had obviously been repeatedly damaged due to the high volume of traffic passing through. It was damaged down to the core; in the event of a fire its effectiveness would be greatly compromised.
The Theodore Firedoor campaign was launched by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) last April to publicise the widespread problems of ill-fitting, damaged and poorly maintained fire doors.
Theodore Firedoor lives on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and encourages sharing of dodgy fire door information across these social media channels. His video of appalling fire door maintenance at a city hospital last summer has already attracted more than 2,000 views.
Neil Ashdown, manager of FDIS, said:
“Of course the consequences of such poor fire door maintenance are much greater than just getting a photo posted onto Facebook. Theodore Firedoor has made visible an epidemic of dodgy fire doors in all sorts of buildings and across all parts of the UK, and where such safety breaches occur, prosecutions are sure to follow.
“The number of prosecutions we are seeing shows a frightening lack of awareness among building owners about their responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, or RRO as it is often known. Dodgy fire doors are usually just one of many signs of fire safety negligence.
“This matches the experience of FDIS Certificated Inspectors who are now providing professional fire door inspection services to a wide range of clients in England. Thankfully FDIS inspectors are much in demand and are helping to transform knowledge and understanding about the critical role of fire doors and how they can save lives and protect property. FDIS Inspectors can carry out on-site inspections of installed fire doors in existing or new buildings. This is an essential part of any fire risk assessment required by law to be done by a building’s Responsible Person.”
Analysis by FDIS of the RRO prosecutions last year suggests that ill-informed or negligent property owners are more likely than ever to receive large fines or even significant prison sentences. Courts are able to hand out unlimited fines and up to two years in jail.
The most frequent fire door offenders in 2013 were small business owners running rented accommodation above shops and landlords operating houses in multiple occupation. However, the largest fine issued in 2013 was £50,000 to the owner of a college in Malvern which the judge said had “woefully inadequate” fire safety measures that included “non-functional fire doors in student sleeping areas”.
The longest prison sentence was a 15 month suspended sentence given to the owner of a takeaway in Croydon who was found guilty of committing a string of fire safety offences in his premises including no fire doors to the bedrooms on the first and second floors. The owner was also fined £40,000 and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.
The most tragic case resulted in the death of a seven year old boy in one of many properties without fire doors owned by a landlord in Kettering. The landlord was jailed for nine months and also ordered to pay £7,500 in costs.
Other cases included:
- An HMO landlord in Blackpool who was fined £36,000 plus costs of £7,000 after admitting 10 breaches of the Fire Safety Order including fire doors that did not close properly.
- Fine of £48,000 for owners of a nursing home in Liverpool for putting the safety of elderly residents at risk with various actions including “having wedged-open and defective fire doors”.
- A £12,000 fine for a Blackpool Indian takeaway boss in a case that cited “inadequate fire doors”.
- A four month suspended prison sentence and a £30,000 fine for the former director of a health spa in Clapham for breaking fire safety regulations including having no fire doors on the ground floor and no self-closing doors leading onto the buildings escape routes.
Neil Ashdown urges building owners, including landlords, care homes, hotels and hospitals, to use the services of a FDIS inspector:
“An FDIS Certificated Inspector will carry out a fully comprehensive inspection of all your fire doors, well documented with recommendations for remedial guidance if called for. This help and guidance is invaluable when compiling the overall risk assessment for the building.”
Inspectors can be found at: http://fdis.co.uk/inspector
In the meantime, the Theodore Firedoor campaign is continuing in 2014 and will publish more pictures of dodgy fire doors.