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Fire doors: The unsung heroes of fire safety

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Fire doors: The unsung heroes of fire safety

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Fire doors play a vital role in the fire safety of buildings. Their correct specification, installation and use is paramount to the safety of all those who use a facility.

Fire doors are the unsung heroes of fire safety because for most of their working lives they work just like any other door. However, if a fire breaks out, a fire door must fulfill its role as an engineered safety device, in order to hold back the spread of fire and smoke and to save lives and property.

There is an opposing view that fire doors are a barrier to the free flow of people around a building or facility – a contradiction for any society claiming to promote equal access for those with disabilities or the elderly who see fire doors as a considerable barrier to free access.

Fire doors tend to be heavy and cumbersome, so it’s very tempting to wedge them open to help free movement around a busy building - a hotel fire door wedged open to help guests with heavy bags, an urgent delivery of heavy boxes, the wheelchair bound care home resident. In fact there are almost as many ways of wedging open a fire door, as there are designs of door.

Clearly, however well intentioned, wedging open fire doors is illegal and provides no protection for a building and its occupants. In the event of a fire, fire doors are designed to stop smoke and flames from rapidly spreading through a building.

A senior loss prevention specialist with over 30 years experience who has inspected over 700 premises comments: 'Fire doors seem to be treated as an unnecessary evil which must be wedged open whenever possible. Although often done to ease access, fire door wedging, particularly of self-closing fire doors in busy corridors or hallways, is a highly dangerous practice with potentially fatal consequences.' 

Ironically, it’s also often fire extinguishers that are used to hold open fire doors. Apart from the damage the door could do to a fire extinguisher, restraining fire doors in any way will mean that, in the event of a fire, the fire cannot be contained, allowing fire and smoke to spread freely and rapidly.

Penalties of complacency

Recent research published to coincide with UK Fire Door Safety Week reveals alarming levels of ignorance and complacency about fire safety. As the report makes clear, fire is still a big problem in the UK, with an average of 174 building fires every day.

So it’s a sobering thought to learn that when those with responsibility for an organisation’s fire safety were asked if they were fully aware of their legal obligations, almost half said they either did not know what they were or admitted they were unclear. A similar proportion said they really would not know how to spot a malfunctioning fire door – one of the most critical passive fire protection features in the buildings we use every day.

The argument for keeping fire doors open
Whist it may seem counter-intuitive, legally keeping large heavy doors open can offer businesses and organisations some clear benefits, such as ensuring full compliance with equality legislation without compromising their health and safety strategies. Keeping the doors open also adds to a feeling of openness, improves ventilation and reduces wear and tear of doors, and can reduce long-term maintenance costs.

Traditional wired-in fire door holder and closer systems are expensive to install and their installation will often cause major disruption to a building and its occupants. The arrival of first generation acoustic systems gave businesses an affordable solution that could be installed rapidly with no disruption to occupiers, but questions have increasingly been asked about some aspects of their performance including their tendency to falsely activate and damage flooring.

Now there’s a new state-of-the-art ‘Listen and Learn’ digital technology solution that has been developed to deliver trouble-free control of wire-free fire door holders and closers. This advanced ‘hearing’ technology overcomes the problems associated with false activations caused by extraneous noises such as vacuum cleaners or high power floor polishing machines triggering a fire door’s unwanted closure.

New generation, wire-free, digital door technology that’s a clever innovation

Fire technology specialists Geofire has launched its new wire-free Agrippa range, comprising a digital door closer and door holder. Both products having been developed by the company’s team of fire safety product experts to address many of the historic problems associated with wire-free fire door holders and closers.

The Agrippa acoustic, magnetic fire door holder is designed to be mounted behind the door at either floor level or at the top of the door, whilst the Agrippa fire door closer is an overhead battery powered acoustic door closer.

Both products use advanced digital technology that uniquely ‘listens and learns’ the sound of a specific fire alarm. This ensures the device’s release action is triggered only in reaction to the precise, characteristic sound of the fire alarm rather than extraneous loud noises, so false activations are virtually eliminated. 

Installed at the top of a fire door, the Agrippa holder will not cause damage to flooring, and can be reapplied or moved with minimal fuss. Its unique learning function optimises settings to suit the installed position, and it can also be programmed for timed daily releases. It is approved to EN1155 and CE Marked.

Sharing the same advanced functionality of the Agrippa holder, the new Agrippa intelligent wire-free closer learns the sound of a specific fire alarm, releasing the door in the event of a fire. The closer is swing-free, too, making the door responsively light to handle, and the simple answer to legally holding open fire doors to ease access. It’s also the solution for doors without an adjacent wall for separate door holders.

The closer’s closing speed is adjustable, with a holding angle of 65-105 degrees, and it can be programmed for daily release. The closer is approved to EN1155, EN1154 and CE Marked.

Solving the persistent wedged door problem
As a retrofit solution, Agrippa wire-free devices are designed for ease of installation and can be fitted quickly to any door. For end users and installers, the certainty of problem-free door holder and closer solutions is a benefit that brings savings in both time and labour. In addition, staff downtime is minimised and basic wear and tear on doors and flooring is significantly reduced. 

Key sectors of application
Installers, specifiers and end users recognise the Agrippa range as an exceptional development in wire-free fire door technology that delivers 100% digital reliability and performance, with all the advantages of low-cost installation and ease of set-up.

The Agrippa door closer and holder are being successfully specified in a range of key sectors that includes care homes, schools, colleges, hospitals and hotels, where it is essential to have doors in an open position at certain times of the day to aid access, but equally as important to ensure the doors are closed in the event of a fire.

Their impact is much more than just practical, though. In the health care sector they increase freedom of movement for wheelchairs and in care homes patients can now keep bedroom doors open without compromising personal safety – helping to reduce any potential feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Established UK manufacturer and supplier of fire security solutions since 1972, Geofire produces an extensive range of electromagnetic door holders and other activation devices used widely as part of fire, security or ventilation systems at its state of the art design and manufacturing facility based in north east England.

Case History:

Prestige location for Agrippa fire door holders

Agrippa fire door holders have been installed throughout Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square, a luxury serviced Apart’hotel located just a few steps away from Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square. The holders will ease access throughout the building, while protecting guests and staff in case of a fire emergency.

This recently refurbished luxury development of 187 contemporary, air-conditioned apartments offers guests sophisticated, serviced luxury close to many of the capital’s major attractions including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

55 wire-free Agrippa fire door holders have been installed throughout the building to allow fire doors to be held open for ease of access, releasing them in the event of a fire alarm sounding, to prevent the spread of fire and smoke.

Geofire’s advanced digital technology enables the Agrippa door holders to uniquely ‘listen and learn’ the sound of a specific fire alarm. This ensures the holder’s releasing trigger reacts only to the precise sound of the fire alarm rather than extraneous loud noises, so false activations are virtually eliminated.

Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square comments that it is very happy with the Agrippa door holder, ‘It is simple, compact and easy to fit. It has been very effective in solving our problem of obstructive fire doors. In turn this has helped us achieve a more positive experience for our guests and better feedback. We are also very pleased with the service we have received.’

As it’s installed at the top of the fire door, the Agrippa holder does not cause damage to flooring. Its unique learning function optimises settings to suit the installed position, and it can be programmed for timed daily releases. It requires only two C cell batteries (which last for 12 months), has battery life indication and low battery warning. It is approved to EN1155 and CE Marked.

The holder is part of the Agrippa Acoustic Products Range that includes an acoustically triggered fire door closer. UK manufacturer Geofire specialises in the manufacture of a wide range of electromagnetic door holders and other activation devices used widely as part of fire, security or ventilation systems.

 

Product enquiries; [email protected] www.geofire.co.uk

 

Published November 2014

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