Hotels and Passive Fire Protection

Being in the hotel sector, you will be acutely aware of the challenges of managing all the elements of fire safety in often complex buildings, but how sure are you that your fire doors are compliant and are you fulfilling all your Passive Fire Protection requirements?

Two catastrophic hotel blazes in the last month, at Bristol and Walsall, completely destroyed both hotels and have raised serious questions about the Passive Fire Protection systems within them.

Passive Fire Protection essentially creates fire resistant compartments within a building – a process known as compartmentation – by using appropriate materials in the construction of the separating walls, floors and ceilings. This contains fire within the individual compartment for a certain period of time, dependent on the design criteria. The main purpose of this is to give occupants time to escape, but also to give the fire services a better chance of containing and extinguishing the fire and possibly saving the building.

It stands to reason that if a compartment is working properly, it will contain a fire for, say, 60 minutes, before the fire spreads to the next compartment – and so on. For fires to spread so rapidly in two relatively modern buildings that they were completely destroyed within hours – even considering the lack of sprinklers – is extremely concerning.

Fire doors and ‘fire stopping’ are critical elements of the compartmentation of buildings.

Fire Stopping is the sealing of weak points in a compartment wall caused by, for example, service pipes or cables passing through a wall, or a linear joint between fire resistant sections. Many buildings have had modifications or repair work done that has resulted in these seals being compromised – and it only takes a matter of minutes for fire to break through even the tiniest of holes. It is crucial that these fire-resistant seals are installed as part of any new or remedial work.

Fire doors are intended to provide the same level of fire resistance as their surrounding walls – but they can only do this if they are closed – and if their fire-resistant components and properties are fully compliant and functional AS A WHOLE. As with fire stopping, even the tiniest flaw in the complete door assembly can be exploited by fire very rapidly.

Although they are classified as ‘passive’ fire safety equipment, fire doors probably need more attention and maintenance than any of the ‘active’ elements (fire alarms, sprinklers and extinguishers). They are complex engineered products that are effective only when all the components are compatible and functional and, because they are in constant use, they really do need regular attention – like any mechanical product.

Unfortunately, the available data tells us that, despite the existence of fire risk assessments and in-house maintenance teams, fire doors remain a significant area of concern. Over 61% failed compliance checks due to improper installation, downgrades on the specification, insufficient maintenance, damage and inappropriate repairs – indicating a widespread lack of understanding of the regulatory standards that apply to fire doors and the problems that commonly arise with them.

The investigations in to these two hotel fires are in their early stages, but few in the fire safety sector are going to be surprised if Passive Fire Protection, compartmentation and fire doors feature prominently in their outcomes.

The question is – are you, the hotel owner or operator, confident that your Passive Fire Protection is compliant and functional? When was it last inspected by a competent person with relevant, recognised accreditation? Will your insurance pay out if you can’t prove due diligence? Can you afford the loss of your assets, business revenue and reputation caused by a fire like this? Do you want to be prosecuted for fire safety breaches? Most of all, do you want have a fatality or injury on your conscience?

If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then you need to take action.

So how can Worksmart Fire Door Inspection help you avoid these scenarios?

  • We provide a range of services from one off inspections to complete turn-key maintenance contracts – freeing up your time and energy and guaranteeing that you are being duly diligent.
  • Worksmart is affiliated to and certificated by two UKAS accredited bodies – the FDIS (Fire Door Inspection Scheme), the BM Trada Q Mark Fire Door Maintenance Scheme and the BM Trada Q Mark Fire Stopping Installation Scheme – so you can be sure you have entrusted this safety critical work to properly competent people as defined by law.
  • All our surveyors and tradespeople are specially trained in the specific requirements for these disciplines and we adhere to strict procedures, including spot checks and verification of methods and materials at key points of every project. We are also regularly audited to ensure our processes and work comply with the requirements of these schemes, but also, and most importantly, comply with the regulations and standards.

Worksmart have developed these services to provide peace of mind to people like you – with responsibility for fire safety – allowing you to focus on driving your business safe in the knowledge that you have done everything you can to ensure the safety of your staff and guests.

I would be delighted to come along to do a presentation if you would like, or simply have a chat and leave some information for you.

If you would to get in touch to find out morem, please contact Mark McQuade at [email protected] or call 01563 53 55 11

In the meantime, feel free to browse our website.

You can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn with the following hashtags: ProtectingLivesPreventingLoss #Worksmartworksafe #Firedoormaster #MakeItWorksmart

As Fire Door Awareness Grows, Ignorance to Responsibility Remains

For obvious reasons, there has been a massive amount of coverage of fire safety matters in the press and social media over the last few months. So much has been said about product testing and certification: Who is responsible for what? Where’s the money going to come from? etc. Most of this is related, of course, to high rise residential buildings – both social housing and private sector – and much in relation to external cladding and sprinklers.

But is there a problem with how this discussion is being conducted?

Our specialism is fire doors and we’re happy to see awareness of their role growing as a result of recent coverage. However, I notice a worrying trend amongst people I meet that, whilst their understanding of the role of fire doors might be growing, their grasp on the details of their responsibilities is not. It seems to me that many people are waiting for some kind of directive from someone in authority to tell them if they need to take any action or not.

The problem, as I see it, with the way the discussion has been conducted so far is that many participants have either been deflecting responsibility or making excuses for inactivity; specifically in relation to fire doors we have seen doubt cast on the test houses and the certification process. This has resulted in a concerning loss of faith in the system.

Then, when this was clarified, we had government & local authorities prevaricating and disputing who should be paying for replacing fire doors and some (Kensington & Chelsea) even claiming that they couldn’t source certificated fire doors because they had been removed from the market (a claim swiftly rebutted by the British Woodworking Federation).

The reason this a problem is that this discussion affects only a small proportion of relevant buildings (as defined by legislation), but most of the people I meet are in the commercial sector and their views are influenced by it. Many ‘responsible persons’ out there actually have limited understanding of what they actually need to do in order to comply with their legal obligations for fire safety (as I did when I was in their position many years ago), but they seem to have adopted a limbo like state while they wait for some kind of clarity on the subject.

The truth is there has been clarity for the last 14 years – since the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (England & Wales) and the Fire (Scotland) Act, both of 2005.

Under these two laws, if you are responsible – to any extent – for a relevant building then YOU MUST TAKE GENERAL FIRE PRECAUTIONS.

Specifically, you must:

  • Implement a suitable maintenance regime to ensure relevant equipment is kept in an efficient state
  • Appoint one or more competent persons to assist in undertaking preventive and protective measures

No “ifs”, No “buts”

None of the recent discussions have any bearing on this and if you haven’t done either of these two things then you are not only compromising the safety of the occupants of your building, but you are exposing yourself to prosecution – and as tolerance wears thin, the frequency of prosecutions is rising.

Taking Action in 2019

Like everyone else, I watched in horror on the 14th Of June 2017 as Grenfell Tower burned – knowing that people were dying. Knowing also, because we have become used to the pattern, that the subsequent investigation would reveal ignorance, incompetence, cost and neglect as major factors in the tragedy.

I was overwhelmed by grief for those people, but also by anger and frustration that I – we – allow this pattern to keep repeating itself. We watch, experience all those emotions, then – usually – tell ourselves that we’re powerless to do anything.

This time it’s different. A few months later I joined the Make It Worksmart Group and found myself talking about how we could make a difference.

In the intervening months we have undertaken training and accreditation programs to develop our knowledge and have been horrified by the catalogue of avoidable fire disasters that we have found in our research. We have also been genuinely shocked by some of the compromises and failures we’ve seen – I have been guilty of some myself in the past (see my blog ‘What’s To Lose?’ https://worksmartfiredoorinspection.co.uk/2018/10/18/worksmart-fire-door-inspections/ ).

So, what started from a sense of responsibility for ensuring that our own work was ‘proper’ is growing in to something of a mission – to improve fire safety in Scotland and the UK. We want to feel sure that nothing we do ourselves will compromise fire safety, but the sense of responsibility we have always felt to our workforce, customers and community drives us to use whatever influence we have to improve fire safety in any way we can.

Nobody wants to die in a fire. Nobody wants to be bereaved by fire. And nobody wants to feel responsible for either of those things.

So let’s not accept it anymore. Let’s call it out wherever we see it. Let’s lead by example. Contractors, facilities managers, customers, tenants, employers, hotel guests – everyone – let’s take responsibility for preventing another avoidable death.

We believe we can make our buildings safer for everyone by raising awareness and understanding. We believe public awareness can change attitudes and actions. And we believe everyone should be safe in our public spaces and buildings.

Contact us for information on how you can help wherever you work (or play).