BWF Technical Manager, Hannah Mansell talks to the Radio 5 Wake up to Money team on Fire Doors and Responsible Persons

It was an early start to Monday as I arrived in the BBC studios to face the Radio 5 Wake up to Money team this morning to explain why we set-up Fire Door Safety Week.  This initiative has actually being going for 5 years, set up by BWF to highlight the critical role that fire doors play in stopping fire and smoke from spreading throughout a building. Fire doors are in pretty much every building that we work in, visit, sleep in and drop the kids off.  
Fire doors and right in your face, I expect you have passed a few this morning, but maybe you didn’t check that they were properly closed behind you.   Fire doors so often overlooked, in poor state of repair, massive gaps around the edges, no fire or smoke seals, even wedged open. They simple weren’t on people’s radar, overlooked at inspection, fitted with non-fire rated components, and poorly maintained. The fire service regularly has to deal with problems such as fire doors hanging off hinges, breaches in structural fire compartmentation, non-existent or inadequate fire risk assessments. Knowing what we already knew about the devastating consequences of an out-of-control fire, this situation is completely unacceptable.

Our research (taken place to support previous Fire Door Safety Weeks) shows 45% of those responsible for fire safety in the buildings that they own or manage didn’t know or were unsure what their responsibilities to their tenants were and 59% of tenants that we spoke to, didn’t know who they should report fire safety concerns to and had never been supplied with the fire safety plan for their building. 
So who is actually responsible for fire doors? 

The fire safety order names a role ‘the responsible person’ who is as the name suggests, is ‘responsible’ for the fire safety of the occupants of a building.  But this is where gets is a little hazy and complex, in a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, for example, the occupier, landlord or owner.   In all other premises the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible. Remember that it might not be one person, in an enormous organisation with vast housing stock.  Their responsibilities include undertaking a fire risk assessment, suitable for the building and the occupants, and acting on improvement advice and creating the emergency fire plan for the building, and key to that is arming the occupants of your building with the fire safety plan so that they know what to do in an emergency. 

The responsible persons role is simply duty of care to all the occupants of a buildings and it is this person who is responsible for ensuring that the fire doors in a building are fit for purpose and regularly inspected.   “The responsible persons should not be a mystery identity lurking in the shadows, but must be front and centre so that people know where to take their problems.  We are calling for a national register of responsible persons, this is a formal acknowledgement of their role in being accountable for the lives of their tenants in a fire.  

In the case of Grenfell the responsible persons must step out of the ashes, no stone can be left unturned in examining what happened on that night, but equally as important, all of the issues that were quietly at play in the background, a long-long time before the fire, setting the scene for the Grenfell Tower devastation.  “We continue to house some of our most vulnerable residents in buildings with inadequate levels of fire safety.  Worse still is the basic lack of information given to residents about how and where to direct their own observations and concerns about fire safety in the building where they live?"

Hear Hannah's full interview here.

Key resources to help you with any fire door dilema.

Engage a professional Fire Door Inspector – FDIS Certificated Inspectors are uniquely qualified to undertake fire door inspections. Not only have they achieved a Diploma in Fire Doors but they have also had their competence and knowledge independently assessed by Exova Warringtonfire to become CertFDI certificated fire door inspectors.

Find a Fire Door Manufacture – All members of the BWF Certifire Scheme commit to ensuring that all Fire Doors that they manufacture are fully certificated (products are subjected to a strict testing and auditing routine to ensure that they meet the required performance standards).

You can pledge support for here