What Fire Door Signage Do I Need?
What Fire Door Signage Do I Need?
One of the most common overlooked workplace signage around buildings are fire door signs, not fire exit door signs but rather signs which belong on fire doors both on escape routes and the fire exits which are more commonly known as final fire exits. It is vital for building owners and employers to ensure people under their control whether employed or visiting are kept safe at all times whilst on your premises, just as employers are required by law to display the health & safety law posters they must also conduct a fire risk assessment of any building under their control to safeguard the occupants from fire whilst on the premises. The finding of your fire risk assessment will determine what (if any) specific actions must be carried out, it may require you to implement extra safeguarding measures in areas which are new or following renovations but a fire risk assessment must be conducted and reviewed at least on an annual basis, following building works or refurbishments such as any layout changes.
Fire doors are vital in all buildings, visitors, contractors and the general public may not realise any doors are fire doors as they don't advertise the fact that they help prevent the spread of fire and smoke from one contained area to another area, if we look at these words "contained area" we understand that something is contained in a specific area, in this case any room in a building is the area and if a fire was to start in the room from a computer server for example, the flames and smoke will be contained inside the room due to the fire door, depending on the fire rating of the fire door it will hold the smoke and flames back for a specific period of time normally between 30 minutes up to 3 hours which will provide enough time for the alarm to be raised, the emergency services to attend and for all of the occupants to evacuate the building to a place of safety.
The above paragraph demonstrated a room on fire from computer servers but with having the fire door shut, this prevented the smoke and flames escaping from the room (contained area) to another area therefore restricting the spread of fire and smoke, on the other hand, if the fire door was open, ajar or wedged open you will see we would have a very different outcome, any fire in this once contained room now becomes free to travel out of the room (and rapidly) to other areas of the building potentially causing further fire damage but more importantly putting the occupants of the buildings lives at risk.
A fire risk assessor carrying out an assessment on this room will check, firstly what caused the computer server to catch fire? overheating? electrical fault? or faulty wiring? did the smoke alarm sound? does the fire door have it's integrity? fitted with heat and smoke seals ext. Although we cannot foresee what caused the fire to start or we would have removed the risk from it happening in the first place we can take preventative measures to stop fires spreading throughout the building by ensuring they are kept contained if a fire was to occur, did this fire door have a sign fitted onto it saying "FIRE DOOR KEEP SHUT" on both sides? if yes why was it open? if not shut, why not? these are all questions which must be answered, documented and corrective actions carried out following your fire risk assessment.
While we digest the above we now need to think about what fire door signage we need for this server room, firstly consider who needs access to the room? is it all members of staff or limited to specific people such as the IT department, do cleaners need access to this room? is the room in use on a frequent basis or only when needed for specific tasks such as repairs and maintenance works? once you have established the answers to these questions we can determine that there are two types of signs we can display on these types of room doors, if the room is accessed on a frequent basis then a "FIRE DOOR KEEP SHUT" will be a good choice, however, should the room only require access by specific people on an ad-hoc basis the more appropriate sign for displaying on the door will be a "FIRE DOOR KEEP LOCKED" message sign, both of these signs are mandatory which have the meaning that the action must be carried out.
What About Fire Door Signage On Escape Routes?
When travelling around buildings from area to area you may notice a series of fire doors along pedestrian routes, these pedestrian routes offer some fire protection provided the rooms off the routes have their doors closed as detailed above, the doors we travel through on these corridors or pedestrian routes are also fire rated doors, sometimes single doors and others double doors which we can all travel through, you may have noticed in hospitals when you are travelling down corridors passing different treatment departments the corridors are wide but the doors are open, this is not a failure on someones behalf, these doors are automatic fire doors which serve a purpose of being open at all times but will close automatically when the fire alarm sounds, as hospitals only conduct phased evacuations in the event of a fire which is contained from one department to another. In others buildings, offices and workplaces the fire doors remain closed to serve their purpose in much the same way as to stop fire and smoke spreading through the different zones.
Fire doors on escape routes can either be pulled or pushed to open, now upon the architectural design of the building any door which is pushed open from inside a building normally forms part of the fire escape route, if you travel through a building opening doors by pulling them as you progress you may not realise it but you are travelling further or deeper into the building from any given point, likewise, as you turn around and start pushing the doors open (which is much easier to do) you may be unaware but you are travelling along a designated fire escape route. The fire doors on these routes will also require mandatory "FIRE DOOR KEEP SHUT" signs displayed on both sides of the doors, under normal circumstances it doesn't mean you need to physically close the door after progressing through as they will be fitted with self-closing door retainers which will allow the doors to close on their own and unaided, for fire risk assessment purposes when checking the integrity of fire doors it is important to check and clarify the fire doors close 100% on their own and without any assistance. Fire door keep shut signs are available in numerous formats, materials and sizes, some are available in brass or aluminium which provides a luxurious look to compliment interior decors.
Fire Escape Keep Clear Signage
We have already discussed in detail about fire doors in contained areas such as rooms and fire doors on escape routes, as we progress further towards the fire escapes or fire exits our fire risk assessment requires additional details and information, as we follow the fire exit signage which are the green and white signs above fire doors on escape routes they will show us which direction we need to progress to reach the fire exit, for example, if we see a fire exit with an arrow pointing up it simply means you must travel and progress forwards or straight ahead until you reach any other fire exit sign directing you towards a different direction, once nearing the fire exit door which is known as the final fire exit door you may notice specific signs displayed on the walls near the fire exit door, these signs are mandatory for ensuring the fire escapes are kept clear of obstacles, these "Fire escape keep clear" signs are just as vital for displaying on fire escapes as they are that people must follow their instructions, in other words, a signs message is only fully understood and helps others provided others fully understand the message on the signs and carries out the actions.
Mounting and displaying "Fire escape keep clear" signage is the perfect solution in ensuring the fire escape escape is kept clear, take into consideration that in the event of a fire the lighting may fail to operate and thus sending the fire escape route into being poorly lit or even darkness if it happens during the night time and if there are obstacles on the escape routes any people trying to escape may trip over and be injured which could hamper their escape, with this in mind it is wise to ensure all staff are aware of the importance of keeping fire escape clear, this includes near kitchens where empty boxes might accumulate, cleaners materials, staff who use bicycles, delivery parcels and even fire extinguishers being misplaced from their hanging positions. Just as important fire escape routes are kept clear on the inside of the buildings they must also be kept clear on the outside too, fire risk assessors should travel the exterior of the building and look for potential hazards and obstacles on the exterior fire escape routes which can sometimes progress around the building towards the front, if the fire escape route takes occupants down metal steps and stairs from the fire exit doors make sure these routes have adequate fire escape keep clear signs displayed, for the exterior fire escape routes consider glow in the dark message signs or reflective face signs which can easily be seen in the dark.
Fire Exit Keep Clear Signage
From travelling from a specific room inside the building we have now reached the fire exit door, the final exit door, the door which leads us to a place of safety in the event of a fire or an emergency evacuation, at this point we now know that fire doors on escape routes are pushed open towards the fire exit routes, this is the same principal with fire exit doors, you may notice other signs on the fire exit doors such as push bar to open or push pad to open signs depending on which opening mechanism is fitted on the doors, as you can see the occupants of the building still need to be shown how to open the fire exit to escape, just as we detailed in the fire escape route keep clear signage, fire exit doors must also be kept clear on both the interior and exterior, once again final fire exit doors can easily become blocked with any type of obstacles but the most common is rubbish boxes and bags, hard to believe but i have also witnessed carpets, furniture and fitting blocking the fire exit door as well as a broom wedged behind the push bar mechanism to stop burglars breaking into the building out of hours but someone forgot to remove it the next day, or maybe it was a permanent fixture, either way all these are very serious matters and could have cost lives.
Mounting and displaying fire exit keep clear signage on the final fire exit doors is just as important as the fire door keep shut signs with just one exception, if the message on the sign is simply not understood, followed or ignored there is a possibility someone will be very seriously injured or could lose their life from being trapped by fire and smoke in a burning building, after travelling 30-60 metres to reach a fire exit and only metres away from safety but cannot escape because the fire exit door is blocked. The exterior of the fire exit doors also needs "Fire exit keep clear" signage, for example ground level fire exits leading onto car parks can easily become blocked by vehicles parking too close to the fire exit doors so they cannot be opened from the inside of the building, once again trapping the occupants being evacuted. Fire door signage is available in a range of sizes, materials and formats to suit all types of workplace environments.