How do I know if my fire doors meet current requirements?
Councils and housing associations must be confident that their properties are fitted with fully compliant fire doors, but this is not always straightforward. For example, a housing association might have acquired an existing block of flats from a different owner: how can they know if its fire doors meet current test standards? Doors which met the standards applying when they were fitted do not necessarily come up to current requirements. Or it may be that doors purchased recently are supported by evidence derived from tests that are no longer valid.
No perfect solution?
Of course, the problem can be avoided by replacing all doors with ones that are known to have been tested and approved to current standards, but this is very expensive and potentially both wasteful and unnecessary if many of the doors are in fact already compliant.
Nor is it feasible to test every single door to check that they all satisfy current standards. The nature of fire door testing is that doors are tested to destruction – if you test every door, even if they all pass the test, you end up with no doors!
A more practical proposition
The logical answer would seem to be to test a representative sample of doors. However, this is not quite as straightforward as it might sound.
For a start, if you remove any door for testing it needs to be replaced – immediately – with another door, regardless of the eventual outcome of the test. Even so, the cost of replacing one – or a few – doors that have been removed for testing is going to be far less, and a more practical proposition, than other alternatives.
Selecting a representative sample of doors also requires a good level of expertise in fire doors and how they are tested. What might look like identical doors to the layman could well be quite different, so a truly representative sample should be selected by someone who really understands the problem.
Will it work in practice?
As we have described, that apparently simple question – “Are my fire doors compliant?” – can be quite difficult to answer. This is why we are running a pilot project with a major housing association to see if spot testing is indeed a good solution and what problems need to be overcome. If it goes well, we hope to develop it into a generally available service that gives social landlords faced with the cost of compliance an economic and practical way of assessing if their existing fire doors come up to scratch. Watch this space for further news!