5 steps to reduce fire risk and slow spread amid empty building concerns

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East of England construction experts have raised concerns over a growing number of buildings left empty due to Covid-19 and have issued fresh advice to help reduce the risk of fires and slow the spread of any incidents.

The pandemic has left many buildings empty, resulting in a higher risk of undetected fires, says property and construction consultancy Ingleton Wood which is urging business and property owners to review their fire safety measures and processes as part of a fresh health and safety campaign for Fire Door Safety Week (September 21-27),

With the correct fire safety measures in place, there is a higher likelihood that the building can be saved once the fire brigade has been called, according to Scott Barlow, Director of Building Surveying at Ingleton Wood.

Scott said: “If your property has been left vacant during the pandemic, either because the business has unfortunately been a victim of the economic downturn or staff are now working from home, fire safety remains your legal responsibility and having the correct measures in place will help to reduce potential damage caused by fire.

Scott Barlow, director of building and surveying at Ingleton Wood
Scott Barlow, director of building and surveying at Ingleton Wood

“We see many examples of poorly installed fire doors. The measurements only need to be a few millimetres out to make the door ineffective and negate the presence of an intumescent strip.

“Fire doors should be inspected on a regular basis for damage, even when the property is vacant. This is particularly relevant where doors are subject to a lot of wear and tear. It is also important to note that any additional fixings to a door, such as door bells, letter boxes or digital locks will mean the fire door no longer performs as intended.”

The Fire Door Safety Week campaign highlights a 5-step fire door check which can be done internally to ensure the doors are kept up to standard but won’t replace a full inspection.

•             Check the door labels for certification marks

•             Ensure gaps around the edge of the door are no larger than 4mm when the door is closed

•             Check seals are intact with no sign of damage

•             Check all hinges are firmly fixed with no missing or broken screws

•             Check the door closes firmly

Scott said: “Fire doors are an integral part of a property’s fire risk protection and general safety, and are often downgraded when specified or neglected during their service life.

“It is important – now more than ever – to ensure that the correct installation and maintenance is carried out to properly guarantee their performance.”

Fire risk assessments and compartmentation plans are required for all properties and keeping them up to date and fit for purpose is essential.

The role of the property manager is vitally important in relation to the overall fire safety of a building. There are many factors to consider which could affect the fire safety of a property, including work carried out by external tradespeople.

Scott added: “It is important to reduce the confusion that currently exists when it comes to fire knowledge and more specifically fire risk assessments. Property managers need to be aware of their ongoing responsibilities.

“A property’s fire risk assessment should be a live document which is checked on a regular basis. If any alterations are made to a property, the assessment should be reviewed. Often we find that this is not being done.

“In the event of an incident, building insurers will always look at how a fire has spread so it’s vital that plans are up to date and fit for purpose.”

Ingleton Wood is a multi-disciplinary property and construction consultancy and offers a range of advice on fire safety measures including reviews of current arrangements, recommendations for further improvements and the project management of remedial solutions.