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Removal of brush seals on fire doors to allow detection of fire

Guest GillPhil

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Guest GillPhil


I work for a landlord who owns three Houses in Multiple Occupation. They are just being re-licensed (well, two of them as the third is not required to be licensed). We have been asked to remove the brush-type smoke seals we installed five years ago and queries this request. This is the reply they have given:

***The reason for asking for the removal of these seals is, as you have stated in your letter, because they stop smoke escaping through the door. As there are no smoke alarms within these rooms, should a fire start in any of these bedrooms, the brush seals would prevent smoke escaping out of the room to the nearest smoke detector and alerting all other tenants.***

I can sort of see what she's getting at but feel that we have made the whole house dangerous then and as any fire would be most likely to start in the kitchen, if a tenant was sleeping deeply (perhaps after a few drinks, for example) wouldn't they be more at risk as smoke could get into their room, had they not been awoken by the alarm? I'd be grateful for your views

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I would disagree with both theories and believe the housing department ideas is based on single domestic premises where the doors need to be substantial and well fitted with no cold smoke seals and any smoke that escapes from the room of origin will percolate through the door and operate the nearest smoke detector. However in this situation there is the head of the household who will ensure everybody is warned and assist them to escape.

In a HMO, tenants are not related, every man/woman for themselves, so it is important to ensure the escape route is keep clear of smoke for as long as possible to allow all tenants to escape. The tenants in the room of origin will have to pass through the door to escape, consequently allowing sufficient smoke into the escape route to operate the fire detectors, then when the door is closed limiting the amount of smoke entering the escape route, ensuring it does not become impassable.

The idea of tenants remaining in their rooms again is not acceptable if there isn’t a 60 minute separation and it should be a full evacuation.

Assuming it is a two storey building the fire alarm should be a Grade D, LD3 system, interlinked mains wired smoke alarms with integral battery back-up located in the escape route at each floor level, additional interlinked heat alarm with integral battery back-up located in the kitchen and additional interlinked smoke alarm with integral battery back-up located in any communal lounge. One exception I would make is heat detectors in the kitchen and common rooms because of false alarms.

Check out Guidance on fire safety provisions  for more information.

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The licensing officer is no doubt basing this on this clause from the fire safety guidance covering HMO's

21.3 In most situations fire-resisting doors should be fitted with smoke seals, as these restrict the passage of smoke into the escape route from the room where the fire is situated. The exception to this is where fire doors are fitted to rooms in premises where the fire detection system is restricted to the escape route (see paragraph 22.11/table C3). This will often be the case in three-storey shared houses. In these cases smoke seals should not be fitted, as their benefit will be outweighed by the fact that the smoke detectors in the escape route will only activate when the fire is at an advanced stage and beginning to breach the fire door. The resulting alarm may be so late sounding that the fire and smoke is already affecting the escape route. Where smoke detection is sited within rooms (LD2 coverage – see paragraph 22.11/table C3) the alarm will sound very early in the development of the fire and the smoke seals will be of benefit in keeping smoke out of the escape route, enabling occupiers to evacuate safely

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I agree with AB that the licensing officer is no doubt basing this on this clause above but is the clause correct? It assumes no smoke will leak into the escape route if cold smoke seals are fitted and activate the smoke alarm, this is not correct IMO. In my view if the room was unoccupied, sufficient would percolate into the escape route to activate the smoke detector, if occupied then the person escaping would have to open the door which would certainly provide sufficient smoke to activate the smoke detector.

If you check Guide to the Selection of Smoke Seals for Doorsets it states,

“Currently, for practical reasons, only seals that restrict the spread of cold smoke are specified. The purpose of smoke seals is to limit, but not totally eliminate, the movement of cold smoke from one compartment or space to another. Cold smoke seals are not generally able to prevent the passage of higher temperature smoke which may cause some cold smoke seals to melt. However, at higher temperatures the intumescent seals activate to limit, but not eliminate the movement of hot smoke.”

It also indicates the amount of smoke that could leak, for seals that have passed the BS test.

Although a personal opinion I stick to my previous posting above which would increase the escape time. I have attended many bedrooms fires in single domestic premises in which we have arrived between 3 to 5 minutes and in most incidents the smoke logging had reached within a couple of feet of the floor of the ground floor .

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