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Local authorities are leaving safety to chance by delaying fire door maintenance and inspection programmes

Fire Door Safety Week research has revealed significant delays to fire door maintenance, replacement and inspection in first half of 2020.

Over half (52 per cent) of UK local authorities responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reported delays to planned fire door maintenance and replacement in the first half of 2020. The number rises to 60 per cent when inspection delays are also factored in.

For building occupants and the fire services, fire doors play a life-saving role in holding back the spread of fire and smoke to help keep corridors and emergency exits clear. With more people spending time in their homes due to Covid-19, this year Fire Door Safety Week explores the state of fire door maintenance and replacement programmes across local authority-managed housing.

According to the data, at least 26,318 fire doors were scheduled for maintenance or replacement between January and June 2020, but 16,580 did not progress – meaning 63 per cent of individual planned works were delayed until at least the second half of the year, affecting a minimum of 9,954 individual properties.

The data, obtained for Fire Door Safety Week (21-27 September 2020), is based on responses from 147 local authorities that own and manage their own housing stock – not including areas where property is solely managed by private registered providers or housing associations.

Not all responding local authorities provided reasons for delay, but over half (53 per cent) of those experiencing delays cited Covid-19-related restrictions, including limited property access and availability of contractors due to social distancing guidelines. However, it was positive that several local authorities proactively mentioned that emergency repair works to fire doors continued throughout the lockdown period to maintain the safety of residents.

Of those local authorities that experienced delays, 65 per cent intend to commence works by the end of the year. This signals that the majority recognise the importance of properly fitted and maintained fire doors. However, worryingly 31 per cent of local authorities stated that they are yet to define a date for recommencing the planned works.

Helen Hewitt, Chief Executive of the British Woodworking Federation, which organises Fire Door Safety Week, said: “It is clear Covid-19 has understandably impacted on service delivery across a variety of sectors, but fires do not stop. With the UK lockdown period forcing many people to spend more time at home, people without fit for purpose fire doors have been put at risk. There is a need for continued and urgent focus on ensuring the safety of all building occupants whether in local authority or privately-rented accommodation, workplaces or other building types.”

In addition to delays to maintenance and replacement in the first half of the year, 31 per cent of all responding local authorities stated their fire door inspection programmes were delayed, affecting at least 12,596 fire doors.

The findings follow an open letter from the London Fire Brigade to all housing providers in the Capital urging them to put plans in place ahead of new fire safety legislation coming into effect. The letter strongly advises building owners to consider the risks of existing fire doors in their fire risk assessments, regardless of the height of the building.

About Sarah OBeirne

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