A rant about fire doors

UK housebuilding specifications require all doors that lead from a habitable room to the outside to meet certain “fire door” criteria. These include having a self-closing mechanism, since fire doors are only effective when they are closed.

Housebuilders typically implement this specification using a simple and discreet spring that pulls the door closed.

This is stupid.

The first thing any occupier of the house is going to do is to get a wedge to keep the door open. This is partly because it’s a pain having to open doors all the time, and partly because spring-loaded doors are quite hazardous to any pets and small children living in the house. And as soon as the door is wedged open, it becomes completely useless as a fire door! At least if it didn’t have a self-closing mechanism, then the fire door might at least sometimes be closed. The addition of the self-closing mechanism only serves to guarantee that the door will never be closed!

In my opinion, the specification needs amending in two ways. First, the self-closing mechanism must be activated when, and only when, the fire alarm goes off. This can be implemented using a door catch that is powered by an electromagnet that is connected to the fire alarm circuit. Second, the door closer must close the door in a controlled way, without slamming, so as not to be hazardous to pets and small children.

If the self-closing mechanism does not conform to both of these requirements then any occupier of the house is simply going to use a door wedge.

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