Fire is one of the most powerful resources available to people. The civilizations started to grow only once our ancestors learned to tame the fire about 400,000 years ago. This enabled human settlements to move into colder regions, cook, and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Even though this crucial chemical process had many devastating consequences throughout history, fire safety statistics across Europe and North America show significant improvements over the last decades.
Concerns about fire safety shaped much of the 20th century’s architecture and building design. Nevertheless, as new buildings are getting better-equipped to deal with fire emergencies, modern life introduced many new hazards and threats against fire safety.
How Do Fires Spread?
According to John Drengenberg, Consumer Safety Director at Underwriters Laboratories, modern fires progress faster. He states that 30 years ago, one had around 14 to 17 minutes to escape a house fire.
“Today, with the prevalence of synthetic materials in the home, occupants have roughly 2 to 3 minutes to get out,” he told This Old House.
A small flame can turn into a life-threatening fire in less than 30 seconds. Likewise, that flame can engulf an entire property within minutes.
Especially if these flames get in contact with chemicals such as hygiene products or paints, they can spread even more aggressively. Even though they start brightly, fires quickly become toxic and black smoke that can poison the victims.
How Can Doors Reduce the Fire Risks?
Much like the residents, fires go through doors to spread from a room to another. If the doors in use aren’t fireproof, in some cases, they might burn down and contribute to the disaster.
However, if they align with the international fire standards like WF-CERTIFIRE of British Woodworking Federation, as well as CE marking under the European Union’s Construction Products Regulations, doors can play an integral role in protecting the buildings.
Known as “fire doors“, these entrances can help to contain fires in one room or can slow down the process of spreading. Appropriate closing hardware complements this anti-fire-spread ecosystem by acting as a free swing door closer to fire doors.
Furthermore, some modern door closers can function in tandem with a fire alarm or smoke detection system. Once flames activate these, the alarms trigger the fire door closers to seal the rooms to stop the fires from spreading further.
Doors and Door Closers Can Save Lives
In January 2020, when a massive fire in the garage of a family home in Chicago erupted, the vehicles were ablaze. However, a fire door prevented the flames from spreading and triggered the alarm. The homeowners woke up due to smoke detectors and were able to escape unharmed with their family dog.
Tragically, the exact opposite happens too many times. In 2017, when the Glenfell Tower, a 24-story residential block in Northern London, burnt down, it took 72 lives. Many consider this as one of the worst tragedies of modern Britain.
In high-traffic environments, particularly health and care facilities are hospitals and retirement communities, there might be a higher representation of mobility issues. Helen Hewitt, Chief Executive of the British Woodworking Federation, believes that the fire doors and closers in multi-occupancy complexes are crucial to protect the more vulnerable residents.
“We all need to feel protected inside buildings, and especially so when we are asleep,” Ms. Hewitt said to the Care Home Professional. “The companies and other operators that run and maintain them have a responsibility to ensure their residents’ safety – and as an industry we need to continue to provide our expert support to ensure the correct specification, installation and ongoing maintenance of fire doors,” she added.
Taming the Fire for Human Progress
Fire doors and closers are one of the many modern manifestations of how people learned to tame the fire, which made incalculable contributions to universal human progress. Every year, property owners and fire safety officials credit these fire doors and closers for preventing disasters.
That said, fires aren’t always preventable. They might continue to flare up and cause harm despite the best efforts. While there’s no single solution that will ensure burning homes will never take another life, buildings with the right entrance ecosystems might mitigate these risks and stop the worst from happening.