FIRE ESCAPES & EMERGENCY EXIT DOORS
These are a mandatory requirement. Failure to have such doors in good working order and in full compliance with applicable regulations, can lead to prosecution, fines and jail sentences. Failure to comply with the statutory requirements is usually a breach of the regulations of the Occupational Safety & Health Act, Building Regulations and the Consumer Protection Act, as well as those of the local Municipality and Fire Authorities. The authorities are entitled to close the premises down until they have passed a Fire Inspection.
Doors used for Emergency Exits and Fire Escapes are mostly hinged doors and these MUST ALWAYS OPEN OUTWARDS (in the direction of escape). They must be able to be easily opened from the inside, by any person, in dark or smoky conditions without the use of keys, tools, or special knowledge of the premises or equipment.
Read Panic Hardware for Fire Escapes Guide by David Miller to learn more about Emergency Exit doors and the correct hardware needed.
Fire Escape Doors may be required by regulation to be Fire-Rated to resist fire for a certain length of time, such as 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 120 minutes. The Fire-Rating required (the time the door will resist a fire) will depend on where the door is situated in the building, the processes carried out or type of goods stored in the area, the number of floors, the designed occupancy of the building, and other risk-related factors.
For example, the fire-door which separates a factory from an office area is usually fire-rated between 30 and 120 minutes depending on the processes and risk-factors in the factory. The purpose of that door would be to compartmentalize the building, to stop the spread of fire and smoke between the factory and the office. The door between a residential house and the garage is usually required to be Fire-Rated for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Final Exit Doors (exterior fire escape doors) are often not fire-rated, if there are no special risk or flammable processes in the area of the door. They should, however, be fitted with door closers heavy enough for the door-size and the wind conditions. A door becomes like a sail in the wind, hence the door closer must suit the door-size.
Smoke is a big killer, as many victims succumb to smoke inhalation, lose consciousness and die long before the fire reaches them. This is the reason why automatic door closers are used to keep fire exit doors closed. This prevents the ingress of fresh air which fans a fire and circulates smoke throughout the building. In addition, a fire exit door which self closes and locks itself will prevent opportunistic intruders entering from the outside after escape has taken place. See SIWRS Door Closers for more information on how to close doors automatically.
For a fire escape to be compliant, it must be fitted with the correct hardware and must open and close easily. A few examples are below.
Emergency Exits / Fire Escapes may NOT be locked against escape from the inside, though they are usually locked against entry from the outside. They must be able to be opened in dark or smoky conditions by “an aged arthritic pygmy, with no prior knowledge of the premises or the equipment”. In the case of hinged fire escapes or emergency exit doors – this usually means a panic bolt.
Most doors used for emergency exits and fire escapes are hinged doors and MUST OPEN OUTWARDS. These doors may be required by regulation to resist fire for a certain length of time, such as 30 minute, 60 minute and 120 minutes. The resistance time required will depend on where the door is situated, the processes or goods stored in the area, designed occupancy (the number of persons who could be in the building) and other risk-related factors. The designed occupancy of a lecture theatre with 120 seats would be 120 persons and would need more fire escape facilities than a classroom with 30 seats.
Final Exit doors (exterior fire escape doors) are often not fire rated, assuming there are no special risk or flammable processes in the area of the door.
The door which separates a factory from an office area is usually fire-rated between 30 and 120 minutes depending on the risk-factors in the factory. The purpose of that door would be to compartmentalise the building to stop the spread of fire between the factory and the office – to quote a common example. The door between a house and the garage is usually rated at 30 minutes.
Fire Doors and door frames can be ordered through The Lockshop made-to-size. Fire-Rated doors are usually supplied ready-mounted in Fire-Rated frames – ready to be built-in. Please furnish the size of the opening in the wall, and the thickness of the wall when enquiring. Standard-size is not a measurement that we can work with.
ALWAYS confirm that the doors will open outwards (otherwise they do not comply), and stipulate whether it is to be a single-door or a pair of double-doors. The specifications given by the Fire-Authority must form part of any discussion – to avoid installing a door that does not comply!
For a better understanding of Panic Hardware and the use of Fire Doors: Please read Panic Hardware for Fire Escapes Guide written by David Miller. This leaflet explains the need and uses of Emergency Exits, and contains illustrations and ordering information for panic and emergency exit hardware.
Fire Doors: For detailed product information and details of genuine SABS Fire-Ratings please go to the Allandel website.