Fire safety and signage – what to know

An effective evacuation strategy in the event of a fire is crucial – and this requires meeting key legislation for exit signage and fire doors. Here, David Saxby, Senior Category Manager at IronmongeryDirect highlights the requirements.

There are several aspects for landlords and building owners to consider so they can make an informed decision on fire door hardware and safety signage. These are critical, lifesaving pieces of equipment – so the wrong specification can have catastrophic effects.

Fire doors

In England and Wales, Approved Document B of the Building Regulations provides guidance on mitigating fire risks in all areas of the building and states that fire doors must be self-closing, fitted with a closing device and must also be CE marked and certified to demonstrate they are fit for purpose.

Door closers should comply with BS EN1154 Controlled Door Closing Devices, or BS EN1155 for electromagnetic closers and fire door holders. In order to meet compliance, the product must be CE Marked, and be supplied with a Declaration of Performance (DoP) from the manufacturer to validate the CE mark. In addition, the door closer must be approved by a third-party certification scheme such as CERTIFIRE – if it is not, the product should not be considered for use, as fitting a non-approved product to a CERTIFIRE door will invalidate the certification.

Intumescent seals are required around the door or frame, and these must be in good condition. When exposed to heat, these seals expand to fill the small gaps around the door to trap fire and smoke, preventing the spread beyond the door.

Gaps around the door must also be inspected – as a rule of thumb, these should be less than 4mm on the sides, and up to 8mm maximum below the door. The hinges must also be properly fitted and maintained, with a minimum of three sturdy hinges with all screws intact placed on each door.

Exit signage

There is a wealth of legislation for signage, and it must not be overlooked, as it forms an integral part of the fire safety strategy. Clear and unambiguous signage is essential for building occupants to be able to escape effectively and quickly in the event of an evacuation during a fire.

A number of basic rules to comply with legislation are:

  • Escape route signs should take precedence over all other signs.
  • All changes of direction in corridors, stairways and open spaces that form part of an escape route should be marked.
  • Signs should be positioned so that an evacuating person will always immediately see the next sign to guide the escape route. This also means signs should not be fixed to doors or sited where they could be obscured by opening doors.
  • Additional signs should be provided where the line of sight to the next sign is either impaired or exceeds the recommended maximum viewing distance.

Therefore, signs that communicate escape routes must be installed at a suitable height, considering any obstacles and in an easily accessible and visible location. This is known as the “required zone of influence” – defined in BS 5499:2013 “Safety Signs. Code of Practice for Escape Route Signing” as the “space in which the safety message intended to be conveyed by a safety sign is effective”.

As this zone is determined by location, size and position, users should refer to BS 5499:4 for calculations on how to properly position and place signage.

Signage must also meet regulations laid out in BS 5499. Fire escape signs as well as the fire exit sign should be the green and white sign that many will be familiar with; showing the icon of a rapidly walking person passing through the door accompanied by the word “Exit”.

Building owners and landlords should familiarise themselves with the full set of sign design requirements laid out in BS 5499, which detail the correct colours, size, and text in order to ensure compliance and a safe, swift exit for occupants in the event of a fire.