New technology is the key to fire door compliance

With new regulation now in force for checking fire doors, Dave Carr from Propeller Powered explains how advanced technology is helping the housing sector to comply

Enforced in January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 set new legal duties for those who own or manage multi-occupied residential buildings over 11 m high. These include an obligation for the ‘responsible person’ to conduct quarterly checks on communal doors that lead onto common areas like hallways, and annual inspections on flat entrance doors. Evidence of the steps taken to comply with the regulations must also be recorded.

For social landlords, the rules present a steep and challenging path to compliance. Ensuring fire doors are safe is critical, but with dozens of doors to check even in small housing blocks, the scale of the task can’t be underestimated. For many housing associations and local authorities, new procedures will be required to meet the requirements. Relying on manual processes such as spreadsheets and paper forms for inspections will present a huge administrative burden that swallows significant time and resources while risking human error.

Accelerated development

In response, new technology has been fast tracked specifically for the housing sector. This has been designed based on feedback from housing associations and property managers, making sure it is flexible enough to meet the requirements of individual organisations as well as the regulations.

The technology’s development is focused on enabling social landlords to carry out the checks quickly and effectively while creating an auditable trail and more transparency.

This is achieved thanks to new cloud-based software allowing fire door maintenance and inspection programmes to be managed digitally. Pilots have shown that this process can help landlords conduct the checks up to six times faster than their previous systems.

Fire doors, including time-stamped images, can be digitally recorded into a database along with a history of inspections for auditing purposes. The frequency of inspections can be set and adjusted to comply with the regulations and to meet an organisation’s own building safety criteria.

Traceability and transparency

At the heart of the software is QR code technology which gives every fire door within a property a unique asset tag. This provides the ‘golden thread’ enabling all those with responsibility to identify, manage, and mitigate risks relative to each door. Using a mobile device, each code can be scanned to reveal the door’s history and any defects can be instantly captured using an App. In real time, this information is logged on a central dashboard where actions for repairing individual doors can be raised and prioritised.

Advanced technology means this process can take place offline if needed, avoiding issues in buildings with poor WiFi connectivity or low network signal.

The QR codes are also key to increasing building safety transparency and communication regarding fire doors. Residents can use the codes to access vital safety information about their building, including a summary of a fire door’s service history. The same codes can be used by residents to instantly raise issues about specific doors, and upload photographs, triggering automated tasks that are flagged for action.

Streamlining processes

Another advantage of adopting new technology is that it can reduce the need to source technical experts or specialists to achieve compliance. The latest software can be implemented in as little as two weeks and is easy to use requiring minimal training. It can also be tailored to an organisation’s specific policies, meaning it can be used by social landlords of any size and by internal teams or external fire safety contractors.

The ability to tailor the software not only provides flexibility but additional functionality. Other areas of compliance including gas, electrical, and legionella can be incorporated into the same system bringing all key data into one place, eliminating the need for multiple systems.

No access visits can also be recorded using the App, evidencing the number of attempts to survey a flat door for vital safety checks.

Proactive approaches

With the need to improve fire door safety front of mind for many social landlords, housing associations have already begun to pilot and implement
new technology.

For example, LiveWest has recently updated their system to record actions for doors and has set up a QR code system. Combined with a dashboard, this technology enables the housing association to assess which doors need to be upgraded or replaced to achieve compliance.

LiveWest’s existing repairs system has set servicing schedules based on priorities identified via the software and plans have been put in place to
inspect all 22,960 doors over the next two years. These include communal and flat doors in buildings – less than 11 m high – to go over and above the regulatory requirements.

With limited time left for the housing sector to refine its procedures for checking fire doors and achieving compliance, adopting new technology can tackle the challenge head on. Advanced software will not only save landlords significant time but provide a robust, auditable register and a higher quality service for residents.

Dave Carr is managing director of Propeller Powered