The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Building Security vs Fire Safety – Part 133

January 24, 2022 1:09 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 132, LWF discussed final exits from the premises and began to look at building security vs fire safety. In part 133, we will continue to look at how building security and fire safety should work together to protect the premises and occupancy.

In many circumstances, fire safety concerns must take precedence over security issues in order to ensure the safety of a building’s occupancy. People must be able to exit the building safely and easily in a fire situation, for example. However, there are also situations where the fire specialist must recognise that security is paramount and to override the security concerns would put the occupancy in danger of their lives. For example, premises housing VIPs who may be at risk from terrorists, buildings such as banks which could be at risk of armed robbery and domestic violence refuges.

In a situation where both security and fire safety are of the utmost importance, it requires the two relevant specialists to consult, in order to provide an environment which fulfils both sets of needs.

When considering the potential problems, the following should be points of consideration:

  • Fire exits can be secured, providing they can be opened readily from the inside in a fire emergency
  • It is not acceptable to require the use of a key to exit, such as systems with a key in a glass-fronted box mounted beside the exit door. There may be problems accessing the key, or finding the key case where visibility is reduced. The key could be dropped or be difficult to use where there is a crowd of people attempting to leave via the exit. Following a fire at a Woolworths in Manchester in 1979, where 10 people died, the use of keys in glass-fronted boxes was abolished.
  • Fire exit doors which must be secure should be installed with a panic lock or latch which is released by a pressure bar running the full width of the door at approximately waist height. While panic bars are not the only possible form of release mechanism, they are most suitable for situations where the exit may be used by large numbers of persons (sometimes defined as 60 or more).

Other devices are available and provided they are suitable for purpose and simple and easy to use by occupants, they may be used. Panic bolts are available which secure the door at two points, but the security specialist is likely to require a door which minimises the risk of outside manipulation. This often requires the door to be secured to the frame at the hinged edge.

In part 134 of this series, LWF will continue to look at the points of consideration for a combined approach to fire safety and security in a building. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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