Care homes, where some of the most vulnerable people in society live, are believed to be at an increased risk of fire, with three in five care home workers admitting to serious concerns.
The new research released today marks the launch of Fire Door Safety Week (23-29th September).
The study, which was conducted among 1,000 current and former care-home employees, found three quarters believe more could be done to prevent or manage a fire, with three in five workers having reported fire safety concerns.
Over half of those surveyed say that unsatisfactory action was taken as a result of reporting their concerns.
A “worrying lack of clarity” is also identified, with nearly half (47%) saying they did not understand the role a fire door plays in keeping a fire contained for a specified time, while over eight in 10 (82%) admitted to deliberately keeping a fire door open.
Almost three quarters (72%) said they had witnessed or were aware of fire doors being tampered with, including removing the door closer to make doors easier to open.
According to the report, not only does this make the door closer redundant, when combined with other adjustments it could leave the fire door not fit for purpose in the event of a fire.
Fire doors placed on the market should withstand fire for 30 minutes and have test evidence to validate this.
However, respondents said that on average it would take 25 minutes to evacuate the care home where they worked, with a quarter saying it would take longer than 30 minutes.
Today’s research marks the start of Fire Door Safety Week, which this year focusses on the role that fire doors play in protecting people while asleep and at their most vulnerable – principally in specialised housing such as care homes, children’s homes and sheltered housing as well as houses in multiple occupation and communal properties.
Numerous events and campaign activities are being held throughout to help landlords, tenants, and anyone with an interest in or responsibility for fire safety at a property.
Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation, which organises Fire Door Safety Week, said: “These highly concerning findings underline how crucial fire safety is, and the fundamental role that fire doors play – especially so in light of recent instances of damaging care home fires which have threatened the lives of residents.
“Evacuation strategies in care homes are very specialised, accounting for the fact that many residents will need assistance.
“These strategies rely on the ability of fire doors to perform their function in holding back fire and smoke to allow adequate time for rescue.”
She added: “We all need to feel protected inside buildings, and especially so when we are asleep. Care homes and other specialised housing provide a living place for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“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.
“We hope that through raising awareness during Fire Door Safety Week, lives will be saved through a reappraisal of fire doors and safety arrangements in multiple occupancy buildings.”