Can I Keep a Fire Door Open?

You can legally keep a fire door open in some cases, but it should only be a temporary measure. We discuss when and how.

green fire escape arrow pointing down
The arrow points the way, but is this section of the stairwell protected from fire? Yes, if the white door was closed.

There are a lot of important factors to negotiate around the subject of fire doors. One of the biggest minefields is knowing when it’s legal to keep a fire door open, and when it is ill-advised. After all, it is something we all want to get right, as people’s well-being is at stake!

We are sure that it will go without saying for most people that fire doors have a very important purpose. They’re responsible to help prevent the spread of fire, so everyone involved must act correctly. Yes, you can buy a fire extinguisher in case of fire, but we need to prevent a fire before it begins. The doors need to be up to a standard, and any devices used must be safe, and not jeopardise any occupants safety.

If there is a fire and a door is being wedged open with something that isn’t designed for such a purpose, there is no guarantee it is fit for purpose. As a result, the safety of any occupants isn’t guaranteed. A fire door needs to be closed to prevent the further spread of smoke and fire.

Yet, in the event of a fire, for practical reasons, the doors may need to stay open. This needs to be performed correctly, to make sure everything is both legal and safe.

  • You can use fire door retainers, as long as they’re hard wired
  • Most door closers can incorporate a hold-open device
  • Sound activated door openers for a limited time

You should also consider potential legal repercussions. If you were to wedge a fire door open and it is judged that this puts someone’s life at risk you could face a fine or prison sentence. Furthermore, you could run into problems with your insurers.

If you have wedged a door open there is a high chance that your insurer will refuse to pay for damages. Let us now look at how you can legally keep a fire door open.

Using Hard Wired Fire Door Retainers

Hard wired fire door retainers see use all over the world. They are good for modern buildings as they offer a direct connection to the building’s fire detection system. The biggest manufacturer of these in the UK is Geofire.

These retainers work by having power (usually 24 V dc) supplied to them, enabling them to keep a door open. If a fire was to be detected by a fire panel power is then cut, resulting in the release of the door causing it to close.

If there was to be a fault in the wiring or power supply to the retainers, a fail-safe would kick in releasing the doors. These devices can be purchased in different shapes, sizes and finishes.

lots of fire signage, mostly in blue
Lots of different fire signs that can be put on a door.

Using a Door Closer as a Hold Open Device

You may know that the average fire door will fit with a standard door closer. This provides the door with a mechanism for the door to open and close. Yet, this does not hold or close it.

A fire door closer can also be used as a mechanism to hold it open, but ready to close if a fire was to occur. For this to work, the closer must have a ‘free-swing’ mode to hold the door in an open position.

The good thing about is that it takes away the need for a standard closer and fire door holder. And a fire door closer will make heavy ones feel much lighter, the opposite to a fire door holder. This is ideal where internal fire doors can be too heavy and hard to open for those needing to operate them.

A good place for a fire door closer to be in operation is in environments where it needs a door open to reduce feelings of isolation. Sound activated, or radio-controlled fire door closer are available.

“Keeping a fire door shut 99% of the time is the safest way of operating a multi-let home. Isolate the fire in one room in an emergency.”

Using Radio-Controlled Retainers

Thanks to radio-controlled technology, retainers can activate by radio waves. This is from a controller that’s connected to an existing fire panel or interface unit. This setup will need some wiring, but only of minimal amounts.

This is an option that offers a strong amount of protection, with a typical radio controller unit able to offer control of up to 99 door holders and closer within a 50-meter range. The numbers can increase even further with the addition that can extend the range by 50 meters each!

Radio-controlled fire door retainers must be installed by a professional as a site survey is carried out before installation.

3 fire doors viewed from the hallway

Using Sound Activated Fire Door Retainers

When a fire alarm sounds a sound-activated retainer reacts. Some will react to the building’s specific fire alarm as they can learn the sound that the building’s alarm has. This way, the device will only release when the sound alarms.

A sound-activated retainer is battery power and installed with small fuss. They are also wire-free so no need to tinker with a building’s infrastructure whilst installing. The use of these kinds of devices can be considered cost-effective as they need no wiring to a fire panel.

If you are unsure what will suit your business then it will be a good idea to contact a professional. A professional team can survey your building and say about when you should consider keeping a fire door open.

Prices in this article will vary, but remember you can not put a price on a life. And the correct device could be the difference in saving a life or not in the event of a fire.

Besides, it will be more costly if you lose extra money due to your insurers not paying out after an incorrectly held open door was in operation. It will also be a costly experience if you end up having a fine due to incorrect fire door operations!

The operation of fire doors is essential. Taking the risk of keeping them open without the use of a recommended device isn’t worth the dangers. It is also not worth the risk of failing the law or not being covered by your insurance providers. To understand more about the technical aspects, please visit DHF and GAI.

So if you are a person of responsibility within your operation, have all bases covered including providing fire escape ladders. Ultimately, when it comes to safety make sure you follow the guidelines – especially when it comes to the operation of fire doors and when they can be held open.

To read more articles like this, visit our Home Safety page.

About The Author

Reece Thompson: Reece has been involved in property in one way or another for the past 10 years. He’s gained a lot of experience when it comes to the home, kitchen and garden. He shares his knowledge with enthusiasm and honesty.