How To Prevent Fire Extinguisher and Exit Door Misuse

Are your business premises suffering from fire extinguisher and exit door misuse? It’s not unheard of to see fire extinguishers being used as temporary doorstops, especially in conjunction with exit door misuse – but they’re also prone to theft and, when discharged unnecessarily, can cause harm to the environment. Providing a solution for this all-too-common scenario, Safety Technology International (STI) has created a line of products designed to monitor the use of (and protect) fire extinguishers and exit doors. 

The Exit Stopper is a highly effective solution for alerting you to any unauthorised exits or entries though emergency exit and fire doors. It also serves as an inexpensive security device and helps to prevent theft. The product’s virtually indestructible UV-stabilised polycarbonate housing provides an explicit visible deterrent.

Fire doors need to be closed in order to stop the spread of smoke and fire. However, it’s worryingly common for such doors to be dangerously held ajar. 64% of premises visited by the Fire and Rescue Service during recent inspections had their fire doors wedged open. University Halls of Residence, hotels and residential care homes are among the worst offenders.

If you prop open a fire door and it’s seen to put lives at risk you could suffer from large fines, void your insurance and even face a prison sentence. In May 2010, a Norwich landlord was fined and jailed after a tenant almost died in a blaze. It was the third time Mike Billings had been prosecuted for breaching fire and Health and Safety laws, which included wedging open fire doors.

Warning alarm

If the protected door is opened, the electronic Exit Stopper from STI will emit a powerful 95/105 dB warning alarm. Once the door is closed a number of reset options are then available including an automatic silence function. This feature is particularly useful for fire doors that are in regular use, but are at risk of misuse. A key for authorised personnel can be used to override the alarm.

With multiple fitting options, the versatile Exit Stopper can protect single or double doors with any style of door mounting. The device can be installed and protect your doors within minutes. Units are available in red or green.

The Exit Stopper is available with the STI protocol wireless technology enabling the wireless monitoring of exit doors that are fitted with the unit. Transmitters are fitted into each of the devices allowing for remote monitoring via a small wireless receiver.

A number of new features were introduced in 2018 that have further enhanced the Exit Stopper. Alongside the audible warning alarm, all models are now supplied with a visual flashing beacon. Universal sound symbols and ‘on and off’ function marks have been added for worldwide recognition.

The upgrade includes a low battery indicator and dual language warning instructions. While all models will still be supplied with English labels, the housing of the unit has been updated to create space for one of 21 additional language labels to be installed, allowing one model to be used globally.

Mrs Pawar from the Island Residential Home said: “The residents at the home were continuously leaving the emergency exit doors open. Since the Exit Stoppers were installed, this solution has proved to be very successful at deterring the residents from misusing the emergency exits. It has also afforded the staff piece of mind, especially during the night shift.”

Advice on fire extinguishers

It’s often advised that fire extinguishers should be either mounted to a wall or placed in a stand in order to discourage people from moving them around. However, this advice is regularly ignored, with extinguishers commonly used to prop open exit and fire doors due to their frequent close proximity.

Required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, appropriate fire-fighting equipment must be provided where there’s any risk of fire, with a responsible person in charge of maintaining a fire management plan. Should a fire extinguisher be found missing, you could find that your insurer will not pay out in the event of an incident.

Fire extinguishers are also prone to theft and, when discharged unnecessarily, pose a risk both to the environment and nearby individuals. Fumes from CO2 extinguishers can asphyxiat, while powder extinguishers have the potential to impair vision.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 renders the misuse of an extinguisher in the workplace an offence for which someone can be criminally prosecuted. Section 8 of the Act states: “No person shall intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare in pursuance of any of the relevant statutory provisions.”

Deploying the Theft Stopper

Back in 2012, a Belfast teenager was handed a suspended jail sentence for stealing a fire extinguisher, with the Judge commenting: “The theft of a fire extinguisher is, in my mind, the equivalent to the theft of a life buoy in that it put life at risk.” The Theft Stopper from STI can be used alongside the Exit Stopper to put a stop to this potentially lethal misuse of life safety equipment.

The Theft Stopper is a sturdy, tamper-proof, self-contained device which prevents the theft, misuse and vandalism of fire extinguishers. Strong PVC-coated metal rope wraps around the neck of the extinguisher and, when removed from the unit, will activate a piercing 95/105 dB alarm to alert you to any misuse or removal.

The unit will leave the extinguisher accessible for emergencies and will not interfere in the event of a real fire. The alarm is also convenient in the case of an actual emergency, acting as a pre-alarm that helps to alert people in the surrounding areas to the fire before an official alarm has sounded.

The compact design of the UV-stabilised polycarbonate unit means it mounts easily next to a vulnerable fire extinguisher. Theft Stopper is easy to install. A deactivation cable is supplied for ease of servicing the extinguisher.

Recently transitioning from the Extinguisher Stopper to the Theft Stopper, the STI-6200 model can be used to protect automated external defibrillators, evacuation chairs and more.

Following the same style as the popular Exit Stopper, the newly updated Theft Stopper now features universal sound symbols and space for 21 different language labels. Wireless options allowing for remote monitoring are available using STI protocol.

An end to stealing

Alan Patmore, fire and safety officer for the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, explained: “Having fitted the Theft Stoppers, we no longer have any equipment being stolen during holidays, at weekends and overnight. Anybody wanting to protect their extinguishers will certainly find value for money by using the Theft Stopper.”

The Mini Theft Stopper is an inexpensive, yet highly effective solution for protecting fire extinguishers and a wide range of other life safety equipment from theft. The device is compact and extremely versatile. It doesn’t interfere with legitimate operation in any way.

The simplicity of the design contributes towards a high degree of reliability. It makes use of tough ABS construction, with a magnetic reed switch activation for cabinets and display cases and steel contact clip activation for fire extinguisher pins and other free-standing equipment.

*For more information on how STI can protect your vital life safety equipment contact sales@sti-emea.com, call +44 (0)1527 520 999 or visit www.sti-emea.com

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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