Do I Need A Fire Shutter? An Essential Guide To An Important Question

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Fire-rated roller shutters can be crucial in fire safety, particularly in high-risk environments like kitchens and warehouses. With fire protection levels ranging from 1 to 4 hours, they seamlessly integrate into existing fire and security systems.

Understanding their Fire Resistance Level (FRL) is essential; it signifies their ability to withstand fire exposure under standardized testing conditions. By effectively blocking the spread of fire, these shutters reinforce evacuation routes, ensure safe egress for occupants, and enable swift intervention by firefighters.

Considering whether you need a fire shutter? Let’s explore further to guide your decision-making process.


What are Fire Shutters?


Fire-rated roller shutters are designed to withstand intense fire conditions, differentiating them from standard roller shutters. They can close to contain fires or open as emergency exits, and they uniquely expand under fire pressure while maintaining operational integrity. These shutters must be certified by a notified body to comply with the Construction Product Regulations 2013, ensuring their effectiveness in fire emergencies. Unlike fire curtains, which are more common in open-plan areas, fire shutters provide a robust, physical barrier. For a detailed comparison, see discussions on “Fire Shutters VS Fire Curtains“.


The Operation of Fire Shutters


So how do dire shutters work? They operate similarly to security roller shutters with a curtain of interlocking metal laths that slide through guide channels on either side of the opening. When not in use, they coil neatly around a drum, tucking away into a metal headbox above the entryway.

To ensure functionality even during power outages, fire-resistant shutters are equipped with backup systems like batteries or manual hand crank options, keeping them operational in any situation. You can learn more about manual and electric shutters here

industrial fire shutter

Fire shutter and fire panel installed at school canteen

Types of Fire Shutters


Fire shutters and roll-up fire doors come in various types, each designed to meet specific needs such as location suitability, fire resistance levels, and compliance with legal standards. Here are the main three types:


  1. Single Skin Roller – A cost-effective option, Single Skin Rollers are made of curved steel and can resist fire from 1 to 4 hours, depending on your requirements. They provide a straightforward solution for basic fire protection needs.
  2. Horizontal Roller – Ideal for protecting horizontal openings, Horizontal Rollers are both versatile and practical. They offer 1 to 4 hours of fire protection, making them a dependable choice for various settings.
  3. Twin Skin Rollers – The high-end option in fire shutters, Twin Skin Rollers not only provide exceptional fire protection but also offer thermal insulation. This helps prevent heat transfer, making them perfect for areas like kitchens that are adjacent to spaces requiring a cooler environment, such as meeting or exhibition rooms.

Single Skin Fire Shutter

Our single-skin steel shutters, made from 76mm curved steel, offer an affordable fire safety solution, tested to resist fire for up to 4 hours. View the product here.

Twin skinned fire shutter curtain

Twin Skin Fire Shutters

Our twin-skin steel shutters provide superior fire and sound insulation, reducing radiant heat from 65kw per square meter to 2.7kw and offering 20dB sound reduction. View here.

Horizontal fire shutter

Horizontal Fire Shutters

Horizontal roller shutter doors are a sustainable and energy-efficient solution for protecting space from above. These products are also insulated. View here

Where are Fire Shutters Legally Required?


Now that you know more about fire shutters and their applications, let’s detail where they’re legally required. This will help you answer the question, “Do I need a fire shutter?”


Residential Usage of Fire Shutters


In residential buildings, particularly multi-unit dwellings like apartment complexes, fire shutters are often installed in shared areas such as kitchens, stairwells, and corridors.

These are areas where the risk of fire spreading is high. Therefore, fire shutters in these locations can effectively curb the rapid spread of fire, offering critical protection to residents.

While not a strict requirement in every residential setting, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 necessitates that owners conduct comprehensive risk assessments for fire safety. Based on these assessments, the decision to install fire shutters might be made.


Commercial Usage of Fire Shutters


Commercial buildings, such as retail stores, offices, schools, and hospitals, are another property type where fire shutters are often deemed necessary. However, not all commercial properties will use them in the same way.

For instance, in retail environments, roll-up fire doors can be strategically placed to safeguard valuable stock, employees, and customers from the devastating effects of fire. Conversely, schools and hospitals may prioritise the installation of fire shutters along key evacuation routes, thereby enhancing safety by ensuring unrestricted exits.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 also applies here. The law requires a responsible person to oversee fire safety, including risk assessments.

In light of this Order, the necessity for fire shutters in specific areas becomes apparent. Therefore, even though fire shutters are not legally mandatory for all commercial buildings, those identified as requiring them through a risk assessment will be obligated to install them.


Industrial Usage of Fire Shutters


Industrial settings, such as warehouses, factories, and processing plants, are often high-risk fire areas.

Given their size and the types of materials handled, they often have unique fire safety requirements. Fire shutters might be installed at locations handling or storing flammable materials or where manufacturing processes present an elevated fire risk.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 mandates regular risk assessments and suitable fire safety measures for these buildings. Often, these assessments bring forth the need for fire shutters, especially in areas handling flammable substances.


Laws and Regulations About Fire Shutters


As of the 1st of November 2019, new legislation mandates all new fire shutters to be CE marked and comply with BS EN 16034, replacing the previous standard BS 476 part 22 (1987).

This change necessitates fire shutters to be tested on both ‘flexible’ (such as timber or drywall) and ‘rigid’ (such as steel or masonry) structural types, ensuring the product’s integrity is not compromised upon installation to different structures.

The problem with the previous standard was the allowance of cascading testing data from other manufacturers or collective bodies, which could result in fire shutters being sold within the UK marketplace that were not physically tested for both structural types. With the new standard, fire shutter manufacturers must abide by BS EN 16034 with their own test data.

However, despite this change, the UK government will only recognise the CE marking until the 31st of December, 2024. After this date, the legal obligations for compliance will transition from the CE to the UKCA marking. This is because of Brexit in 2020.

It’s important to clarify that businesses are not required to modify their fire shutters to comply with UKCA standards. If fire shutters with the CE marking were purchased before the 31st of December, 2024, they still adhere to UK laws and regulations. However, post this date, when buying new fire shutters, the users intending to operate in the UK market will need UKCA-rated ones.

UK Roller Shutters installing large 9m fire shutter at retail unit

UK Roller Shutters installing large 9m fire shutter at retail unit

How to Comply with Fire Shutter Regulations


Step 1: Conduct a Fire Risk Assessment

The journey to fire shutter regulation compliance begins with a crucial first step – conducting a comprehensive fire risk assessment. 

This assessment isn’t just a formality; it’s essential to understanding the potential fire hazards in your specific environment. The assessment considers various factors, including the nature of your business or residence, the layout of the building, and the people who visit the premises.

In this assessment, the primary goal is to identify the areas of the building that are most vulnerable to fire hazards. These areas are where fire shutters will likely provide the most protection and can be the most beneficial. 

The assessment should be conducted by a competent person, such as a professional fire safety officer, who can accurately evaluate potential fire risks and prescribe the necessary measures to counteract them.

Additionally, the fire risk assessment is not a one-off event. Reviewing and updating it regularly is important, especially if significant changes are made to the building’s layout or usage. 

Factors such as structural changes, the introduction of new equipment or materials, or an increase in the number of occupants can all significantly affect the fire risk profile of the building. Regular reassessments ensure that your fire safety measures, including fire shutters, provide adequate protection.


Step 2: Identify Door Type and Obtain Necessary Certifications

Post-assessment, it’s important to identify the type of fire shutter door that will be utilised. Every fire shutter manufactured and installed since the 1st of November 2019 should be compliant with the standard of BS EN 16034.

Procuring the appropriate fire shutter also means ensuring that it is certified correctly. Initially, businesses were encouraged to buy fire shutters with a CE marking, signifying their adherence to EU safety, health, and environmental standards. However, as of the 1st of January 2025, due to the UK’s exit from the EU, the compliance requirements will shift from the CE to the UKCA marking.

If you’ve invested in CE-marked fire shutters before the 31st of December, 2024, rest assured, that they will remain compliant with UK laws and regulations. 

Additionally, purchasing fire shutters directly from the manufacturer is often beneficial, as they can provide thorough information about the product and its compliance status, including the necessary documentation.


Step 3: Stay Updated with Legal Obligations

Staying current with legal obligations is the final step in the compliance process. Owners or persons responsible for premises are required to follow the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which mandates taking reasonable steps to minimise fire risk and ensure the safe escape of occupants.

With the UK’s transition from the CE to the UKCA marking, it’s crucial to ensure that your fire shutters are in line with the most recent regulations. The legal obligations will vary depending on when the shutters were bought—before or after the 31st of December, 2024.

Beyond the initial compliance with these legal requirements, regular reviews and consultations with fire safety professionals are recommended to maintain long-term compliance. Further, regular inspections, maintenance, and upkeeping of records are all integral to ensuring that fire shutters continue to operate optimally and by the law.

Risks of Not Having Fire Shutters


Legal Implications of Non-compliance

Neglecting to install fire-resistant shutters in the UK, where required, carries substantial legal risks. Non-compliance with fire safety regulations can lead to severe repercussions, such as legal action, significant fines, and in severe cases, imprisonment. Compliance is not only a regulatory requirement but a critical safety measure.

Safety Hazards Without Fire Shutters

Fire shutters serve a critical role in the overall fire safety of a building. They are instrumental in compartmentalisation, a method used to contain the spread of fire within a specified area, significantly reducing risks to life and property.

Not adhering to the UK’s fire safety regulations can endanger the safety of employees and potentially increase the building’s vulnerability to extensive fire damage. This increased risk might also lead to a surge in insurance premiums.


So, Do I need a Fire Shutter?


Having navigated through this comprehensive guide, you should now have a better understanding of whether or not your property requires fire shutters.

Please refer to the diagram below for more visual comprehension of the factors involved.

do i need a fire shutter

After considering the contents of this guide and referring to the diagram, it’s important to recognise that the necessity of fire shutters can significantly vary from one building to another. 

Different factors, such as the nature of the building’s use, its structural design, the materials stored within, and numerous other characteristics, can influence whether roll-up fire doors are required for your building’s fire safety measures.

Because each building presents a unique set of conditions and variables, a detailed fire risk assessment is necessary to determine the need for fire shutters. This evaluation considers all potential fire hazards, the building’s layout, the materials present, and the safety measures already in place. 

The outcome of this assessment will help inform the decision on whether your property is legally obligated to have fire shutters installed. By doing so, you’ll be ensuring the safety of the building’s occupants and your compliance with fire safety regulations.


Final thoughts


As you’ve walked through this comprehensive guide, you should be better equipped to decide whether or not you need fire shutters for your building. But as with many aspects of fire safety and regulations, the answer isn’t always straightforward. In essence, it depends.

The need for fire shutters can vary greatly from one building to another. The specific circumstances of your property – its usage, structural design, and even the materials stored within – can influence this need. These variations underscore the importance of a detailed fire risk assessment, which is necessary to precisely understand your fire safety requirements.

A fire risk assessment considers potential fire hazards, the layout of your building, the materials present, and existing safety measures. The results of this assessment will guide your decision on the need for fire shutters, ensuring not just the safety of the building’s occupants but also your compliance with fire safety regulations.

In conclusion, whether or not you need a fire shutter for your building truly depends on various factors specific to your property. The guidance of experts in fire safety and regulations can be invaluable in making the correct decisions for your circumstances. This will help ensure the safety of all occupants while keeping you compliant with UK fire safety laws and regulations.