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Stevie_Nottm

Retail Fire Exits

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Stevie_Nottm

Not an area of my expertise, but thought I’d ask...

Was in the central Manchester Debenhams store at near closing time (755pm) tonigh and noticed that all but one of the big exits which have fire exit signs above, were already shuttered down and the store customers were asked to leave by the one remaindered open doors at the other end of the shop.

I mentioned and queried this with the two security staff who were jangling their keys and a couldn’t care less attitude came back, so thought I’d ask the experts here...

So what’s the score with locking shut fire exits when the public is still in store during opening hours, in a huge store of this size...

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Messyshaw

It is not unusual to have a controlled lockdown of a department store like this at the end of business, but the key term is 'controlled'.

Quite often where there's say 8 sets of adjacent double final exits, 7 sets will be locked and the 8th will be manned by security staff who also have keys for the locked doors so can unlock them in seconds if unusually they are required. Just the presence of staff at only exit who can guide customers in an emergency can be a suitable control measure.

Two things bother me about this post:

  1. The shutters are down already - In the example I gave, security staff hold keys to the mortised fire exit doors and they can be released easily if required. But if you have locked doors and shutters, there will be some considerable delay in reopening them
  2. You said ".....customers were asked to leave by the one remaindered open doors at the other end of the shop.".  What sort of travel distance are we talking here to the next final exit? Travel distances are limited in all buildings and if exceeded can be not only a risk, but also a contravention of FS legislation

Since I retired, I noticed a former Woolworths in my local high street had been long since taken over by a shop I won't name, who sell things for a £1. Woolworths had final exits & tills at both ends of the shop, but the nameless shop that sells things for £1 decided to lock one end off to reduce the number of cashiers required. This now meant a 70+m single direction of travel (around 50m more than usually permissible), I queried it with the manager who may well of been on a salary of £1 an hour, whose English wasn't sufficient to grasp what I was saying.

So I grassed them up to the local FS Team and they were subsequently served with an Enforcement Notice

So if you are not happy, speak to their manager or inform the local FS Team who will investigate - usually that day. Don't leave it to retail managers to assess risk as they are often too focussed on chasing ££££££££s and trying to keep their jobs than they are worrying about "something that won't happen"

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Matt

Regardless or not weather its near closing time, the store is still open to the public so they should be left available and able to exit from till the store has closed.  Not sure where things would stand with staff working in the store overnight as their escape could be blocked.  Personally I would refer it to local Brigade and let them deal with it.

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Messyshaw

The total exit width supplied by multiple adjacent fire exit doors would be in place to serve the shop in peak hours- say a Saturday before Xmas.

If a risk assessment showed at 19.45, the occupancy of the shop could be safely accommodated by fewer doors, then it's perfectly ok to close some of them down.

As I said, as long as it's controlled and risk assessed it is possible. In the example by the OP, it's unlikely that is the case

Don't get me on staff being locked in overnight. This is happening everywhere in larger retail stores. You can partly blame the design of the shops in that they fit mortice locks to their main doors.

But how hard would it be to designate key doors as 'night staff fire exits' and fit them with push pads or similar self release door furniture

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Stevie_Nottm

Well, the store is huge, the exists were some 30-40m apart, opposite ends of a large store, the GMFRS folks here will know the store well, it’s a four storey old style department store. 

Im certainly going to write to the local FPO at GMFRS HQ, who are literally only some 400yds up Oldham Road, as I wasn’t happy to see this. My recollections of the 1979 Woolworths fire only yards away and the multiple fatalities due to blocked exits really hacked me off.

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