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Fire Protection Association (2012): 'Arson has become the single most frequent cause of fire in buildings of all kinds, resulting in loss of life and injuries, enormous financial losses, business interruption, damage to the environment and loss of heritage buildings. Each year more than 60 people die and 2000 are injured in fires that are deliberately lit, while the annual cost of arson in England and Wales is estimated at £1.3 billion.

It is important for any fire safety manager or 'responsible person' to gain an awareness of the problem of arson and methods for minimising the threat.'

The Home Office: 'The diverse motives of arsonists, vandals and criminals mean that no home or business is immune from an attack.'

Anti-arson | Arson proof | Fire proof | Anti-burglary | Anti mail theft | Anti-theft | Anti-vandalism | Flood proof | Anti-terrorist | Saves energy | Cuts CO2 emissions

External doors security and fire safety


Final exits doors security and fire resistance

The final exits on an escape route in a public building are known as fire exits. Under Article 14 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) it is mandatory that the entire escape route up to and including the final exit from a building must remain unobstructed at all times. This is also the requirement of the Building Regulations.

Clearly, the final exit door must protect against spraed of a fire or any other obstacle to the escape route, as this would effectively cut off the main escape route. If the final exit door carries an unprotected letter plate, there is a possibility that fire and smoke or other obstacle can spread through the letter plate. And as fire can be started by arson, the final exit door with a letter plate must protect against letterbox arson. 

For that reason, measures must be taken to ensure that the effect of the letter plate on the final exit door's security will be curtailed or, better, eliminated.  This requirement is also applicable if the final exit door with a letter plate is a fire door.

Depending of the premises the final exit door may need to be a fire door. For example, the entrance/exit doors of flats that are facing the common areas (like in blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation), must be fire doors. This is essential for the 'compartmentation of flats' - limiting the spread of fire and smoke in case of a fire that may originate in the flats or in the common areas.

'Fire rated' letter plates are allowed in fire doors, but one cannot simply rely on these products to make fire doors fit for purpose as the final exit doors since they cannot always protect against spread of fire and smoke and never protect against letter box arson.

This is because the fire rated doors and doorsets are currently tested to meet the UK Standard BS 476:1987 Pt. 20/22 and Pt. 31.1 or BS EN 1634-1:2004 (1634-2 or 1634-3) with the flap of the 'fire rated' letter plate in closed position. However, on site it can be open or partly open for a number of reasons no different to the flap of an ordinary letter plate, like when it is jammed by the mail items or a rolled-up newspaper, frequently for hours. Also, the letter plates are the usual targets for vandalism and arson. Like the ticking bomb they can create a serious problem in any property.

Any fire safety professional will tell that most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Cold smoke through the open or partly open letter plate would be the primary killer at the early stages of fire before the intumescent lining, which should be activated by the high temperature, can go into action. When the smoke becomes hot the expansion of the intumescent lining will be obstructed by the items, which can be stuck inside the letter plate. This will undermine the 'fire rated' letter plate protection against the hot smoke too.

The fire door with the unprotected fire rated letter plate has no fire, arson, intruder, crime or vandalism resistance and would instantly fail the fire and smoke resistance test.

Source - Chiltern International Fire Ltd:

'A letter plate will only have a fire resistance integrity when in the closed position. If the letter plate is open it would instantly fail integrity by the 25mm gap gauge criteria.'

For allowing 24 hours random mail deliveries the building managers or residents cannot control the letter plate flap to be closed at all times as it is expected from them in the case of the fire doors. Such 'fire doors' are not fit for purpose as final exit doors. Fitting these products put residents at risk of internal and external spread of smoke and fire through the 'fire door'. This is unheard of in any other country.

We think that the logic behind this message is clear. The current testing regime for fire rated doors and doorsets with a letter plate is notoriously imperfect. The gap between the fire door and the frame over 2 to 4mm wide would not be accepted, but they do not see a problem with the large aperture of the letter plate. The letter plate must be protected against spread of fire and smoke even when the flap is open.

The testing regime for doors and doorsets with a letter plate must be reviewed to ensure it includes the real-world factors when they will be installed and used in a building

PowerPrize Limited was the first one to raise this issue and campaigned for many years to deliver the message. Hopefully, in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, more attention will be given to fire safety and the situation will change.

Eyewitness accounts have verified that fire and smoke travelled freely between floors and within the singular escape route inside the building. How could this possibly happen with fire spread across the external cladding outside of the building?

While the officials and regulators are hypothesizing over the cause of the fast spread of the fire (cladding, lack of sprinklers, faulty wiring, etc.), there is evidence that within the Grenfell Tower fire doors to flats were not fit for purpose for at least one reason - because they had an unprotected letter plate, and some of the letter plates were not even 'fire rated'. This is also true for the similar apartment blocks across the UK, for example, in Chalcots Estate, London Borough of Camden.

One does not need to wait for the results of the Grenfell fire investigation to understand that putting an unprotected letter plate on a fire entrance/exit door runs the risk of utterly catastrophic consequences. 

Why we are so tolerant of 'fire rated' letter plates that put lives at risk and destroy properties when this can be easily avoided?

Prohibiting the use of the letter plates on final exit doors would solve the problem but at the expense of compromising the traditional mail deliveries. For that reason this is not always suitable. The problem can be addressed by fitting additional protection means behind the letter plate, which would ensure that the door will be fit for purpose even when the letter plate flap is in open position and protect against the letterbox arson.

To view what is available on the market visit Specifying secure letter box.

Click to view how IdealGuard™ secure by design multifunctional eco letter/mail box will protect against letterbox arson and ensure that be it cold or hot smoke it will be contained and not penetrate the property.



For owners/managers of the premises, which are covered by the mandatory legislation, protecting the letter plate for preventing arson is a legal requirement. This is covered for Fire Risk Assessment purposes by BAFE Scheme: SP205 Version 2: December 2012 and a number of Guidance documents, including ASFP Guide to Inspecting Passive Fire Protection for Fire Risk Assessors (paragraph 3.3) and in the Guidance document on fire safety for blocks of flats (paragraph 43.2).

In case of an accident owners/managers are risking hefty fines or even imprisonment. The insurance company can refuse the payout if it turns out that the mandatory legislation requirement was not met.

If you are a 'responsible person' and do not want to end up with a court judgement against you, take a notice that entrance/exit doors with the unprotected or under-protected letter plate would often fall short of the demands for fire safety imposed by the currently mandatory legislation, in particular the RRO and Building Regulations 2013 Part B

Fitting IdealGuard™ secure by design multifunctional eco letter/mail box will ensure the letter plate superb security against all nomenclature of potential threats without disruption to mail deliveries.

The product is superior to any other letter box and ideal for the landlords and housing providers, owners/managers and occupants of commercial and domestic properties. It appeals to insurers and offers real peace of mind to everyone concerned.

Making the property more secure and the insurance claims less likely IdealGuard™ products may reduce insurance losses for the insurance companies, the property owners and occupants.