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Fire Safety and the Spanish Window Security Grill

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a safety feature or a death trap?

a safety feature or a death trap?

The window security grill is common in Spanish-style houses and among Hispanic communities the world over. Originating in 15th century Spain, the window security grill, or reja as it is known in Spanish, has long been used to cover windows not only for decorative purposes, but to allow security while the window is wide open to allow the free flow of air in hot countries.

Originally used instead of expensive glass, the tradition of installing rejas in houses continues to this day. A major difference is the style of houses they are fitted to, as old Spanish type structures consisted of an outer courtyard, the windows of which had grills fitted, leaving plenty space in the courtyard for the inhabitants to escape to in event of fire.

The reja, or window security grill, consists of several solid metal bars (usually wrought iron) installed in a vertical position over outside and ledge of windows, with an ornate pattern designed into the bars. For security, the bars are securely fixed to the mortar around the window, to deter intruders.

ornate window reja

ornate window reja

window and door reja

window and door reja

This effectively turns a house into a prison, and in event of fire can lead to tragic consequences.

It is common to see window security grills fitted on all downstairs windows, leaving the windows on the upper floors the only escape route in event of fire, and these houses seldom if ever have a stairway fire escape fitted, so there is no safe way to escape a fire.

Some houses, especially those that have experienced a burglary, have fitted security grills to every window and outside door, upstairs and down, turning their house into a potential firetrap.

For some time there have been window security grills available which lock and can be opened, but in event of fire could still cause delay in escape, unless the key is immediately to hand.

Other types can be opened by handle without a lock, but this effectively turns your window security grill into an expensive ornament.

The problem with handles being installed on the actual grill itself means that the security level is lowered, because any potential burglar can reach it just as easily as you. Even situating handles high up on a window will not deter thieves, who have been known to remove whole rejas from their wall fittings to gain access to other people's homes.

To deter this behaviour, many rejas are fitted deep into the walls, so they cannot be forced off. Unless they can open, this makes them even more dangerous in event of fire.

Fire Safety

It is now Law in many countries, including parts of the US, to install window security grills that can be opened in event of fire. Unfortunately these by-laws are largely being ignored, due to the steep price difference between normal rejas and opening rejas, and many families have become victims of devastating house fires from which there was no escape.

A new company on the Costa Blanca area of Spain have developed and patented a system that allows a window security grill to be opened by handle from the inside, without the need for a key.

This handle developed by SegurEscape is either wall-mounted or embedded in the wall, and is easily accessible in the dark should the need arise, but impossible for the burglar to retrieve.

The designer explained to me that they are much more expensive because for the welder/designer, the most difficult parts to make in any window security grill are the corners, of which there are 4 normally, but in an opening grill are 18.

The Spanish Fire Service have given their full backing to this company, and it is hoped that changes in the law in Spain will make an opening type of window security grill compulsory, in order to save the many lives lost needlessly each year through the use of fixed grills that turn homes into cages.

Fire safety is paramount is any home.

To contact SegurEscape, telephone +34 962 89 90 67 internationally or 902 88 90 60 from within Spain, or click on the link above.

fire-safety-and-the-window-security-grill

Comments

IzzyM (author) from UK on August 23, 2011:

I've got them on two downstairs windows (the non-opening types) and stopped at that point because I was worried about an escape route in event of fire. Many of my neighbors have all their windows done, but then again there was a burglar around for a while so I can't blame them. They do look good. I have opted to keep dogs instead!

Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on August 22, 2011:

I really love the look of those iron window grills, but have opted out of using them for the fire safety issue. As long as they are installed with the ability to open uickly fro the inside, I guess they would still be ok. Really good that you have included this in your hub. Thanks for sharing!

IzzyM (author) from UK on July 30, 2011:

Thanks andre, you are right, it is a superb idea that is long overdue.

andrebreynolds on July 28, 2011:

Good to hear window security grill is now available for fire safety in our homes. Very useful hub!

IzzyM (author) from UK on June 01, 2011:

Thanks expats - I think it is fantastic idea those lads had, to develop their own opening grills - one of them is an engineer, but the last time I spoke to them they are struggling to find business because people are still not thinking of the fire risk.

expats from UK on June 01, 2011:

Very good hub. When people first move to Spain they often have a laidback approach to security, having all sorts of other important things on their minds. Then they get told about the problems some have had with burglaries so they get window grills fitted. Most never even think about the situation if a fire starts.

Jay Fire Extinguishers on May 25, 2011:

I recently set up my own fire extinguisher retail outlet and i'm trying to find different manufacturers and units that I could add to my stock. I'm also trying to find news about fire incidents so I could display some statistics for my marketing campaign, thanks for this.

IzzyM (author) from UK on March 11, 2011:

Yes but not many people are willing to pay that bit extra for their own safety. They really should read here and have a little think about just how they are going to escape in the event of fire without those handled grills.

Edward Dickinson from Dallas on March 11, 2011:

So there is a solution to the problem. They can be opened by handle from the inside. Great hub.

IzzyM (author) from UK on October 18, 2010:

Yes they can be very attractive to look at :) Makes you feel safe too when they are closed.

Maryanne Maguire from Santa Monica, CA on October 17, 2010:

I've seen these on doors, too, and they are very attractive, I agree.

IzzyM (author) from UK on August 31, 2010:

Hi Paul, nice website! You've done a great job and I wouldn't mind a copy of your video on how to open the rejas to put up here :)

Paul G on August 31, 2010:

Find out more at www.segurescepe.com

days leaper from england on August 01, 2010:

Can you get internal grills? Ideally that can be opened from only the inside with a key, with holes so small that even insects can't get in!

But with another lockable smaller opening to fit the arm through to open the window on those humid days?

-Is that an invention, or what?

IzzyM (author) from UK on July 29, 2010:

Thanks!

I like windows security grills and have them on my own home, but not too many because I need an escape route in case of fire.

Kelly Kline Burnett from Fontana, WI on July 29, 2010:

Great Hub! You make the windows look great too!

IzzyM (author) from UK on June 07, 2010:

Absolutely Leo, that is why this hub is all about fire safety - rejas fitted with a convenient opener in case of fire.

LeoSavage on June 06, 2010:

Hi,

Thought I would just say that I think these are a very nice thing to have even if you don't live in a bad area the only thing is what would you do in case of a fire?

Although they look very nice.

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 23, 2010:

It's not even something I though about until recently. I have two rejas on my house, neither of which open, and they cover the only windows I have at street level. All other exits from the house are at 1st floor level so I'd have trouble getting out in event of fire. It should be the law everywhere to install opening rejas and that law should be enforced.

Thanks for commenting, jill :)

jill of alltrades from Philippines on May 22, 2010:

Most houses here in the Philippines have rejas. Our house has them. They are really built for security but they can indeed become fire traps. They are supposed to have openings especially if they are found in multistory buildings. However, some builders forget or don't bother to put openings.

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 22, 2010:

It would be horrifying to be stuck behind them in event of fire, but for added security they are great! Thanks for stopping by :)

Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on May 22, 2010:

They are very attractive ~ and security is certainly an important aspect of life these days, but, yes, the fire problem is potentilly a very serious one.

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