Fire Damper Testing and Maintenance
What is a Fire Damper?
Fire and smoke dampers are fitted in ductwork to prevent the spread of fire through the use of fire-resistance rated walls and floors (which is why Fire Damper Testing is so necessary). Fire dampers are responsible for slowing or stopping a fire inside of a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, helping to minimise any damage to the structure itself and most importantly to protect the people within the building.
Why do Fire and Smoke Dampers fail?
Foreign materials and particulates such as dirt, combustible dust, and debris can accumulate within the ductwork. These foreign materials can impair the proper functioning of the fire dampers, leaving the building occupants at risk in the event of a fire. Typical issues also include obstructions or damage to the fire damper, poor hinges or parts, misalignment, bent tracks, rust, or damaged frames or blades.
It might take only one faulty damper to allow the spread of a fire, therefore it is imperative annual testing and inspections are completed by competent engineers.
Fire Damper Testing and Inspections
Why should they be tested?
The British Standard 9999:2017 gives clear guidance that covers routine visual inspection and maintenance of ventilation and air conditioning ductwork and states that all fire dampers should be tested not exceeding a 12 months period.
VH001 – Fire and Smoke Damper Maintenance was released in January 2020 giving clear instruction and providing an overview of responsibilities, legislation, maintenance, reporting and competency. This is a bulleting to support existing BESA publications, BS 9999 with DW145 – Installation and Maintenance of Fire and Smoke Dampers currently under review.
What are the responsibilities regarding Fire Damper testing?
As the building owner / responsible person on-site you need to ensure that all fire and smoke dampers within your building(s) are located, serviced and tested. Hydro-X Air can help to ensure you meet the regulatory requirements and support you in compiling an asset list and schedule to ensure regular checks are carried out for continued safe operation.
Is Fire Damper testing a legal requirement?
The simple answer is yes – and regularly. There is a DOC (duty of care) on those responsible for fire dampers to make sure they are both regularly tested, and tested when they are first installed on the premises.
British Standard (BS) 9999 2017 stipulates that any dampers installed require more frequent testing than previously thought (as mentioned above they need to be atleast tested annually). The use of buildings code of practice ensures those responsible must make sure to test fire safety systems and to maintain them routinely.
Fire protection cannot be provided if devices/tools (sure as spring operated fire dampers installed on premises need testing and maintenance) are faulty/out of date, thus proving the importance of the dampers being tested and cleaned to an optimal working condition.
In the workplace the BS 9999 also reinforces that fire alarms should be tested atleast once a week by those responsible.
Types of Fire Dampers
Curtain Bladed Fire Damper
Motorised Fire Damper
Intrumescent Fire Damper
Curtain bladed fire dampers are perfectly suited to stop a fire in its tracks within a ventilation system. Be this through a wall/floor/ductwork, when a fusible link gets to a certain heat (temperature) the blades shut the damper. This is done by the interlocking blades forming a lock with the blade ramp.
For use within HVAC buildings the Motorised type is works effectively as a fire barrier in both commercial and non commercial premises.
Ideal for Air Transfer Application, the Intrumescent type is the only type here that works without an FL.
So what are Fusible Links? Firstly, there are two foremost types of FL, a mechanical version and an electrical version. The mechanical type is known as a ‘trigger device’, either shutting or releasing elements of a structure to improve fire safety.
Solder is used to grip two metal strips to each other, with the purpose being that these two separate when there is an element of danger (heat). When the temperate surrounding these strips reaches a certain level they melt and the door (or other fire damper testing device) is ‘triggered’ to protect those around it.
Electric fusible links are used to stop wiring from becoming too heated and potentially causing a fire hazard. They consist of a small wire piece which is used to become the first port of call if anything goes wrong. Working in the same way a fuse does, the electric links will be destroyed first in the event of an explosive rise in temperature. This occurs because they are designed to operate at lower temperatures than their surrounding parts.