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Smoke control and fire damper maintenance

Smoke control and fire dampers are a crucial part of a building’s fire safety. Regular maintenance by a competent company is very important. In this short blog, we aim to give you an overview of what your responsibilities are when it comes to the maintenance and repair of smoke control and fire dampers.

Why fire and smoke control dampers are important

Fire dampers have been designed to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke throughout a building in the event of a fire. They are installed in a building's ductwork systems when it compromises a fire compartment wall. In normal use, they are open to permit airflow and allow the flow of air around the building. However, if a fire was to break out, they would all automatically close when triggered by the smoke and fire alarms (or by fusible link operation). This creates a barrier to contain any flames and fumes that would otherwise have spread. By restricting the flow of smoke, fumes and fire from one area of the building to another, the likelihood of a safe escape and quick, successful response from the fire service is greatly increased.

Smoke Control and Fire Damper Maintenance

Smoke Control dampers are specifically used for smoke control installations. They are not normally installed in HVAC ductwork and are not used for general ventilation purposes and so would be closed generally. If a fire were to break out, some may be required to open and stay open and others will be required to close. This depends on the location of the fire. Those that open need to permit the passage of smoke and heat into the smoke control system to be removed from the building. Those that close need to act as a fire barrier to prevent fire and smoke spread to other parts of the building.

Damper maintenance: the regulations and your damper maintenance responsibilities

Maintaining the safety of buildings and their occupants is paramount. This is why there are stringent regulations governing the inspection, cleaning, testing, and servicing of smoke and fire dampers. Unfortunately, due to their concealed location within ductwork systems, the maintenance of these crucial components is often overlooked or neglected by building owners or operators.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places the responsibility for maintaining fire safety systems, including smoke control and fire dampers, squarely on the building owner or operator. Best practice guidelines, such as BS 9999, provide a framework for fire safety and include standards for damper maintenance and fire damper testing. According to these guidelines, all fire dampers should meet specified fire resistance criteria for a defined period, and the following requirements apply:

  • Competent individuals should test all fire dampers regularly, at intervals not exceeding one year. Any faulty dampers must be promptly repaired or replaced.
  • Spring-operated fire dampers should undergo annual testing, while those located in dust-laden or similarly polluted environments should be tested more frequently, in accordance with the level of contamination.

To ensure compliance and effectively protect your buildings in case of a fire, we strongly recommend that your fire and smoke control dampers receive servicing at least once a year. Additionally, they should undergo inspections every six months, and functionality tests should be conducted every three months by a qualified provider of fire and smoke control equipment services. By adhering to these guidelines, you can maintain the highest level of safety and peace of mind for your building and its occupants.

Smoke and fire damper maintenance: SFG20

SFG20, the definitive standard for planned maintenance, also sets out the below best practice actions for smoke and fire damper maintenance.

For all fire and smoke dampers: Visually inspect the fire damper’s internal components for signs of corrosion, dirt or dust. In line with the manufacturer’s instructions, clean and lubricate the damper and perform a drop test. Collect digital photographic evidence of damper condition prior to, during and after testing procedures.

For all electro-mechanical fire and smoke dampers: Inspect latching mechanism, operating cable and remote controller (incl. indicator lamp). Ensure cleanliness of, damper guide channels, springs and around the units on completion. Check and ensure correct operation of shutter mechanism. Ensure free fall of damper(s). Check and ensure security of all access doors and gaskets. State possible sources of air leakage. Report any defects and record all actions undertaken.

Collect digital photographic evidence of damper condition prior to, during and after testing procedures.

For all air transfer fire and smoke dampers: Inspect latching mechanism, operating cable and remote controller (incl. indicator lamp). Ensure cleanliness of damper guide channels, springs and around the units on completion. Check and ensure correct operation of shutter mechanism. Ensure free fall of damper(s). Check and ensure security of all access doors and gaskets. Check for air leaks.

Report any defects and record all actions undertaken.

Collect digital photographic evidence of damper condition prior to, during and after testing procedures.

Intumescent block fire dampers: This type of damper can become blocked and impeded. They should therefore be part of the maintenance programme.

Thermal fuse and Intumescent air valves: Remove and replace units in accordance with manufacturers guidance as required to allow cleaning and inspection.

We are Northern Ireland's sole distributer for Colt Group Smoke Control Equipment.

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