MORE ABOUT FIRE DAMPER INSPECTIONS

What you need to know

THE BASICS

If you have found us, then you have probably realised that you have some dampers within your ventilation ductwork. Hopefully, this was from your building information package, particularly if it is a newish building. Otherwise, it may have come about from a risk assessment or you may have discovered your responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (RRFSO), whatever route, you have come to the right place.

Ventilation Fire Smoke Ltd (VFS) is ideally qualified to perform your annual inspection and test requirements and provide a report for your records. We offer a full “Competent Person” service. All our personnel have certificated training backed up by coaching from the leading industry expert.

The inspections can cover the full range of fire resisting products from curtain fire dampers (E), intumescent dampers, leakage rated motorised fire dampers (ES) (often confusingly historically misnamed fire and smoke dampers) through to smoke control dampers. The latter being a much more complicated subject than fire dampers themselves.

You may know where all your dampers are, you should, and hopefully you will have drawings. If not, VFS will quote and then provide a survey service for you. A schematic will be provided or if layout drawings are available, VFS will mark these up for you. This survey will not be required on any subsequent visits as the information will be then ready. Subsequent to this survey, VFS will provide a quote for the damper inspections.

If a drawing is available with damper positions, VFS will require a copy of this to be able to quote for the inspection and during the inspection will mark it up for you with the damper references that will be used in the report.

During the inspection, each fire damper (E or ES) or smoke control damper will be photographed from both sides, where possible, inside and out, so that the installation/penetration seal can be seen. This will show the “as found” condition” The damper will be wiped down and cleaned where possible and lightly lubricated. Further photographs will be taken with the units reset.

 

All curtain fire dampers will be “drop” tested to check good operation and then reset. Motorised dampers of any sort will be open and closed if allowed, after discussion with yourselves, so as to not disturb systems. However, if dampers cannot be operated, then this will be noted in the report. Fusible links and thermal fuses will be visually checked.

The report will contain all relevant photos, an explanation of any issues (e.g. corrosion, access, repair, obstructions), further maintenance requirements and potential risks for each damper. Where access is not possible, a recommendation of what to do will be given. Destructive access of any kind will not be undertaken, and you will be advised of any such issues.

 

It is possible that during inspections previously unfound dampers are discovered that will need to be added and annotated.

Looking forward, if any building changes occur between inspections, then this information should be added to the records for consideration at the next inspection.

DUTY OF CARE AND COMPARTMENTATION

Why are the inspections needed? You have a duty of care to your building occupants. Fire dampers (E and ES) and smoke control dampers are there as life safety equipment. They are designed to maintain compartmentation and assist in keeping the fire in the room of origin. ES fire dampers are designed to additionally reduce smoke migration out of the room of origin. Smoke control dampers are designed to allow removal of smoke from the room of origin or protected areas and prevent it, and fire, getting back into other areas. Smoke control dampers both extend and maintain compartmentation. Few people seem to understand these subtle differences.

A compartment is an area bounded by walls and floors from which the fire should not leave. In some instances, there are requirements to reduce smoke migration and provide fire insulation too. Consequently, where a ventilation duct passes through a wall a fire damper must be installed. This is required through guidance to regulations and standards. There are very few exceptions, and this can only occur if correctly installed fire resisting or smoke control duct has been used. The other exception might be builders work shafts, but these must be protected too, because they are actually compartment rooms. The dampers themselves should be correctly installed. VFS can help you here too if you need more information and help.

GUIDANCE AND RECOMMENDATION

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) gives a great deal of guidance for people owning and using buildings. A Responsible Person is defined for each building and it might be you. Specifically, it requires that systems and passive fire protection and checked and maintained regularly and at specific points this should be confirmed by a defined Competent Person.

In turn BS9999 give details on the maintenance of ventilation and other fire safety systems. Essentially fire dampers and other systems should be tested and checked annually, at a minimum, by a Competent Person, notwithstanding other requirements that might be more frequent.