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Fire and Smoke Damper Inspections

- Fire Damper Testing -

The National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) and the National Fire Code of Canada 2020 (“NFC”) require regular maintenance of fire and smoke dampers. The Fire and Protective Services in your jurisdiction enforces these requirements as well as insurance risk auditors. Full Throttle Furnace & Duct Cleaning Inc. can assist you in staying compliant by performing these inspections and testing and providing you with the necessary documentation.
Fire dampers are installed in ducts passing through or in air outlet openings terminating at shaft walls, fire barriers (such as an occupancy separation wall, horizontal exit walls, corridor walls, corridor ceilings, floor-ceiling assemblies) and other fire resistance–rated assemblies as required by a building or life safety code and other applicable standards.  Under severe fire exposure, a duct may eventually collapse or significantly deform, creating an opening in the fire barrier. Fire dampers provide a method of protecting such penetrations and openings. A fire damper is designed to, and required to, close automatically upon detection of heat (such as a fusible link or heat detector) and to interrupt airflow and to restrict the passage of flame.  Fire dampers are required to close against the maximum calculated airflow of that portion of the system in which they are installed. Those that are intended to close under airflow are labeled for use in Dynamic Systems (A dynamic systems is an HVAC system designed to maintain the movement of air within the system at the indication of a fire); those that are intended to close after airflow has stopped by automatically shutting down the fan or airflow in the event of a fire are labeled for use in Static Systems (a static system is an HVAC system designed to stop the movement of air within the system at the indication of a fire). Fire dampers are provided with an hourly fire rating

Why are fire and smoke damper inspections required?

Fire and smoke dampers are essential to a facility's overall fire and life safety protection system. Unfortunately, dampers tend to fail during routine inspections frequently. With other fire protection features, dampers are often installed and forgotten about. Out of sight, out of mind. Fire and smoke can spread fast, and one of the quickest ways for a fire to travel throughout the entire building is through the ventilation system. Hence why fire, smoke and combination (fire and smoke) dampers are specifically designed and installed in the ductwork to help contain the fire to its original origin. Dampers are typically in the ductwork of a facility. According to statistics, on average, nearly 22% of dampers fail during a routine fire and smoke damper inspection. Therefore, it is not uncommon to have a list of deficient dampers needing repairs after facility performance testing.

How often are fire and smoke damper inspections and testing needed?

Inspection
Visual inspections must be completed once per year.
Section 2.2.2.4.5 of the NFC states:

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 2021, Basics of Fire and Smoke Damper Installations, https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media/Blogs-Landing-Page/NFPA-Today/Blog-Posts/2021/08/12/Basics-of-Fire-and-Smoke-Damper-Installations

5) Fire dampers, smoke dampers, combination smoke/fire dampers and fire stop flaps shall be

  1. a) inspected at intervals not greater than 12 months to ensure that they are in place and not obviously damaged or obstructed, and
  2. b) tested in accordance with NFPA 80, “Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives.”

Testing

To comply with NFPA 80, first, an operational test must be completed after the installation of the fire damper is complete. Then, each fire damper must be tested and inspected one year after the installation. After that one-year mark, fire dampers must then be tested and inspected every four years except for hospitals which have a six-year frequency.

Fire dampers are designed to keep the fire from spreading through the ducting, as well as other types of openings in a building.

Fire Damper - NFPA 80 – Section 19.4

Each damper shall be tested and inspected one year after installation. The test and inspection frequency shall then be every 4 years, except in hospitals, where the frequency shall be 6 years.

Smoke Damper - NFPA 105 – Section 6.5

Each damper shall be tested and inspected one year after installation. The test and inspection frequency shall then be every 4 years, except in hospitals, where the frequency shall be 6 years. Obstruction is one of the most common factors contributing to damper failure. Obstruction can be caused by something as minor as dust build-up or as significant as another trade installing its materials through damper openings.

How to Prepare for Damper Inspection

1. Confirm Damper Inspection and Testing Due Dates
The NFC requires facilities to have an annual damper inspection and the NFPA requires facilities to have damper testing every 4 years, except healthcare facilities, where inspection is required every 6 years.
However, if the building is new or recently undergone renovations, dampers should be inspected and tested one year after installation.
Knowing when your next inspection and testing is due can help you avoid any citations or penalties.

2. Locate the Damper Service Report from the last Inspection
The Damper inspection report will list how many fire, smoke, and combination dampers are in the facility, and which ones, if any, should have been repaired following the last inspection.

3. Provide Facility Blueprints
Facility blueprints will help the inspection process go quickly without a hitch. Providing these blueprints to the inspector will allow for the job to be completed in a timely manner as it will assist in locating the dampers within the facility.
If blueprints are not available, a floor plan would be beneficial for creating a fire damper template.

4. Schedule Inspection in Advance
Contact us to schedule your damper inspection and testing in advance of the due date to ensure that you remain compliant.

5. Keep your documentation!
NFPA 80 states that documentation shall be maintained for at least three test cycles and made for review by the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction).

Contact our team today to schedule your facility fire and smoke damper inspection!

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Open fire damper door

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Closed fire damper door

Sample of non-compliant components

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Wired was used to replace the fusible link

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Painted fusible link

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