Earlier in 2022, the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) issued an urgent warning about fire damper safety. Maintenance inspectors found that many dampers were installed incorrectly and could, in fact, block fire dampers from closing. This created a serious hazard in an emergency as they would fail to activate in case of a building fire, creating a life-threatening danger and chance of catastrophe.
The BESA has urged contractors to contact and inform clients immediately so that work can be carried out to rectify the situation, which mainly revolved around tek screws. These are used to install numerous dampers, but they have been discovered to have a higher melting temperature than the rest of the system. This means the screws do not align with the damper mechanism closure requirement as a fusible fixing should. This makes safe closure impossible, and they will not safely contain a fire.
For more details on the new fire and safety advice or to read the entire bulletin, visit the document here. It fully outlines all the specifics, guidelines, and legislation around the issue and how a professional can repair and maintain the system after.
How Do Fires Dampers Work
When not required in the case of a fire, dampers allow air to flow throughout ductwork routes. However, in the event of a fire, dampers deploy. They are designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke throughout a building by creating a containment barrier in ventilation systems where quick oxygenation escalates and spreads the fire. Dampers are essentially designed to interrupt this catastrophic airflow when exposed to heat and deploy to smother a fire. It’s easy to see why they are vital for building safety anywhere people work or live.
How Do They Deploy?
Fire Dampers often operate on a circuit or sensor system with both system types reliant on a fusible link. These are designed to melt when exposed to heat. This melting event triggers fire damper doors to close and seal. The type of fire dampers that run on a circuit system may also be manually engaged from a control area or programmed to activate in a specific event. This could be the activation of a smoke detector or fire alarm, for example, to delay fire spreading.To work as they should, dampers have nothing blocking, delaying, or impeding them, such as what has been uncovered in the announcement bulletin.
The primary outcome of everything laid out in the bulletin was to have fire dampers tested and checked immediately to check if your premises has a closure issue. This can be discovered by a visual inspection and drop test conducted by the competent trained person in charge of the fire system or by having an experienced contractor come and do the inspection. As Fire and smoke dampers are vital to a building’s fire safety system, it is always imperative that they be tested and maintained to the highest standard.
Regular inspections also play a crucial role in ensuring fire dampers, systems, and safety are up to the necessary levels. There is an annual legal requirement to do this; however, most professionals would recommend having an inspection conducted more frequently to ensure there are no issues or impediments in your systems. This is particularly important now to confirm your building dampers are not affected by the findings in the bulletin.
Fire Damper testing usually consists of a two-part process. As always, it is recommended to be carried out by a professional or another trained individual. It’s vital to have an inspector who understands the system and its operation to provide the best maintenance advice.
Firstly, a visual inspection confirms that nothing obstructs or obscures the dampers’ operation or will block their opening and closing. This task can be carried out by a nominated person in the building who is in charge of the fire system – most companies have an assigned individual for the job. Alternatively, an external professional is ideal.
The allocated individual will visually confirm that dampers are correctly fitted as designated by the individual building schematics. This is important as correct fitting will vary between buildings, so the inspector needs to understand the structure. They will ensure there is no damage or corrosion. The nominated person will order these after the inspection if repairs or maintenance are required.
The inspector must confirm there is nothing obstructing closure in an emergency. They will also check airflow and if there are any issues such as low airflow. If this is the case, it’s unlikely the dampers will work well and deploy correctly in a fire.
The inspector will conduct a Drop Test which activates each damper as in a fire when high heat would release the dampeners. This happens because the fusible link melts, forcing the damper closed; however, the mechanism is released manually for testing.
The inspector or chosen professional will also examine the mechanical system integrity of each damper unit. They will be certified as functional and safe if they pass the test.
Secure Your Fire System With Grease Gone
Fire safety is crucial for every business and institution, ensuring the safety of all building users, and fire damper testing is a big part of that. The team at Grease Gone are trained fire damper testing specialists who are all up to date with the latest announcements and legislation, providing peace of mind for your building inspections. In addition, we offer a range of essential cleaning and safety services to support your business. Contact Grease Gone London for more information.