Fire dampers may not be the most glamorous part of fire safety, but they are one of the most crucial. If fires don’t have the appropriate obstacles ie the fire dampers, the ductwork and ventilation systems of any building can easily exacerbate a fire scenario by passing smoke and flames throughout the building quickly. This makes firefighting a much more difficult task, as fires can spread sporadically. Within a fire it is normally the smoke inhalation that causes loss of life and fire dampers will restrict smoke travelling through the ductwork, especially the automatic dampers linked to building management systems.
Regulations state that fire dampers must be checked annually on spring loaded dampers and motorised dampers and immediately fixed or replaced if they are found to be at fault. These regulations have recently been changed with the update of BES:9999:2017 from BES:9999:2008, bringing motorized dampers into line with mechanical dampers which were previously only expected to be tested every two years.
Fire dampers or fire safety measures should be installed into all ductwork and ventilation systems, regardless of the business occupying the building. Fire safety should be of the utmost importance no matter what function a building is used for. As with anything, fire dampers degrade over time, and when combined with poor maintenance, they can quickly stop being functional. This can be due to a whole host of technical reasons. It is therefore important to ensure that engineers are trained to recognise faults within dampers and how to rectify them to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.
There are many examples of faults that we see, such as dampers wedged open with bits of wood and cable tied up to stop the damper falling and even dampers fitted the wrong way around. However, perhaps the most crucial check is to test the integrity of the fusible link. As dampers are metal curtains that shut when heat or fire causes the fusible link to melt, it is vital that this aspect of the damper is fully functional. VSS staff are independently trained to carry out fire damper testing. Our reporting system ensures that all of our fire damper reports come with before and after pictures as per TB001 (unless we are working on a location that specifically asked for pictures not to be taken). Our reporting system also works in real time so we aim to have fully annotated reports to our clients within 72 hours of works completing.
It can’t be overstated how crucial these tests are. Not only do they leave any organisation legally exposed, they can contribute to a fire scenario with disastrous outcomes. Should an employee or tenant die in a building fire and poorly maintained ductwork and fire dampers are found to be a contributing factor to the death, those responsible are liable to prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007.
VSS currently look after over 30 NHS Trust sites across the country and test in excess of 100,000 fire dampers per annum. We also ensure that systems comply with the TR-19 standards and that access panels are fitted on both sides of the damper to make the maintenance and cleaning of the dampers and surrounding ductwork easier and further reduce the risk of fire.
If you have any queries regarding fire damper testing and complying with BS9999:2017 please feel free to get in touch with our team of experts at VSS on 0818 919 345.