Do I Need To Test My Fire Dampers?

Is your building fitted with fire safety equipment to ensure the safety of your staff and stop fires from spreading? How often do you test your equipment to check it is fit for purpose?

Whilst most employers are good at testing their fire alarms and carrying out regular fire drills, many forget to test the fire dampers installed in their building’s ducting.

What is a fire damper?
A fire damper is a piece of equipment that is designed to stop a fire from moving through ducting and spreading to other parts of a building. They either have a link that melts in high heat, causing the damper to close or are alerted to the presence of a fire by an electric signal from the building’s fire alarm system.

When fire dampers are in a good working condition and able to close properly, they can effectively stop fires from spreading throughout a building, minimising costly damage and potentially saving lives.

Fire dampers that have been regularly tested and maintained can help to prevent a fire from spreading through a building.   

Do your fire dampers work?
Despite being a key component of any building’s fire safety strategy, it is hard to know if your fire dampers are going to work or not, unless you have them regularly tested and maintained.

One of the reasons why people often fail to test their fire dampers on a regular basis is that it is difficult to gain access to them. Many people are guilty of taking an ‘out of sight out of mind’ approach.

Testing can also be a time consuming and disruptive process, which is why many business owners put it off for as long as possible.

However by doing this, they not only face being fined but also risking the lives of their employees in the event of a fire. So the simple answer to the title question is yes, you need to test your fire dampers.

Many people forget to test their fire dampers as they are hidden away in their building’s ductwork.

When should fire dampers be tested?
In order to comply with the British Standard BS 9999 (which covers routine inspection and maintenance of ventilation and air conditioning ductwork) you need to ensure that your fire dampers are tested upon installation. Following that, your fire dampers will need to be tested at least every two years.

If you have decided to install sprint-operated dampers, then you will need to have them tested every year in order to remain compliant. Fire dampers may also require more frequent testing if they are installed in areas of heavy dust contamination.

Who can carry out a fire damper test?
Unless you have been trained to test fire dampers, you should leave it to experts like Ductbusters. Our ducting experts have all been properly trained to carry out fire damper drop testing in compliance with BS 9999.

The problem with letting any old contractor test your fire dampers is that they may not carry out the tests properly and could potentially mislead you into thinking your fire dampers will work, when actually they won’t. This is why you should always check that they have certifications to prove their competence in testing fire dampers.

What does a fire damper test involve?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order highlights fire dampers as a potential Achilles heel of many buildings and therefore require a ‘responsible person’ to ensure that all components of the fire safety system are kept in ‘efficient order.’ In order to ensure this, businesses need to ensure that regular testing is carried out and a planned maintenance regime is followed.

Below we have outlined some of the key functions of fire dampers that need to be tested:
• Integrity (E)
• Insulation (I)
• Reduced Leakage (S)

Before testing can be carried out on fire dampers, the contractors first need to locate and access them. They will then need to number each damper with test point labels to ensure accuracy is achieved.

The contractor will then clean, lubricate and drop test each damper to ensure they work properly. You will then receive a written report that you can use as proof of your compliance with BS 9999.

Sometimes reports will contain recommendations of the work you need to carry out on your fire dampers. It is important not to ignore these recommendations, as they will help you to keep your fire dampers in a good working condition.

If there is anything wrong with your fire dampers functionality (jamming, corroding etc.) then this will also be highlighted in the report. In order to comply with BS 9999 you need to ensure that all faulty parts of your fire dampers are repaired or replaced immediately.

A competent individual must test fire dampers upon installation and at least every two years.

What are the consequences of failing to test your fire dampers?

If you fail to meet the requirements of the RRO or BS 9999 then you could be fined up to ten thousand pounds. The employer or building owner (who according to RRO is responsible for testing and maintaining fire safety equipment) could also face two years in prison.

You will also struggle to claim for fire damage on your insurance unless you can provide reports which proof you have had your fire dampers tested and maintained at least every two years (or 12 months for spring-operated dampers).

Fire officers also have the responsibility and right to issue prohibition notices and close businesses down if they are not satisfied that the right measures (including regular testing and maintenance) are in place.

Avoid risking your reputation, business and the lives of you and your employees by simply conducting regular tests on your fire dampers and following a scheduled maintenance plan.

Ductbusters’ fire damper drop testing service
The team here at Ductbusters is competent in carrying out fire damper drop testing. We will visit your work place to inspect all of your fire dampers (subject to access) and perform drop tests to ensure they work properly.

We can also advise you of any remedial work that needs to be done to ensure the fire integrity of your ductwork system remains intact.

Our fire damper test report (which you can use as proof of compliance) will include:
• Before and after pictures of your dampers
• An inventory featuring every damper tested (along with their locations and numbers)
• The result of the inspection (showing whether the dampers passed or failed the drop test)
• A set of drawings detailing the location of the dampers with the corresponding damper number

• Recommendations for maintenance and repairs

In order to comply with the fire safety regulations, you need to ensure that a competent company like Ductbusters tests your dampers. For more information about our drop testing service or to make an enquiry please contact enquiries@ductbusters.co.uk or phone us on 0800 085 0403.

 


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