Damper Inspection and Surveying
Damper Surveys and Inspections
Dampers are installed within your duct system as part of the passive fire protection to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. If a fire breaks out and gets into your ventilation system, are you sure that the condition of your dampers will not prevent them from fulfilling this essential role?...
A fire & smoke damper survey is the first step in achieving damper compliance. The aim of the survey is to identify all dampers in your building. There are two options available for a damper survey:
- Working from schematics and/or building plans, damper installation/inspection report or
- Physical inspection of your premises.
Let’s explore those options in more detail.
Most modern commercial and industrial premises have drawings illustrating the main services that feed the utilities in the building, such as electricity, water, gas, etc. They also show ductwork and associated safety installations. Plans are either available as full architect’s drawings, printed in large format, or electronically, as PDFs or CAD drawings. Your site services team is likely to hold these records. If you are a tenant, you might need to approach your landlord and ask for a copy. If you have printed plans of your premises, our team can either work from the originals and return them to you on completion of the survey, or we can arrange for copies to be made. Electronic files can be transferred to us using a secure file transfer service and we will arrange for these to be printed in large format. Our experience has shown us that working from printed plans is the clearest and simplest way to identify where the dampers are located on your premises. Our team of experts will review your drawings and compile a list, ready for the damper inspection stage.
During a damper inspection, a visual assessment of your dampers will be carried out to highlight any surface damage to the damper. The team will typically be looking for:
- Confirmation that the damper is installed and matches the schematics or plans available,
- Visual signs of corrosion or damage,
- Obstructions that would prevent the damper from closing or opening in an emergency situation, and
- Installations requiring repair, where the fire integrity of the surrounding wall or ductwork has been visibly damaged or is missing.
Confirming damper installation If a building has undergone alterations, or an extension has been added, or repair work has been carried out, dampers are occasionally re-situated. We will check the location of all dampers against your current records to ensure you have an up-to-date inventory. All dampers will be asset tagged which clearly labels dampers for identification against testing records.
This is a necessary requirement for compliance. If a damper has been exposed to humid or damp conditions it is possible that the main frame and structure will become corroded. The deterioration of the damper housing can cause it to fail, in the event of an emergency. Our team will provide photographs of your dampers to enable you to review our findings. Corroded dampers should be replaced as soon as possible. We can assist with all necessary damper remedial works.
Building and related trade contractors are often unaware of the purpose of dampers and the need for there to be a clear operating space for the dampers to function correctly. Our team has first-hand experience of finding dampers being held open with mastic tubes, seeing networking and electrical cables running through the damper, and observing other obstructions.
When a damper is activated, it closes fully, forming a sufficiently tight seal to prevent the spread of smoke and/or fire in accordance with their design requirements. If the aperture of the damper is obstructed, or the damper is held open in any way, the damper will not operate as expected. The worst-case scenario is that the damper will not function at all, or at best it will close but insufficiently, preventing it from containing the fire or smoke effectively. Simple obstructions will be removed by our team. If cabling or other services have been installed ‘through’ the damper, we will note this on our report and discuss with you options for remedying the issue.
Our team will not remove any obstruction unless it is safe to do so. Network cabling, electric cables, and any other similar service will not be removed without a full health and safety risk assessment and your prior agreement.
As part of our service, we identify dampers that are installed incorrectly or in need of repair. A damper should not interrupt the integrity of fire compartment walls. For instance, if installed in ductwork, it should be positioned correctly for the direction of airflow. It should also be accessible from an access hatch for inspection purposes, and it should completely fill the void – a damper with visible ‘gaps’ around it will not prevent the spread of fire and/or smoke. We have even found a damper installed the wrong way up!
Our team will make you aware of any installations that, based on a visual inspection, require repair or reinstallation.
All fire safety systems must be regularly and professionally maintained to ensure the safety of building occupants – a faulty fire or smoke damper will not prevent the spread of fire or smoke. With the enactment of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it is now the employer’s responsibility to maintain their fire safety systems. Compliance requires that damper testing is carried out annually. A fire damper test requires a visual inspection of the damper and an activation or a drop test.
Fire dampers are located where ductwork passes through fire compartment walls and floors. They are typically held open by a ‘fusible link’, which BS 9999:2017 defines as a ‘device that releases a component such as a fire damper or fire shutter at a set temperature’. When met by high heat, a fusible link or thermal spring will release and close the fire damper. The fusible link can also be released manually, for testing purposes. Our experts will manually release the fire damper and visually check the integrity of the mechanism. All fire dampers should close fully on release – it is the integrity of the closure that prevents the spread of smoke and fire in an emergency situation.
There are many different manufacturers of smoke dampers in the UK that have various methods of testing from either a control panel or at the smoke damper itself which allows for the smoke damper to be activated as part of the inspection and testing.Read more
Resetting a Fire Damper
On completion of a satisfactory test, it is essential that the damper is correctly reset so it is ready in an emergency. Our team is skilled at resetting fire dampers and replacing fusible link.
Access is critical. All fire dampers should be located within reach of an access point – this would either be a builder’s hatch or an access panel in ductwork. If your fire dampers do not have appropriate access we can help you by installing new hatches and access panels as part of our service....
As your ventilation system is used it will accumulate dust and debris, which could prevent the fire damper from operating. Our team will clean your fire damper, including the vital area of the runners, as part of the testing service. If our specialists find a high build-up of dust or debris within any ductwork area, we will report back with photographic evidence.
BS 9999:2017 states: "…all fire dampers to be tested by a competent person on completion of the installation and at annual intervals. Spring-operated fire dampers should be tested annually and fire dampers situated in dust-laden and similar atmospheres should be tested much more frequently, at periods suited to the degree of pollution". Dampers in hospitals or high-risk environments will require more frequent testing.
Completing a testing routine is insufficient for compliance. You need to maintain accurate records of tests carried out. Our team produces an industry-leading fire damper testing report, which includes photographic evidence of testing, to satisfy authorities that testing has been conducted. Photographs should be taken of each damper in both open and closed positions, and also a photo of a unique identification label or asset tag.Read more
Fire and Smoke Damper Report
Our industry-leading damper report gives you a complete and accurate record of all dampers in your building in full compliance with the industry body, BESA Technical Bulletin VH001, which requires:
- Test results with client information, including position within the building/system, date, and name of operative shall be recorded and any comments noted if further action is required
- Asset register to include damper location and ID number
- Where the damper is not fully or is only partially accessible due to inadequate access either in ductwork or the building fabric, it must be reported to the client and remedial action recommended
- Inspection results, including details of failed damper operation
- Explanation of failed operation and recommended corrective or remedial action
- If a fusible link has failed it should be reported to the client who must take remedial action
- Any severe corrosion or damage found shall be reported to the client
- If drawings are provided, update and annotate details
- Digital photographic evidence of damper condition before and after testing procedures unless otherwise specified by the client
- Visual assessment of fire stopping integrity and/or damage observed in the immediate area of fire damper
- Damper fixing should be checked as far as is practicable to be in accordance with manufacturer’s specification, for example - drop rods fixed to securing lugs on damper frames/correct riveted fixing of duct to damper frames and damper fixing to the wall fire and smoke damper closure to be checked to correctly indicate on the relevant fire panel where applicable
- Where lubrication is required the damper manufacturer’s specific instructions should be followed or, in the absence of these, a PTFE lubricant should be used to minimise adhesion and dust.
We have developed a bespoke system for recording every aspect of a damper test. Our proprietary software enables our teams to collect information on a tablet or smartphone as they work around your premises. Our bespoke system was developed to ensure no aspect of a damper test could be overlooked. The staged system has built-in controls to ensure that the location of the damper is verified, the condition and visual inspection is completed and that photographic evidence of a drop test is submitted. If remedial works are found to be required, the software will record this to produce our industry-leading report, which will have a summary of any remedial works required.
Not only will you have a professionally presented report, detailing each and every damper, but we also supply quick and easy summary information to guide you in the actions necessary to achieve compliance. Our complete report will provide you with:
- A comprehensive list of dampers in your premises, so you can budget effectively for future testing
- Damper condition summary, so you can see at a glance where repairs or replacements are needed
- Drop test results, so you can quickly see if action is required to achieve compliance
- Photographic evidence of testing, to demonstrate fulfilment of your legal obligations
- Electronic files can be provided with damper records, allowing you to import the data into internal systems.
Data collected through our system can also be supplied as .csv, or .xlsx files to allow you to import it directly into your own project management software or to create an asset register. You can also use these files to further analyse your dampers by type, location, condition, and more.
Compliance fire and smoke dampers are installed within the duct system to prevent the spread of fire. If a fire breaks out and gets into your ventilation system, are you sure that the condition of your dampers will not prevent them from fulfilling this essential role? All fire safety systems must be regularly and professionally maintained to ensure the safety of building occupants. A faulty damper will not prevent the spread of fire or smoke....
Don’t let a fault, or a mistake cause a fire to spread. Only regular checks can ensure the working order of your fire and smoke dampers. The latest BS 9999:2017 (a code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings), states that all dampers should meet the criteria of fire resistance for a stated period of time. It states that any defects are to be logged, necessary actions should be taken, and certificates of testing are to be obtained. Unless you have certification to prove that you can safely carry out fire damper drop testing, you will need specialist help. Choosing a BESA member is a good start. The BESA member should be able to provide a complete tailored service, including the surveys, and setting up the right inspection schedules and record keeping procedures, as well as seamlessly installing any extra access panels and/or inspection hatches as needed.
FCS can provide an essential fire safety service to assist your compliance with the fire safety order. You will be provided with a clear, comprehensive report which will highlight any problems identified and remedial action required to achieve compliance. Let us help you achieve total peace of mind.Read more