Simply put, fire dampers are fire protection products used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ducts. They prevent the spread of fire inside the ductwork through fire-resistance rated walls and floors.
The British Standard 9999:2008 Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management & Use of Buildings states that any grille or opening through an enclosure for ventilation purposes needs to be protected by a fire damper.
They define a fire damper as a mechanical device that is operated either automatically or manually and is designed to prevent the passage of fire and which, together with its frame, is capable of meeting for a stated period of time the fire resistance criterion.
Essentially, fire dampers are located where ductwork passes through fire compartment walls and floors.
They are typically held open by a ‘fusible link’ which is a device that releases a component such as a fire damper or fire shutter at a set temperature. When the fusible link is met by high heat, the link will melt, closing the damper and stopping the spread of fire.
The dampers are fitted in ductwork where it passes through a fire compartment barrier, for example at fire-rated walls and floors. They are designed to shut when a specified temperature or fire/smoke condition is met, preventing the spread of fire and smoke.
Why you need to test and inspect fire and smoke dampers…
Fire dampers play a crucial role in a building’s fire safety system. If they fail, then fire can spread with rapid and with potentially deadly results.
Notable incidents involving considerable loss of life include the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas & the Dusseldorf Airport fire, in which a total of 85 people were killed and 650 injured, including guests, employees and 14 firefighters. So the difference between a well-maintained, working fire damper and an ill-maintained fire damper can be the difference between life and death in the case of a fire.
How often should a damper be tested?
This can be somewhat ambiguous as the British Standard calls for regular testing ‘not exceeding two years’. It does, however, go on to require that spring-operated fire dampers – which are the most common – should be tested every 12 months.
Environment factors play a part in how often you should test too. For example, a dusty environment will require more frequent checks and cleaning.