Fire safety is not something that should be taken lightly and whilst having the required fire detection, prevention, suppression, exit and alarm systems in place is a great start, it is often the failure to properly maintain these systems which puts lives at risk.
The social housing sector provides unique challenges for councils, landlords, local authorities and housing associations who own, manage or are in charge of properties occupied by social tenants. On such a large scale, with multiple buildings or ‘housing stock’, it is a big responsibility to ensure that critical fire protection elements such as fire dampers are regularly tested, checked and if required cleaned, repaired or replaced.
At Swiftclean, our dedicated team are experts at delivering fast, cost effective and straight forward fire damper testing services for social housing, helping to protect your building and its tenants.
What is a fire damper?
Fire dampers are a passive fire protection product which is integrated into the ductwork of a building as part of a heating, ventilation system or air conditioning system (HVAC). Their purpose is to help delay and slow the progression of smoke or fire from spreading to other areas of the building. This not only gives those inside the vital time they need to safely evacuate but can also help to reduce or limit the amount of damage caused by the fire.
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How do fire dampers work?
In the event of a fire, a buildings fire damper will be activated by either one of two ways;
- A thermal element which registers when the temperature rises above the expected ambient level.
- An electrical signal received from the alert of fire from smoke or fire alarm systems.
When the dampers are triggered, the dampers ‘shutter’ is activated which springs closed, providing the essential barrier needed to delay the fire from passing through a fire barrier and restricting the flow of both smoke and fire.
Can fire dampers fail?
One of the biggest reasons why fire dampers require regular testing is because if left unchecked, there are a number of issues that could lead to them failing at the crucial moment they are needed – the consequences of which could be devastating.
These can include things such as;
- Corroded springs
- Collapsed / damaged blades
- Build-up of dirt or debris preventing a tight seal
- Blocked by an obstruction
- Human error (cables run through the duct and damper)
Why are fire dampers so important?
Fire dampers are a crucial part of fire containment and an essential component which, in the event of a fire, will help to maintain the integrity of critical exit routes, helping to save the lives of those inside.
If a building was to have a ducted system running through it with no fire dampers in place, a fire would be able to pass through the duct and ‘jump’ across fire-resistant walls and floors, quickly spreading out of control.
Maintaining Fire Dampers
The nature of multiple occupancy, with a number of self-contained households within a single building, has always posed a greater risk of harm to occupants from fire than individual houses, due to the greater potential for the spread of fire and smoke throughout the whole building.
To ensure that they are working effectively, fire dampers require regular, planned, preventative maintenance. Councils, housing associations and local authorities who manage buildings with tenants are legally responsible under the British Standard BS 9999:2017 and the
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, to ensure that all fire dampers are tested, cleaned and maintained at least every 12 months.
Fire dampers are tested using a method called ‘drop testing’ which involves the electronic testing or manual release of the dampers fusible link in order to carry out visual checks of the mechanism’s integrity and confirm that the louvres can close effectively and fully upon release. Following testing, the fire damper will then be properly reset so that it is ready to go in case it is ever needed.
Although fire dampers should be in a place that provides easy access for testing and maintenance, this is not always the case. Where there is no accessible hatch or panel, our experts are able to install them for you to make the process of keeping your building safe and compliant simple and straight forward.
When we carry out fire damper testing, we keep accurate records of when, what and how the testing was carried out and use that information to produce a detailed and accurate fire damper testing report, complete with photographic evidence. This is key for helping those responsible to be able to prove to tenants and the relevant authorities that professional testing has been conducted.
Fire Safety for Social Housing
Fire dampers are an incredibly important part of fire safety and so must be properly maintained to ensure that if they are ever needed, they are in full working order. At Swiftclean, we provide professional social housing fire damper testing services to help you locate, test, clean and maintain them for straight forward fire damper compliance.
If you have any doubts about your building’s compliance or would like to find out more about our fire damper testing services, then please do not hesitate to get in touch and the dedicated team at Swiftclean will be happy to help.