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Important new BESA guidance on fire damper testing

By March 7, 2016News

Be one of the first to be aware of important news regarding the maintenance of fire and smoke dampers from the Building & Engineering Association (BESA) in the form of its TB/001 Technical Bulletin: Fire and Smoke Damper Maintenance; outlining additional considerations when testing and maintaining too often neglected fire and smoke dampers.

Click here to view the guidance.

Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean, and a co-author of TR/19, said, “Not enough priority has been given to the testing and maintenance of fire dampers historically.  This has left some property managers with incomplete knowledge of the location and type of fire dampers installed in their ventilation ductwork.  This has in turn left them unsure how, and at what intervals, they should be maintained.  This new guidance from BESA is extremely welcome as it outlines very clearly the different types of mechanism, and reminds building managers of the need to test all fire dampers at regular intervals and to repair any that need rectifying immediately.”

Fire damper testing is a specialist task which requires skilled and appropriately trained technicians, as it can save lives.  If they are in good working order, in the event of a fire, fire dampers close to form compartments within the ductwork, delaying the spread of fire through a building.  This helps to prevent further damage to both the property in which the fire originates and neighbouring homes and businesses.  More importantly, it buys valuable time in which to alert and evacuate any occupants to safety.

Spring-operated fire dampers require annual testing, while non spring-operated models must be tested at least every two years.  The new BESA bulletin explains this and outlines the testing procedure known as drop testing, emphasising the need for full reporting after testing, cleaning and repairs.  BESA also makes it clear that in dust laden environments fire damper testing should be more frequent still.

“Giving consideration to the setting is important and requires expert guidance,” adds Nicholls, “If the performance of the fire damper is hindered by higher than usual levels of dust and other impurities, it could cost lives.  Too often fire dampers are overlooked, whereas they should be prominent on every building manager’s fire safety list of priorities.  We hope that TB/001 will help to achieve that.”

It is also important that fire dampers are correctly installed and commissioned and that their locations and types are recorded in order to make it easier to test them regularly in future.  “Essentially, access panels must also be installed in order to allow both fire damper testing and ductwork cleaning on a regular basis.  We have become expert at retrofitting access panels, but we would rather see sufficient panels installed as part of any well-designed new ventilation system.  With BESA helping to raise the profile of fire damper testing, perhaps we can look forward to a time when this will be more the norm,” Nicholls concludes.