Fire dampers, like many hidden safety systems, are subject to environmental wear and degradation that can impede their proper operation. It is therefore critical that you follow the standards for testing intervals and maintenance procedures established in NFPA 90A.
Your building’s fire dampers are important devices that help guarantee occupants have a higher chance of survival in a fire. They prevent flames from spreading by sealing spaces automatically, but if you don’t test and maintain them, they’re worthless.
NFPA 90A stipulates that your fire dampers need to be tested and maintained at least every four years. What many building owners skim over, however, is the rule stating that they should also be tested one year after their original installation and at least once prior to any occupancy. Make sure you don’t make this mistake. All it takes is one missed test for the fire marshal to declare your facilities unsuitable.
When you perform testing, you’re looking to see if the dampers close when you trigger them. It’s important to ensure that they close quickly, but also that they close completely. Any gaps could result in a massive spread of smoke or fire. If you’ve been keeping up with the maintenance schedule, however, this won’t be a problem. Maintenance includes three steps, namely:
• Removing fusible links if they exist
• Checking latches if they are present in your damper model
• Lubricating movable parts as necessary
These steps should always be performed in conjunction with the required operating test.
Another commonly overlooked aspect of testing and maintenance is the documentation you need to create. Although you may feel that you’ve done your job by testing your dampers, you can’t pass your fire inspection if you don’t prove it with a written record.
Always note the date and time of the test, along with all of the procedures performed. If there were any complications, errors or deficiencies, you need to record them as well. When you correct these problems, record the date of the repairs. Make sure that either your maintenance team or fire protection consultant always adheres to these rules and records their work clearly. This way, future maintenance will be accurate enough to keep you up to code.