The Process of Testing Commercial Fire Dampers

Commercial fire dampers are integral to your building’s emergency system. Keeping them in good condition with regular testing and maintenance will help keep your space and occupants safe from fires during emergencies. Whether you’re following the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) standards or a local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) over your building, testing is essential.

Fire damper testing procedures can be complex and time-consuming, and completing them without professional help is not recommended. Missed steps and processes can lead to consequences that impact your building’s safety and make your organization noncompliant. As a result, understanding fire damper testing will help you know exactly when to contact a professional to complete the work for you.

What Are Fire Dampers?

Commercial fire dampers are essential parts of your building’s fire protection system. Fire dampers prevent fire and smoke from spreading through your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, reducing damage and protecting occupants. These barriers automatically close when they detect smoke or heat, containing the fire and smoke to that section of the building while everyone evacuates.

NFPA 5000 covers all the buildings that need fire dampers and what they should be rated for depending on the building. You must have the correct fire dampers for your space or risk fines and legal issues. With regular inspection, maintenance and testing, you can ensure your commercial building is up to code and ready to protect against fires.

Why Do You Need to Perform Fire Damper Testing? 

Performing fire damper testing is critical for protecting your building and its occupants. Regular testing helps you make sure everything’s in good condition, preventing accidents during emergencies. For example, you can test your damper’s function and response time to ensure there are no issues. As a result, you’ll protect your space and keep your fire dampers in good condition.

How Often Should You Test Your Fire Dampers?

The NFPA requires fire damper testing. One year after installing the system, you should test it. Then, you’ll need to test your fire dampers every four years, or six years if you operate a hospital. If you fail to complete periodic testing as required, you risk your building’s safety. Partnering with a professional to complete these tests will help you stay on track and minimize the chances of falling behind on damper inspections.

Fire Damper Testing Procedures

Several fire damper testing procedures must be completed before your fire damper can be considered effective and operational. When you work with a professional installation company, they should handle these procedures for you. After installation, your fire dampers must go through operational and acceptance testing.

Operational Test

The operational test happens before the acceptance test to ensure everything works correctly. Your damper installer will make sure the damper is unobstructed and operating correctly. They will check that the damper opens and closes properly, the indicator lights function correctly, there’s clear access to the operator and damper, and the velocity rating is correct, if you have a dynamic damper.

Acceptance Test

After completing your operational test and HVAC system installation, a qualified person performs the acceptance test. This test ensures you have undamaged dampers with no missing parts. Additionally, it ensures that actuated dampers close correctly when electricity is disconnected and open fully when it is restored. If you have non-actuated dampers, testing assesses whether the dampers close after the fusible link is removed.

Fire Damper Inspection Checklist

When the four- or six-year mark rolls around, it’s time for a fire damper inspection. Scheduling testing with a professional is highly beneficial. Expert testers know all the requirements for fire damper testing, ensuring your damper works correctly. They can help keep your building safe and let you know if anything needs fixing so you can take prompt action.

Here’s what testers will look for during an actuated fire damper inspection:

  • Is there unobstructed access to the fire damper?
  • Is the damper in a full-open or full-closed position, as the system design requires? 
  • Does the damper fully open and close when operated?

Here’s what they check non-actuated dampers for:

  • Do all fusible links fully close and lock when removed and tested?
  • Are the fusible links unpainted?
  • Does the damper fully close when you remove the fusible link?
  • Does the damper latch when fully closed?
  • Does the damper fully open when you reinstall the fusible link?

Smoke damper testing mimics actuated fire damper testing. If your inspector finds any damper problems, they can recommend the proper solutions and how soon you should make the fixes. Complete your corrections by the required date and get the inspector to sign off on them to keep your damper in good condition. Getting your dampers tested when required is essential to maintain compliance and keep your building safe for occupants.

Do You Need Fire Damper Documentation? 

After getting a professional damper test and inspection, you must ensure you get documentation. Every facility should have documentation confirming testing and inspection. Insurance agencies, fire marshals, the Joint Commission and other AHJs can enforce testing requirements. In an emergency, you need testing documentation to prove you did everything you could to prevent the situation and get your insurance claim filled.

Documentation should include:

  • Inspection date
  • Inspector name
  • Damper location
  • Any damper issues
  • How and when you corrected the damper issues

How to Maintain Your Fire Damper

Maintaining your fire dampers is essential to preventing problems. If your damper is nonoperational and needs repairs, you should address them promptly. You’re required to have a periodic test after you perform these repairs. In general, staying on top of maintenance will extend your dampers’ life span and help keep your building occupants safe.

Make sure to maintain your fire dampers by getting a professional to regularly:

  1. Clean the damper and its components.
  2. Look for corrosion or rust.
  3. Check and tighten the actuator. 
  4. Inspect and replace closure springs if needed. 

Get Fire Damper Testing From Alliance Environmental Group

With over 25 years of industry experience, Alliance Environmental is your trusted expert in fire damper testing, environmental remediation and indoor air quality. We can assess your building’s fire dampers and provide professional maintenance and repair recommendations, helping to keep your building up to standard.

Alongside fire damper testing and repair, we offer an array of fire life safety services to protect your building and its occupants. Whether you operate in healthcare, government or another sector, Alliance Environmental offers thorough services backed by industry knowledge to keep your systems operational.

We offer solutions throughout Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Reach out to us to schedule your next fire damper test today!

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