NFPA Recommends the Testing and Inspection of Passive Fire Protection Systems in the Commissioning Process
Commissioning is a quality assurance service that ensures a building owner that they have received a completed project from the contractor. Standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) outline specifically what falls under the quality control procedures, specifically when it comes to fire and smoke dampers. NFPA 3's Recommended Practice on Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems states specifically that "third-party" test entities should have an advanced understanding of the installation, operation, and maintenance of all fire protection and life safety systems proposed to be tested, with particular emphasis on system integrated testing." When commissioning these systems, the third-party should have ample experience having working in large commercial facilities and have wide-ranging knowledge based on NFPA codes and standards.
So, what should the commissioning agent look for when reviewing the fire and smoke dampers in a new facility or renovation? This really depends on the manufacturer and their installation instructions. We completed a commissioning project at a major airport a few years ago that used Ruskin products exclusively. Our expert referred to the installation instructions and checked for specific requirements in regards to opening clearances, fasteners and multiple section assembly, damper sleeves, damper orientation, and duct/sleeve connects. It's also important to note that there was a section in the guide dedicated solely to the installation and maintenance of these dampers, which reiterates the importance of testing the damper on a regular basis per NFPA code standards.
Which damper to use in a renovation or new construction is really dependent on the rating of the wall and the application and every damper will have its own unique scenario. Whether or not the damper is in a metal stud or concrete wall can drastically change the attributes to the damper used, the link used the size of duct etc. Knowledge of this is really just another example of why NFPA requires a third-party to perform commissioning inspections.
The bottom line is that commissioning your passive fire protection system as you are handed the keys to your facility can save you an incredible amount of money in the future. If these applications were installed incorrectly and not according to specs, your contractor is responsible for fixing the problems.