With a new school year underway, it’s important to make sure students, faculty and staff are protected in the event of a fire emergency. All it takes is 90 seconds for a small flame to become completely out of control and turn into a major fire. Not to mention, smoke travels up to 120-420 feet per minute under fire conditions.
Both fire and smoke can spread quickly, and it is crucial to make sure that your facility is prepared, especially in areas that are hidden. Having properly installed and working dampers is just one of the many ways to protect your building and all its occupants during a fire. There are three different types of dampers: fire damper, smoke damper, and combination damper.
Fire dampers prevent the spread of fire within the ductwork through fire-resistance rated walls and floors. For example, when the temperature rises the fusible link melts, which shuts the damper and prevents the spread of flames. Fire damper deficiencies include:
- Screw in track
- Linkage out of alignment or broken
- Bound in tracks (racking)
- Damper rusted
- Damper propped open
Smoke dampers are designed to resist the passage of air and smoke within the ductwork. A smoke detector, which is located inside the duct will send a signal to the smoke damper when smoke is detected. The smoke damper will then be shut by the actuator that is attached to the damper. Smoke damper deficiencies include:
- No Air to Actuator
- No Airline to Actuator
- Not Enough Air to Actuator
- No Power to Actuator
- No Power Wired to Actuator
Combination dampers, which are both a fire and a smoke damper in one, are used in areas of the ductwork where both fire and smoke barriers are located to prevent the spread of both fire and smoke.
Dampers are a key component to a building’s overall fire and life safety plan. They help prevent the spread of fire and smoke by blocking access through the facility’s ventilation system. However, this means dampers are hidden from view, which means they are less likely to be though about. Dampers also have a tendency to frequently fail, which is why they must be maintained on a routine basis. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 90A and 105 state, “Each damper shall be tested and inspected one year after installation” and “The test and inspection frequency shall then be every 4 years”.