Fire dampers: fact or fiction

When it comes to fire damper inspections, we often are asked the same questions about code requirements and compliance by our customers. This is understandable considering the amount of code referencing these inspections. What exactly NPFA code requires and how you can ensure your compliance is not always clear when it comes to fire dampers. We’ve written this blog post to answer some frequently asked questions and clear up some common misconceptions.

Can you guess if the following statements are fact or fiction?

1. As long as a fire damper shows up as “closed” on the fire alarm panel, it passes inspection.

Fiction – There is a misconception that if the alarm panel reports a damper as closed that it suffices as a NFPA compliant inspection, but this is NOT the case. Dampers are required to be manually operated and visually inspected to make sure that they will fully cycle in the case of a fire.

NFPA requires a manual test because often dampers will show up as closed on the fire alarm panel, but do not actually close. For example, the actuator on a fire smoke damper may attempt to close the damper and send a signal to the fire alarm panel that the damper is closed. However, upon further physical inspection it is discovered that the actuator motor is not properly linked to the damper, causing the damper to remain in the open position, even though the fire alarm panel reports it as closed.

By manually operating all fire dampers, smoke dampers, and combination fire/smoke dampers and watching them fully cycle, you can ensure a compliant inspection. Here are the NFPA 80 requirements for Damper Inspection and Testing:

19.4.3 Full unobstructed access to the fire or combination fire/smoke damper shall be verified and corrected as required.
19.4.4 If the damper is equipped with a fusible link, the link shall be removed for testing to ensure full closure and lock-in-place if so equipped.
19.4.5 The operational test of the damper shall verify that there is no damper interference due to rusted, bent, misaligned, or damaged frame or blades, or defective hinges or other moving parts.
19.4.6 The damper frame shall not be penetrated by any foreign objects that would affect fire damper operations.
19.4.7 The damper shall not be blocked from closure in any way.

2. All healthcare facilities must have their fire, smoke, and combination fire/smoke dampers inspected once every 6 years.

Fiction – This one is a little tricky. It is true dampers must be inspected every 6 years in hospitals, but in all other healthcare facilities such as: medical office buildings, administrative facilities, and any other type of building dampers are required to be inspected every 4 years. Having an inspection frequency of 6 years in hospitals reduces the number of times dampers in patient-occupied environments must be accessed, as well as shut-downs of hospital ventilation systems, which can be difficult to schedule.

NFPA 80 The test and inspection frequency shall then be every 4 years, except in hospitals, where the frequency shall be every 6 years.

3. All inspections and testing shall be documented, indicating the location of the damper, date of inspection, name of inspector and deficiencies discovered.

Fact – There is more to code compliance than a thorough inspection. The next steps to ensure a safe facility are documentation and correction. All inspections and testing should be thoroughly documented and made readily available for Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) review. Whether documentation is performed by facility staff or an outside contractor, ensure your reports are accurate, detailed and organized. Be sure to keep them somewhere that is easily accessible so when it is time for your AHJ survey you are prepared.

NFPA 80 19.4.9 All inspections and testing shall be documented, indicating the location of the ceiling radiation damper, fire damper or combination fire/smoke damper, date of inspection, name of inspection, and deficiencies discovered.

4. After installation, dampers do not need to be inspected for 4 years.

Fiction – Each damper must be inspected 1 year after installation. The operational test shall verify the damper can fully close from the open position, and that there are no obstructions to the operation of the damper. Fire/Smoke Dampers are critical to compartmentation of smoke and flame in the face of a fire, making it important to ensure they are in proper working condition after installed.

NFPA 80 19.4.1 Each damper shall be tested and inspected 1 year after installation.

5. If deficiencies are discovered during inspection they can be repaired whenever as long as it is compliant before the next inspection.

Fiction – If the damper is found to be inoperable upon inspection, repairs must begin as soon as possible. Following any repair the damper shall be tested for operation in accordance with section 19.4 referenced above in #1. All maintenance shall be documented and kept on file for AHJ review according to the specifications discussed in #3. It is important to take care of your dampers more than every 4 or 6 years to ensure the safety of your building occupants. Reports of changes in airflow or noise from the duct system shall be investigated to ensure they are not related to damper operation.

NFPA 80 19.5.3 If the damper is not operable, repairs shall begin without delay.

We hope this cleared up some of the questions you may have regarding fire damper inspections. If you have any other questions or need assistance with fire damper compliance, give us a call or visit our website for more information,

Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.