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Helping property managers comply with fire and smoke damper testing

Published 1st December, 2016 by Neil Nixon

Helping property managers comply with fire and smoke damper testing

Swiftclean Building Services' dedicated fire and smoke damper testing service has been coming to the aid of property managers in recent months, as the sharpened focus of health and safety authorities and fire brigades has created a new challenge for them.

Many have inherited the management of properties with poor records of how many fire dampers the property has, where they are located and their type of construction, making compliance a difficult though necessary task. Now the pressure is on to comply and many property managers have turned to building services expert Swiftclean for assistance.

Managing director, Gary Nicholls, said: “Fire and smoke dampers must be tested in accordance with BS 9999:2008. Spring operated fire dampers should be drop tested, cleaned and maintained at intervals of no greater than 12 months, while all other models should be drop tested, cleaned and maintained at least every two years. However, where the property is used for accommodation purposes, fire dampers must be tested annually, regardless of their type. In healthcare settings, premises must also comply with Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 03-01: Specialised ventilation for healthcare premises Part B: Operational management and performance verification. These are passive fire safety devices, designed to slow the spread of fire and smoke and allow sufficient time for people to evacuate a building in a fire situation, so a regular testing regime can genuinely constitute a matter of life and death.”

Achieving compliance is a challenge when few established properties have accurate plans or diagrams showing where fire dampers are located, with few records of the type or number. Fire dampers must, by law, be fitted at any point at which a ventilation duct crosses and therefore interrupts a fire wall. Once installed, it must be tested and maintained in compliance with BS 9999. Essentially any building with a mechanical ventilation system is likely to need fire dampers, and those designed with rooms leading off from corridors will have at least one per room.

Many managers have found that their properties have far more fire dampers than they thought, as Swiftclean's expert teams have been discovering. The building services compliance company has recently experienced a sharp rise in demand for its services as one of the few UK companies to be able to locate and document the fire dampers in situ, to identify and record their type, and to provide appropriate evidenced drop testing, cleaning and maintenance in compliance with BS 9999.

“Buying a cost effective fire damper testing service is essential,” said Gary Nicholls. “This regular maintenance item may not have been high, or even present, on a schedule of works before, but it is a legal requirement under articles 8, 9 and 11 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and one for which enforcement is being stepped up. For hotels, domestic housing, halls of residences, hospital and prisons, in particular, this is now an annual obligation - one which may not have been built into the budget until now. To reiterate, fire dampers are life preserving as they close in the event of fire to delay its spread and allow time for building users to escape. In care settings, the regulations are more demanding, because they safeguard those with disabilities, especially those with limited mobility, who require additional time to be evacuated to safety. This is not an area in which you can cut corners.”

Swiftclean has been providing fire damper testing for many years as part of its overall ventilation hygiene service portfolio, but launched its dedicated fire damper service as a standalone service two years ago in response to market demand. While this has had good take up from the outset, demand has risen markedly since the spring of 2016 due to greater vigilance in fire inspections and greater understanding of the need for compliance with BS 9999. The company expects this level of demand to continue as property managers strive to achieve compliance.

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