FIRE DAMPERS | Detailed Guide to Testing

January 6, 2022 |

Fire codes and standards require that fire dampers are tested, maintained, and inspected with documentation at regular intervals, after installation, and throughout their intended life, to ensure that they operate correctly and as intended when needed.

The codes/standards that note these requirements are:

  • NFPA 80 – Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives
  • NFPA 90A – Installation of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems
  • BS 9999 – Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, management, and use of Buildings

The below article will concentrate on the drop-type, actuated, and monitored type mechanical fire damper, and how they should be inspected and tested from completion of installation till the end of their working life.

If you want to read more about fire dampers, please see our article FIRE DAMPERS | Ultimate Understanding and Selection

How often should fire dampers be tested/maintained and inspected?

Fire dampers should be tested under 3 activities, with the code requirements listed below:

  • 1. Operational Test
  • 2. Acceptance Test
  • 3. Periodic Test
 Operational TestingAcceptance TestingPeriodic Inspection
NFPA 80 [Chapter 19]Directly after installationDirectly after installation1 year after Operational/Acceptance Testing then every 4 years or 6 years if a hospital
NFPA 90A [Chapter 7]n/aPrior to the occupation of the buildingn/a
BS 9999 [Annex W]*n/aDirectly after installationeach 1 year after Operational/Acceptance Test

*Within BS9999 its notes that dampers installed in dirty/dusty environments should be tested more regularly in line with the pollution encountered. This should be detailed by the facility managers.

Who can test the fire dampers?

NFPA 80 [Section 19.4.1] – notes that fire damper inspection and testing should be completed by a person who is qualified with knowledge and who understands the operation and design of the systems being worked upon.

What Fire damper testing tools can we use?

The usual tools that are used to drop test and reset dampers are our hands, however, this has its risks, and sometimes it’s just hard work.

There are many testing tools that can help on the market, just do a google search and they will all come up.

How are fire dampers tested and inspected?

Although dampers are extremely critical in protecting people and buildings during an emergency the inspection and testing requirements are quite basic as noted in the codes and standards, but very important.

The fire damper inspection checklists/works, and testing should consist of the following sequence:

  • Pre-inspection works
  • Review of documentation and certificates
  • Visual inspection
  • Operational, acceptance, and periodic testing

each should include a fire damper inspection checklist

Inspections, checks, and testing for a fire damper that USES a FUSIBLE LINK

Pre-Inspection works

Prior to visually inspecting and testing the fire dampers, we should understand the building and its systems by completing a comprehensive desktop study.

Below are some pointers that should be considered:

RefReview
1.0Obtain all drawings [layout and schematics] of the systems that will be inspected and tested
2.0If there are no drawings or the information provided is confusing then a full onsite review should be conducted, starting with the locations of the fire barriers etc.
3.0Review the overall layout of the building making note of locations of equipment and systems etc
4.0Review the damper locations and quantities that will be inspected and tested
5.0Understand if there are any systems, which the dampers are installed, would be considered hazardous and need specialized personal protective equipment [PPE], tools, or resources
6.0Review the dampers and their design intent, are they static dampers or dynamic dampers
7.0If the damper is designed to be static – can the fans be shut down to allow testing, not affecting other areas.
8.0If the damper is designed to be dynamic – the fans may be switched off under NFPA 19.5.2.2.2 to test, or if site restrictions don’t allow this – check what areas of the building/systems will be impacted.
9.0Understand the permits that will be required to conduct the works
10.0Will works need to be conducted out of hours
11.0Based upon the number of dampers, what is the expected time period to complete the works.

Fusible fire damper testing documents and certification

NPFA-80 [Chapter 19], requires all documentation related to proving the inspection and testing of the dampers should include the following information [as noted with ‘Yes’ bold], we have added some other information that would be useful: 

RefDescriptionRequired
1.0Location of DamperYes
2.0Damper NumberOptional
3.0Ventilation SystemOptional
4.0Static Designed DamperOptional
5.0Dynamic Designed DamperOptional
6.0Date of InspectionYes
7.0Inspector NameYes
8.0Inspector CompanyOptional
9.0Observations/Deficiencies [space for]Yes
10.0Observations/Deficiencies Close Out [space for]Yes

All documentation should be kept and maintained for at least three test cycles and made available for review by the AHJ.

Awesome Equipment
Three Lens Borescope Inspection Camera, NTS300 Teslong 5" HD
$179.99

Often there are issues with gaining access to certain spaces, whether that be an installation issue or someone has come later and blocked the access.


If that is the case we would use this type of Borescope Inspection Camera to get into and see everything.

Check it out here
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2023 12:36 am GMT

Visual Inspection

Prior to the damper testing taking place, we should conduct a visual inspection to ensure that there is access, it is installed and there are no obvious problems that can be seen.

RefCheckNotes
1.0Permit applied for and granted to conduct works based upon the Pre-Inspection findings above. 
2.0PPE available.Hard hat, glasses/goggles, long sleeve shirt, arm protector, hi-vis, gloves, boots.
3.0Access available.Working platform
4.0The operative conducting the inspecting and testing of the fire dampers is qualified to do so. 
5.0All documentation and records for inspection and testing are in line with NFPA Chapter 19 requirements. 
6.0Manufacturers’ installation & maintenance instructions are available, attached, and have been reviewed. 
7.0The damper is labeled in line with NFPA 90A [Section 4.3.5.2].Access to dampers shall be identified with letters having a minimum height of 12.7 mm (1⁄2 in.) to indicate the location of the fire protection device(s) within.
8.0Access in line with NFPA 90A [Section 7.2.1]An access door shall be provided that is not less than 12 in. (305 mm) square or provided with a removable duct section
9.0Type of access providedNote if an access door or Removable Section
10.0Access is clear and not obstructed 
11.0Breakaway connection installedIn line with manufacturers’ requirements
12.0Installation of fire damper in line with manufacturers’ instructionsSleeves, mounting, types of fasteners etc.
13.0Confirm Fire Dampers are UL555 rated 
14.0Visually confirm that the damper is in the fully open position or fully closed as required by the designNote if open or if closed is that the design?.
15.0Visually confirm there are no obstructions or foreign objects that will affect the operation of the damper 
16.0Check that the damper is not painted 
17.0Visually confirm that the damper is clean and free of dust/dirtIf it is not, then clean and confirm the damper has been cleaned

Operational, acceptance, and periodic testing of fire damper USING a fusible link

Once the visual inspection has been concluded the following testing should commence, with any observations being logged and noted in the observations field of the testing document.

If during the inspecting and/or testing a non-compliant damper is noted, then remedial works should be completed immediately and all visual inspections and physical testing repeated and documented.

RefActivityNotes
1.0Check the status of system fans [airflow] and ensure are switched off or still running based upon permit 
2.0Remove access panel/section of ducting to gain access 
3.0Remove/activate the fusible link to drop the damper 
4.0Ensure damper drops cleanly with no intervention needed and fully 100% 
5.0If the damper has a latch holding the damper fully closed, ensure the latch operates 
6.0Inspect fusible link for wear, defects and to make sure not paintedNote if the link was replaced or not. If the link is replaced then it should be UL approved and in line with the manufacturer’s literature.
7.0Reset the damper to the fully open position 
8.0Reinstate or replace the fusible link 
9.0Ensure that the damper is unobstructed and fully operational before completing 
10.0Complete all documentation and log and file 

Inspections, checks, and testing for an Actuated Fire Damper not using a Fusible Link

The below works are related to dampers that would use an electronic or pneumatic actuator to control their opening, usually closing via a spring.

Note that in line with NFPA, Fans are not permitted to be shut down during this type of test.

Pre-Inspection works

As with the previous sections, prior to visually inspecting and testing the dampers, we need to understand the building and its systems by completing a comprehensive desktop study, some pointers below:

RefReview
1.0Obtain all drawings [layout and schematics] of the systems that will be inspected and tested
2.0If there are no drawings or the information provided is confusing then a full onsite review should be conducted, starting with the locations of the fire barriers etc.
3.0Review the overall layout of the building making note of locations of equipment and systems etc
4.0Review the damper locations and quantities that will be inspected and tested
5.0Understand if there are any systems, which the dampers are installed, would be considered hazardous and need specialized personal protective equipment [PPE], tools, or resources
6.0Ensure that during the testing the fans are able to operate [in line with NFPA 19.5.2.3.1]
7.0Check what areas of the building/systems will be impacted by the testing.
8.0Understand the permits that will be required to conduct the works
9.0Will works need to be conducted out of hours
10.0Based upon the number of dampers, what is the expected time period to complete the works.

Actuated Fire damper testing documents and certification

As with the fusible link requirements above, NPFA-80 [Chapter 19], requires all documentation related to proving the inspection and testing of the dampers should include the following information [as noted with ‘Yes’ bold], we have added some other information that would be useful.

RefDescriptionRequired
1.0Location of DamperYes
2.0Damper NumberOptional
3.0Ventilation SystemOptional
4.0Static Designed DamperOptional
5.0Dynamic Designed DamperOptional
6.0Actuator Type [pneumatic/electronic]Optional
7.0Date of InspectionYes
8.0Inspector NameYes
9.0Inspector CompanyOptional
10.0Observations/Deficiencies [space for]Yes
11.0Observations/Deficiencies Close Out [space for]Yes

All documentation should be kept and maintained for at least three test cycles and made available for review by the AHJ.

Visual Inspection

Prior to the damper testing taking place, we should conduct a visual inspection to ensure that there is access, it is installed and there are no obvious problems that can be seen.

RefCheckNotes
1.0Permit applied for and granted to conduct works based upon the Pre-Inspection findings above. 
2.0PPE available.Hard hat, glasses/goggles, long sleeve shirt, arm protector, hi-vis, gloves, boots.
3.0Access available.Working platform
4.0The operative conducting the inspecting and testing of the fire dampers is qualified to do so. 
5.0All documentation and records for inspection and testing in line with NFPA Chapter 19 requirements. 
6.0Manufacturers’ installation & maintenance instructions are available, attached, and have been reviewed. 
7.0The damper is labeled in line with NFPA 90A [Section 4.3.5.2].Access to dampers shall be identified with letters having a minimum height of 12.7 mm (1⁄2 in.) to indicate the location of the fire protection device(s) within.
8.0Access in line with NFPA 90A [Section 7.2.1]An access door shall be provided that is not less than 12 in. (305 mm) square or provided with a removable duct section
9.0Type of access providedNote if an access door or Removable Section
10.0Access is clear and not obstructed 
11.0Breakaway connection installedIn line with manufacturers’ requirements
12.0Installation of fire damper in line with manufacturers’ instructionsSleeves, mounting, types of fasteners etc.
13.0Ensure the actuator is the one that was attached to the damper when purchased and is still installed as per UL and the manufacturer’s requirements.The requirements are the damper actuator should not be replaced and should be attached to the damper at the factory.
14.0Confirm Fire Dampers are UL555 rated 
15.0Visually confirm that the damper is in the fully open position or fully closed as required by the designNote if open or if closed is that the design?.
16.0Visually confirm there are no obstructions or foreign objects that will affect the operation of the damper 
17.0Check that the damper is not painted 
18.0Visually confirm that the damper is clean and free of dust/dirtIf it is not, then clean and confirm the damper has been cleaned
19.0Visually inspect and confirm that the actuator is unobstructed, undamaged, and clean 

Operational, acceptance, and periodic testing of actuated fire damper not using a fusible link

Once the visual inspection has been concluded the following testing should commence, with any observations being logged and noted in the observations field of the testing document.

If during the inspecting and/or testing a non-compliant damper is noted, then remedial works should be completed immediately and all visual inspections and physical testing repeated and documented.

RefActivityNotes
1.0Check the status of system fans [airflow] and ensure are still running based upon permit 
2.0Remove access panel/section of ducting to gain access. 
3.0Command the damper to close or open via the actuator and visually confirm it closes 100% 
4.0Command the damper to restore original/design position [close or open] via the actuator and visually confirm it operates to 100% 
5.0Ensure that the damper is unobstructed and fully operational before completing 
6.0Complete all documentation and log and file 

Inspections, checks, and testing of Actuated fire damper not using a fusible link that has a Remote Inspection 

The below works are related to dampers that would be remotely monitored using an electronic or pneumatic actuator to control their opening.

Note that in line with NFPA, Fans are not permitted to be shut down during this type of test.

Refer to the below in the previous section to complete the following:

  • Pre-inspection works
  • Review of documentation and certificates
  • Visual inspection

Operational, acceptance and periodic testing of Actuated fire damper not using a fusible link that has a Remote Inspection

Once the visual inspection has been concluded the following testing should commence, with any observations being logged and noted in the observations field of the testing document.

If during the inspecting and/or testing a non-compliant damper is noted, then remedial works should be completed immediately and all visual inspections and physical testing repeated and documented.

RefActivityNotes
1.0Check the status of system fans [airflow] and ensure are still running based upon permit 
2.0Remove access panel/section of ducting to gain access. 
 3.0Visually confirm that the open/closed position indication lamps at the panel match the status of the damper 
4.0Command the damper to close or open visually confirm it closes 100% and that the indication panel and lights are inline 
5.0Command the damper to restore original/design position [close or open] and visually confirm it operates to 100% 
6.0Ensure that the damper is unobstructed and fully operational before completing 
7.0Complete all documentation and log and file 

Related Articles

⬛ Latest Articles


⬛ Author

If you would like to know more about the author, here is my Personal Linkedin Account