Fire dampers are products that are considered as passive fire protection (PFP). They are utilized in air conditioning to avoid the spread of smoke or fire within the ductwork. Additionally, if inside the ductwork, they are also used to preserve the requirement for fire rated barriers, such as those in partitions, walls, and floor. If there is a rise in temperature, the function of the fire damper is to close and prevent the flame from spreading through its barrier. Dampers are usually created in a curtain manner, where it will close if and when a fusible link has melted.
The state when a fusible link will melt is at the stage the temperature reaches 165°F. In some cases, the fusible link that are higher in degree may melt once it reaches a higher level of temperature, for instance 212°F. The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certifies the fire dampers. These ratings usually vary, but in general are from one and one half (1 ½) hours to three (3) hours.
The Fire Damper Inspection
Fire dampers are required to be tested at a specific period of time. This is according to The National Fire Protection Association, State Fire Marshals, International Code Council, and The Joint Commission. The NFPA 80 of NFPA's Life Safety Code requires fire and fire/smoke dampers to be inspected and tested one year after it has been installed. Moreover, testing and inspection must be completed in every 4-year period. This, however, does not include fire and fire/smoke dampers in hospitals where testing and inspection is done in every 6-year period.
Why Fire Damper Instruction is Important
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that fire deaths as a result of smoke inhalation are higher than deaths from burn. In 2002, for every three fire victims, two dies from smoke inhalation and one from the burn itself. In addition, an estimated 60% to 80% of burn victims die every year because of smoke inhalation, making it the main cause of death among them. Even firefighters are not resistant from the danger of inhaling smoke. In 2003, 2890 firefighters were injured due to smoke inhalation, according to NFPA.
These figures prove that it is extremely important to have fire damper instruction to save lives and minimize the damage that fire can do to properties. The International Building Code recognized this fact and hence introduced new designs for fire and smoke dampers, increasing the flexibility of the installer and design of the system.
In recent times, several fire damper designs, especially those kinds of dampers that are combination of fire/smoke, have improved their installation flexibility and application. Furthermore, the number of UL tests have also increased, making it easier to accommodate new installation techniques and newer designs of fire dampers.
The installation of fire dampers must be done according to the manufacture’s instruction as tested by the UL or other code-compliant approval unit. It is a must to check with the fire damper’s manufacturing agency approved installation manual. These fire damper instruction manuals are often available through the manufacturer’s website.