Smoke and fire dampers maintenance. Your legal obligations and how to ensure your systems stay compliant.

Posted by Conor Logan on 13/05/21 10:00

What are fire dampers and why would your building need them?

Smoke DamperTo get started, let’s first explore exactly what a damper is, why dampers are important and how they help keep buildings and people safe.

  • A damper (in simplified HVAC terms) is a device which permits the flow of air when open and restricts the passage of air when closed.
  • A Fire damper is a device that permits the flow of air when open, restricts the passage of air and prevents the passage of fire when closed.
  • A smoke and fire damper is a device that permits the flow of air when open, restricts the passage of air and prevents the passage of smoke and fire when closed.

Fire dampers contain a fire to a single compartment and prevent it from spreading through ducts or other openings. In order to achieve their function, all fire dampers should fail in the closed position and there are generally two ways in which this is achieved; they are either motorised with motor open/spring closed operation or they are held open by a mechanical or electromechanical device and spring closed.

Coltlite_CLSTAll fire and smoke and fire dampers require a thermal device as a final failsafe, so that when the temperature exceeds the operational limit, the damper closes. Only motorised dampers are easily tested and then reset open remotely but confirming that they have operated is often difficult as they are usually hidden away in ducting above ceilings and in walls. Mechanical dampers that rely on a thermal fuse and electromechanical dampers need manual intervention to reset them after operation which makes testing and verification of operation considerably more difficult.

Smoke and fire dampers play and extremely important role in fire safety systems as they are designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke throughout a building via the duct system. Successful compartmentation of the smoke and fire will result in the blaze being easier to put out, as well as helping to keep escape routes clear, keeping air in the building fresher for longer and minimising any potential damage to property.


How often should fire dampers be inspected and tested?

Smoke Damper installed in the roofAs stated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 England and Wales, it is the building owner or operator’s responsibility to maintain fire safety systems in their building. Read on to find out what a good fire damper maintenance regime looks like, including how frequently your dampers need to be serviced and what you should expect your maintenance company to check.

BS 9999 provides a best practice framework for fire safety and includes standards for damper maintenance and fire damper testing. It states that all fire dampers should meet the criteria of fire resistance for a stated period and that:

‘All fire dampers should be tested by a competent person at regular intervals not exceeding one year, and to be repaired or replaced immediately if found to be faulty. Spring-operated fire dampers should be tested annually and fire dampers situated in dust-laden and similar atmospheres should be tested much more frequently, at periods suited to the degree of pollution.’

To make sure you are covered in any eventuality, we at Colt recommend that your dampers receive a full service at least once a year, are inspected at 6 monthly intervals and have 3-monthly functionality tests carried out by a competent servicer.

SFG20, the definitive standard for planned maintenance, also sets out the below specific actions that need to be taken when fire dampers are inspected and tested:

For all fire and smoke dampers: Visually inspect the fire damper’s internal components for signs of corrosion, dirt or dust. In line with the manufacturer’s instructions, clean and lubricate the damper and perform a drop test. Collect digital photographic evidence of damper condition prior to, during and after testing procedures.

For all electro-mechanical fire and smoke dampers: Inspect latching mechanism, operating cable and remote controller (incl. indicator lamp). Ensure cleanliness of, damper guide channels, springs and around the units on completion. Check and ensure correct operation of shutter mechanism. Ensure free fall of damper(s). Check and ensure security of all access doors and gaskets. State possible sources of air leakage. Report any defects and record all actions undertaken.

Collect digital photographic evidence of damper condition prior to, during and after testing procedures.

For all air transfer fire and smoke dampers: Inspect latching mechanism, operating cable and remote controller (incl. indicator lamp). Ensure cleanliness of, damper guide channels, springs and around the units on completion. Check and ensure correct operation of shutter mechanism. Ensure free fall of damper(s). Check and ensure security of all access doors and gaskets. Check for air leaks.

Report any defects and record all actions undertaken.

Collect digital photographic evidence of damper condition prior to, during and after testing procedures.

Intumescent block fire dampers: This type of damper can become blocked and impeded.

They should therefore be part of the maintenance programme if relevant.

Thermal fuse and Intumescent air valves: Remove and replace units in accordance with manufacturers guidance as required to allow cleaning and inspection.

To ensure you are complying with fire damper maintenance legislation, it is imperative that you employ a competent, fully certified company to carry out your damper maintenance. As the pioneers of smoke control system design and maintenance, Colt is the UK’s most experienced maintenance provider. All our service engineers are fully trained and up to date on all the latest in regulatory updates, as well as being well versed in a wide range of manufacturer specs – whoever manufactured your dampers, we can service them.

Not sure if your smoke and fire dampers are being looked after properly?

Talk to our team today for a free consultation. Our years of experience and unrivalled expertise will make setting up a planned maintenance contract that ensures compliance easy.


Conor LoganConor Logan CEng FIMechE FCIBSE is Technical Director of Colt UK. Conor designs innovative smoke control and HVAC systems, represents Colt on many UK and EU standards committees and was Chairman of the Smoke Control Association for over 9 years.

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Topics: Smoke Control, service, smoke control maintenance, Fire Safety