Bulletin 159 May 2012 Maintaining Building Fire and Smoke Dampers
- Posted at: September 25, 2021 03:33:11

An approved fire safety plan is required by code as part of the fire and life safety program in a building. It is a key document which facilities managers must implement and regularly review. A fire safety plan consists of multiple sections, and starts by classifying the building according to the anticipated hazard of the occupancy. This classification will determine the necessary safety features and occupancy requirements. In consideration of potential fire emergency situations, it establishes standard building evacuation procedures. It includes practice exercises, such as fire drills, which are designed to help save lives and reduce personal injury. Every building operator prefers to prevent fires from starting but unfortunately fires do occur. In the event of a fire, the aim is to reduce its impact on both the occupants and the property by stopping it from spreading as effectively as possible. This is accomplished through protection, separation and containment. The intention is to enhance fire safety by slowing the growth of a fire within the structure, and to limit the exposure of occupants to fire and its by-products. Of course, the risk of fire will vary according to any materials being stored and used, as well as the activities taking place on the premises.

Understandably, fire separation relies mainly on constructed barriers such as doors and walls, to slow the spread of fire and smoke from one area to another. These barriers must be continuous and uninterrupted without unprotected openings that allow air transfer between one side and the other. Barriers are rated by their tested ability to withstand fire and smoke, and are listed according to the duration of time for which they will inhibit fire spread. The required rating will vary based on the nature of the occupancies being separated. Doors, glazing and other openings in fire barriers must meet the appropriate rating for the separation wall in which they are installed. A typical example is office space with an adjoining boiler room and paint storage room. To maintain effectiveness of the barriers, these doors must remain closed at all times when not in use. Today, buildings are being designed to create containment areas. The goal is to confine a fire to a specific area of the building through the use of fire-rated construction methods. An example is an electrical room; the area within the separation walls is enclosed within a larger compartment that further isolates the contained area from the remainder of the building.

Although there have been huge advancements in the effectiveness of fire separation materials and methods of installation, their role remains mainly to prevent the spread of flames. Modern building environmental systems reduce the energy operating cost and distribute air efficiently throughout the building. However, just as with fire safety equipment, the effectiveness of fire and smoke damper systems is critical in minimizing the distribution of smoke. Smoke travels easily through standard air ducts at speeds of one to two metres per second, and can quickly endanger building occupants outside the immediate fire zone. It covers the ceiling, creating a dense layer that descends onto the occupants of the room. It is therefore a requirement of the fire code to perform weekly and monthly checks as well as annual testing of all fire and smoke dampers. Regular inspections are also required to all fire separation equipment within the building. Further guidelines and specified intervals are outlined in the approved fire safety plan.

This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.

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