Everybody knows how essential fire smoke dampers can be in preventing major hazards and saving lives. Sadly, when it comes to keeping regular tabs on smooth running of these life-saving mechanisms people tend to be surprising callous. The result, when firebreaks out, they become sitting ducks (or rather roasted ducks in such cases!). Even after installing these ingenious structures, death tolls due to fire in US are forever rising. Lack of maintenance in the post installation phase jams up the dampers and they fail to work when needed the most!
Those who want to know about the importance of combined fire and smoke dampers do not need to look beyond the WTC attack. These simple mechanisms saved the lives of many people by giving them enough time to flee in a tragedy that killed over 3,000 firefighters and civilians! Damage due to campus and hospital fires can be limited significantly through regular inspection of dampers and other fire curbing mechanisms. In large complexes and multi-storied buildings, lack of proper work force is one of the limitations that prevent regular maintenance and upkeep of these systems.
Dampers save damage by delaying and stopping spread of smoke, gas, fumes, and flames in case of fire or planned attack. This results in saving of human lives. For building managers or owners it signifies lower replacement and reconstruction costs. Even insurance companies are asking for proof of regular inspections for determining building safety! With incidences of terrorism and arson on the rise, the focus shifted from simple fire safety or its compliance. Everybody realizes that the HVAC system related to residential and commercial buildings makes it easy for biological aerosolized agents, smoke, or fire to travel unhampered and fast. So much so that planning guidelines related to terrorism prevention these days, emphasize on the use of sturdy and functional air duct dampers.
Building evaluation these days should contain reports regarding filtration through duct-work and its overall condition besides presence of functioning dampers. Their sealing condition in the closed state and responsiveness in emergencies are other points to note. After all, prevention is always better than cure! Most manufacturers recommend timely inspection and testing of dampers, ideally once every 6 months. Increased testing signifies smooth working of these mechanisms for an extended period. This also lessens regular replacement needs, helping owners save money while simultaneously ensuring that the buildings remain safe in case of emergencies.
In the modern world, dampers are as crucial as any other fire safety device that people install in their home or office. Sadly, in spite of so many inherent benefits, the failure rate of fire smoke dampers is still uncomfortably high! So, do not take their maintenance lightly. They can very well be the difference between LIFE and DEATH for you!