FAQ Friday, NFPA 80 - What is the inspection and testing frequency for fire dampers?
As the name implies, NFPA 80 provides requirements for more than just fire doors. The installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of other opening protectives such as fire windows, glass block assemblies, fabric fire safety curtains and fire dampers are also included within the scope of NFPA 80.
Three editions ago (2007), the requirements for the installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire dampers were moved from NFPA 90A to NFPA 80. One of the questions I get asked most often is with regards to the inspection and test frequency of fire dampers. Like all opening protectives, continued maintenance and inspection is critical and will help ensure that the doors, windows, shutters, dampers, etc. will operate properly under fire conditions.
First, an operational test must be completed after the installation of the fire damper is complete. Then, each fire damper must be tested and inspected one year after the installation. After that one year mark, fire dampers must then be tested and inspected every four years except for hospitals which have a six year frequency.
This begs a follow up question: why the difference in the testing and inspection frequency between hospitals and other types of building uses?
Most users expect provisions related to hospitals to be more restrictive than for other types of buildings. The healthcare industry presented the technical committee with significant evidence that a four-year inspection frequency for fire dampers in hospitals, in these buildings, is a hindrance. Hospitals are unique in that they have many building systems critical to the life safety and health of their occupants (patients). Personnel accessing fire dampers every four years would entail the risk of interfering with or potentially damaging the many systems (HVAC, medical gas systems, sprinkler piping, electrical systems) that are located near the fire dampers and above ceilings. The six-year frequency allows for a reasonable but safe length of time between inspections and also ensures the integrity of the hospital operations.
Additional details regarding the inspection criteria and documentation can be found in Chapter 19 of NFPA 80.