2020 News

Life-Safety Damper Inspections – Our Experts Meet Need

Life-Safety Damper Inspections – Our Experts Meet Need

Safety of people is always the number one consideration driving Baker Group services on existing buildings and the construction of new ones. That’s especially true in our sheet metal business unit and its respected life-safety damper inspection initiative.

Baker Group offers customers expertise, training and certification in installing and inspecting fire/smoke dampers. These are not common skills. Building owners and their staff members recognize the importance of these inspections. Yet they may not always know that Baker Group performs this service.

“We want to get the word out that we can help fill that inspection need plus any repair needs that might flow from the inspection,” says Russ Connett, Senior Project Manager Team Leader, sheet metal fabrication.  

“With certain exceptions, most inspections of existing buildings are reviewed using the code under which they were built. The building codes at that time dictated where a fire life-safety damper was to be installed and what type of damper was installed,” he explains.

In addition to inspecting the dampers themselves,” Connett says, “we also inspect the current state of the surrounding rated structures in which the dampers are located. In doing so, the owner knows if repairs are required to maintain the integrity of the rated structure itself.”

Baker Group inspectors check for all those contingencies.

“There are a whole host of codes that apply to a building that are discussed and reviewed in great detail before construction even begins.  Some of these discussions revolve around fire safety and include where life-safety dampers are required. 

Buildings are required to follow international building and fire codes. From there, it is up to municipalities or states to set more stringent requirements. Some have done that, especially in the aftermath of major fires with deaths. A 1980 fire in the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, for example, killed 85 guests and employees with many deaths occurring in core area stairwells, most through smoke inhalation.

“When dampers are associated with a fire alarm system, this will also be included as part of our testing procedure and is usually conducted toward the end after all dampers have been inspected and individually tested,” explains Connett.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Fire Code states that dampers should be tested and inspected one year after installation and every four years after that except in hospitals where the frequency shall be every six years (to avoid infection spread). (Please see HVAC Fire Life-Safety video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G38PnqJ1DPg.)

Baker Group has an advantage in conducting building damper inspections because Connett is certified as a Fire/Smoke Damper Technician and Supervisor by the International Certification Board (ICB) testing unit of the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC).  Few contractors have similar qualifications on staff.

He says Baker Group experts know that not all dampers are “installed equally.” When building renovations and technology updates occur, particularly when cables and wires are installed, dampers can be impacted.

Connett and others have performed several major inspections in recent years, and such work is a growing part of their business.  One recent project was inspection of Principal Financial Group’s 801 Grand building, constructed in the 1980s utilizing mostly fire dampers. “We reviewed their drawings, provided a proposal and did the inspections. Our reports are such that they include photos and logs with reference numbers placed on the drawings themselves for future reference,” he says.

Inspectors could check actual tag numbers on the original drawings and replicate those drawings with current findings.  Clarke County Hospital also was a fire life-safety damper project completed last year.

Sometimes inspections indicate that neither repairs or corrections are needed. However, in those instances where repair or correction is needed, Baker Group works hand-in-hand with the building owner and staff to make it happen.

Connett is encouraged by increasing interest in damper inspections. “At the end of the day and especially in the event of an emergency, we want people to be able to go home to their families and loved ones. If by inspecting and testing even just one fire life-safety damper this helps them do that, then we’ve met our goal.”

About Baker Group

Founded in 1963 and with more than 700 employees across Iowa, Baker Group is the Midwest’s premier full-service specialty contractor providing mechanical, sheet metal, electrical, compressed air, building automation, process automation, security systems, fire alarm systems, parking/revenue controls and 24/7/365 service. For more information, call 855.262.4000 or visit https://www.thebakergroup.com/.


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