Think your fire alarm company tests your dampers, too? Think again.

One of the most common misconceptions in our industry is that facilities often think that their alarm companies test their dampers, and because of this, they are in compliance with local and state building codes.  To clear up any confusion there is about who tests what, we created this easy to understand illustration. Take a look.

fire damper


What changes are you making to your fire safety plan for 2015?

2015 is likely to be a very busy year for all us. With the word on the street that CMS and the Joint Commission may adopt the 2012 version of NFPA’s Life Safety Code®, many of us will find ourselves needing to make drastic changes to our current fire safety plan to accommodate the new requirements of the code. Many of the changes will require more work and more planning by you – the rule of thumb is to start now so you are in compliance when the code is in fact adopted.

New code requirements will mandate that all swinging fire doors in a facility undergo annual inspections based on NFPA 80′s eleven (11) major inspection points. NFPA 80 also requires that the inspections be carried out by qualified individuals with understanding of fire rated door assemblies. With hundreds of moving parts in any given fire door assembly, they can be far more complicated than one might think.

Many people don’t realize how important fire doors are to a strong barrier management plan. The passive fire protection system is part of the building’s overall construction and is meant to work in tangent with the building’s active fire protection system.  This system works to slow the spread of fire and smoke through a building with use of fire and smoke barriers to compartmentalize and contain fire to a specific area. Through use of fire rated walls, ceilings and floors in combination with firestopping materials, fire and smoke dampers and fire and smoke doors , this system allows the fire to be contained so fire fighters can concentrate on a fire before it has the ability to spread to other areas of the building.  In essence, your facility is only fully protected from the risk of fire when these two systems are working together, if one is working and not the other, your facility is at risk. According to NFPA statistics, almost 70% of all building deaths are associated with smoke inhalation.  This is a staggering statistic when considering the safety of your building and occupants.  Knowing this, what do you plan to do different in 2015?


passive fire protection


Common Misconceptions: “My Alarm Company Does That”

Who tests the fire and smoke dampers in your facility? This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions that we run across in the field and we wanted to take just a moment to help try and clear up any confusion you might have about who tests what. Many people think that their alarm company in fact tests the dampers during their routine annual inspection of the alarm.  This is not the case, as illustrated in the steps below.

Combination Fire and Smoke Dampers

STEP 1 – The relay and alarm panel is test by the alarm company making sure the alarm panel is “speaking” to the actuator/motor on the damper.

STEP 2 – The smoke detector or relay from the area smoke detector system is tested by the alarm company, but they do not test the damper.

Actuator/motor is tested by a damper expert making sure the damper operated and is in compliance with NFPA 105.


Fire Damper Inspection

Fire dampers are operated manually and are not connected to an alarm panell, therefore the alarm company would not test them.  In an emergency, the fire damper closes when the fusible link melt at a specified rating per link.

Fire dampers are tested and inspected by a damper expert who manually releases the link ensuring the damper operated per NFPA 80.


We have created this cheat sheet for you to help you better understand the difference between the alarm test and the code mandated fire and smoke damper inspection.


Task Alarm Company

Damper Expert such as LSS

Test relay is communicating with smoke damper from Fire Panel YES (Per NFPA 72) no
Develop report showing a listing of the  location of all dampers with identifier, a pass/fail result complete with a detailed explanation of failed dampers if applicable no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Digital photographs of each damper before and after performance of the inspection services (showing each damper opened and where operable, closed) no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Operate (i.e. actuate) all dampers no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Remove and reset all fusible links on fire dampers to   verify closure no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Replace fusible links that are compromised no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
As necessary, lubricate all moving parts on each damper no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Clear each damper of any debris that would impede   normal operation no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Coordinate with local fire department to place customer’s fire alarm system in test mode to conduct      inspection of smoke and /or combination dampers no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Manually activate actuators on electric & pneumatic smoke and or combination dampers to verify operation no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
If no access to existing damper, properly sized access doors will be installed by contractor to facilitate          inspection no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Apply identification stickers on ceilings or other location to assist in locating dampers following inspection no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Provide customer with pricing to repair dampers that have failed an inspection no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Provide customer with repairs of failed dampers no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
Mark locations of dampers on customer drawings if    applicable no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)
If damper inaccessible, location will still be mapped on prints and included in report no YES (Per NFPA 80 and 105)

Keep in mind that dampers fail frequently. Periodic inspection is the only way to confirm full functionality. Roughly 10% of dampers fail in facilities with a history of performing routine damper inspections.  A staggering 35% of dampers fail in those facilities not performing periodic inspections. Where does your facility fall?

Passive Fire Protection Requirements in New York City

download   Passive Fire Protection in                   New York City


While it is often challenging to determine which codes are being enforced in different cities across the country, New York city can be exceptionally challenging.  With it’s own set of fire protection guidelines to abide by, many facility engineers and fire protection engineers find themselves a bit stumped when trying to ensure compliance with local laws.  We want to take a minute to share with you what we know about passive fire protection code requirements in New York City to help fill in any grey areas you might have.



703.1.2 Smoke barriers.  Required smoke barrier partitions shall be maintained to prevent passage of smoke and all openings protected with approved smoke barrier doors or leakage-rated (smoke) dampers

703.2 Maintenance of openings.  Fire doors and fire windows shall be maintained in good working order in accordance with NFPA 80.  Fire doors and smoke barrier doors shall not be blocked of obstructed or otherwise made operable.  Fusible links shall be replaced promptly whenever fused, damaged or otherwise rendered inoperable. Fire door assemblies shall not be modified.



2.7.1. Inspection of list fire doors, smoke partition doors, fire shutters, fire windows and horizontal fire/smoke doors

Inspections may be performed by authorized building or contract personnel and shell be in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines and NFPA 80. A written record of all inspections shall be maintained.

2.7.3 Fire and smoke damper inspections.

Each fire and smoke damper assembly in mechanical, electrical or air handler rooms and spaces, in firewalls or rated occupancy separation walls, or in floors, or part of a smoke evacuation system , shall be visually inspected at least annually to verify that their operations are not obstructed or impaired. Authorized building or contract personnel may perform visual inspections.A written record of inspection shall be maintained.  Any dampers that are not accessible for inspection shall be noted in the inspection report.

2.7.4 Damper testing

An approved HVAC company shall conduct a full-function test and maintenance on all fire dampers at least every 4 years.  All testing and maintenance shall be conducted in accordance with this standard and manufacturer’s guildelines and NFPA 90A and 92A. Testing shall include removal of fusible links to check that damper vanes, blades or shutters fully close that the latch mechanism (if provided) operate properly.  Dampers should (where possible) be operated with normal system airflow to ensure that they close and are not held open by airstreams.

Exceptions: 1.  Electrical and/or pneumatic operated fire smoke dampers shall be maintained, cycled and tested not less than every 6 months.

New York City Local Law 26 has additional requirements for damper and fire door inspections. We can help guide you in the right direction in regards to maintenance and testing requirements.  A good rule of thumb is that the more stringent code requirement usually trumps the others.

Important facts to remember about code requirements in NYC:

  • Fire doors are an annual requirement per the New York City fire code and must be maintained per NFPA 80, which is an annual inspection requirement.
  • Fire rated walls maintenance is required per New York City Fire Code
  • Per NYC Mechanical Code, fire and smoke dampers require inspection
  • Per NYC Mechanical Code, fire doors require annual inspection

If you have any questions about the code requirements in NYC, or any other city/state for that matter, LSS can help point you in the right direction.

How many dampers, doors and fire rated walls do you think are being neglected across the country due to code confusion?




Commissioning: Find your problems before a fire (or your fire marshal) does

NFPA Recommends the Testing and Inspection of Passive Fire Protection Systems in the Commissioning Process


cropped-blueprints-approved.jpgCommissioning is a quality assurance service that ensures a building owner that they have received a completed project from the contractor.  Standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) outline specifically what falls under the quality control procedures, specifically when it comes to fire and smoke dampers.  NFPA 3′s Recommended Practice on Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems states specifically that “third-party” test entities should have an advanced understanding of the installation, operation, and maintenance of all fire protection and life safety systems proposed to be tested, with particular emphasis on system integrated testing.” When commissioning these systems, the third-party should have ample experience having working in large commercial facilities and have wide-ranging knowledge based on NFPA codes and standards.

So, what should the commissioning agent look for when reviewing the fire and smoke dampers in a new facility or renovation? This really depends on the manufacturer and their installation instructions.  We completed a commissioning project at a major airport a few years ago that used Ruskin products exclusively. Our expert referred to the installation instructions and checked for specific requirements in regards to opening clearances, fasteners and multiple section assembly, damper sleeves, damper orientation, and duct/sleeve connects.  It’s also important to note that there was a section in the guide dedicated solely to the installation and maintenance of these dampers, which reiterates the importance of testing the damper on a regular basis per NFPA code standards.

Which damper to use in a renovation or new construction is really dependent on the rating of the wall and the application and every damper will have its own unique scenario. Whether or not the damper is in a metal stud or concrete wall can drastically change the attributes to the damper used, the link used the size of duct etc.  Knowledge of this is really just another example of why NFPA requires a third-party to perform commissioning inspections.

The bottom line is that commissioning your passive fire protection system as you are handed the keys to your facility can save you an incredible amount of money in the future. If these applications were installed incorrectly and not according to specs, your contractor is responsible for fixing the problems.





5 Things You Learned from LSS Life Safety Services® at the ASHE Conference

  1. Fire rated barriers are one of the most often cited discrepancies in hospitals. Have you been cited because of your fire barriers?  If you haven’t stopped by to see us yet, be sure to do so today. We can help.
  2. Fire doors are complicated.  With hundreds of moving parts and all kinds of hardware manufacturers, consultants and distributors, fire doors can be a BIG headache for someone trying to pass a Joint Commission inspection.  LSS has certified fire door inspectors on staff and strong relationships with the top manufacturers in the business. We can make door inspections even easier with our exclusive LSS Door ScoreTM, the one-of-a-kind prioritized numerical scoring for each opening which allows you to determine the condition of your fire doors. We can help you get your fire doors taken care of so you can focus your time and resources on other initiatives.
  3. Photos are taken of each device (damper, door or barrier) before and after they are inspected by an LSS technician – this gives your AHJ an easy way to verify that the work was completed and reduces your liability should an actual fire take place. If your contractor isn’t taking pictures, how do you know they are actually doing the inspection you are paying them to do?
  4. LSS Life Safety Services® works nationwide.  With offices located throughout the country, you can trust that your facility will receive the same high quality service no matter where your facility is located.  Most of the other inspection companies work regionally – we have the experience and the staff to cover the entire country.  There’s a reason we have worked in over 4,000 facilities nationwide!
  5. We have National Accounts contracts and are the exclusive passive fire protection inspection and repair contractor for the some of the strongest, largest healthcare groups in the country. Perks like dedicated account management, discounted pricing and the stability of working with one contractor to perform damper inspections, door inspections and firestopping at your facilities can be a game changer for your maintenance department.

Want to learn more? Stop by booth #405 at the ASHE show or give our corporate office a call at 888.675.4519. We have so much more to share!!

10 Things to Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Inspection Contractor

Business Ethics

1. What is the contractor’s experience?

When researching different contractors to perform the passive fire protection inspection and maintenance services in your facility, be sure to check up on what type of experience they have working in your field.  Different types of facilities require different skill sets, and the contractor you choose should have experience working in facilities like yours. LSS Life Safety Services has performed thousands of projects throughout the United States and Canada. Ranging from projects for Fortune 500 companies, College and Universities, Hotels, High-Rises and over 4,000 Healthcare facilities nationwide.

2. How is their reputation?

It’s one thing to own a business and do the work, but it’s a whole other animal to do the work and have a strong reputation from doing it WELL. Make sure your contractor has a strong resume and ASK FOR REFERRALS.   A good contractor that you can trust will come up time and time again when you ask your colleagues for suggestions on who to perform the work.

3. Does the company specialize in these services?

Companies that specialize in fire & smoke damper inspectionsfire door inspections and firestop survey/installation know what to look for in the field and will complete a thorough evaluation of your passive fire protection system.  Our team is familiar with the codes that require the maintenance and have performed thorough inspections in well over 4,000 facilities – thus, lessening the liability for all parties involved.

4. Can the contractor provide references of projects of similar size and scope?

Always, always, always ask for references. References show the true competency of the contractor you have chosen.

5. What kind of training do the inspectors have? 

Our manufacturer and OSHA training for the service technicians helps to reduce on the job injuries and ensure the work is completed in a timely fashion.  Technicians are put through background checks and drug screening, infection control training, confided space training, customer skills training, manufacturer training and NFPA code training just to name a few.  Additionally, some of the top fire safety product manufacturers provide our service technicians with industry leading training courses and certifications.

6. Are they insured?

There are so many different types of insurance out there - always ask for a Certificate of Insurance from the contractor you choose and ask them about Error and Omission Insurance, Professional General Liability, Excess Liability/Umbrella Liability and Workers Comp. Our company carries a very high amount of insurance because of the type of machinery that can be found in hospitals or other types of facilities. Make sure the contractor you are working with can cover your assets should something happen on site.

7. How long has the company been doing this?

LSS just celebrated their tenth year in business and that’s something we are very proud of.  Our business grew substantially during and on the heels of a major recession – not many passive fire protection companies out there can say that.

We’ve been through several code adoptions/changes and know the history of passive fire protection when it comes to the Joint Commission as well as non-healthcare facilities that have adopted the International Building and Fire Codes. Our history in the business has equipped us with the knowledge needed to help you better protect your facility.

8. Does the company have a quality assurance program?

Maintaining a high quality standard should be tops of your contractor’s list.  LSS’ QC program utilizes surprise random inspections by our QC manager and with the utilization of digital documentation to ensure the inspection are being carried out with the quality levels LSS demands.  This ensures that our customers don’t have to worry about re-work and business disruptions caused by poor inspection or installation quality.

9. Do they provide digital documentation to hold them accountable for the work they performed?

Photos taken of every device before and after inspection ensure that the inspection was actually done and gives Authorities Having Jurisdiction’s (AHJ) an easy way to verify that the work was completed and reduces your liability should an actual fire take place.


10.  Is there a report provided at the conclusion of the work performed?

There are challenges in keeping up with inspection reports and records and having them available for your AHJ.  That’s why LSS has created our own web-based inspection software, LSS Site Surveyor.  We offer you the ability to support sustainability by allowing you to eliminate paper inspection records once and for all.  Additionally, our inspection software produces the most comprehensive inspection report in the business – all on-line, all easy to use, all ready to present to your AHJ with the click of a mouse.


Bottom line – if you are contracting your passive fire protection inspection or installation services out, be thorough in your selection process. Not all companies are apples to apples and many companies in our business will over promise to get your business and under deliver when it’s time to actually do the work.  Be selective, be cognizant, and be picky. Ask questions – the right questions – and you should end up with a strong partner in keeping your facility in compliance with local and state building codes.  Have questions? Give us a call! 888-675-4519

Fire Door inspections – not just about gaps and labels

Fire doors are quite the popular topic among fire safety professionals and facility engineers these days. With the upcoming adoption of NFPA’s 2012 Life Safety Code, hospitals and nursing homes have fire doors and barrier management on their minds. I think the most common misconception about fire doors that I have heard over the past several years is that facilities believe they can get away with just replacing missing labels and shimmying gaps in order to pass their Joint Commission or their annual inspection by their AHJ’s.  Oh, if fire doors were only that easy!!photo4


Fire doors are surprisingly complex devices, with hundreds of moving parts and well-thought out designs to protect from fire. There are door and hardware consultants who offer consulting services associated with openings – from door and frame components, hardware to access/ security systems, and related products, these consultant offer architects help when trying to choose the correct doors for a given a facility. There are special courses and tests offered by the Door and Hardware Institute and the International Fire Door Association that provide an inspector with the proper skills needed to perform annual inspections on these devices as the code requires. Fire door inspection is complicated and requires a knowledgeable professional in the field to perform the annual inspection as accurately as NFPA 80 requires.  However, despite all of the education that has been circulating on fire safety blogs, social media, webinars and engineering events, there still seems to be the misconception that AHJ’s and other regulatory agencies search for only two things during fire safety inspections: gaps and labels. We can’t express to you how incorrect it is to only focus on these two items of NFPA 80.  Perhaps it is best if we review the inspection points again:


NFPA 80 As a minimum, the following items shall be verified:
1. No open holes or breaks exist in surfaces of either the door or frame.
2. Glazing, vision light frames & glazing beads are intact and securely fastened in place, if so equipped.
3. The door, frame, hinges, hardware, and noncombustible threshold are secured, aligned, and in working
order with no visible signs of damage.
4. No parts are missing or broken.
5. Door clearances at the door edge of the door frame, on the pull side of the door, do not exceed
clearances listed in 4.8.4 (the clearance under the bottom of the door shall be a maximum of 3/4″) and
6.3.1 (top & edges 1/8″).

6. The self‐closing device is operational; that is, the active door completely closes when operated from the
full open position.
7. If a coordinator is installed, the inactive leaf closes before the active leaf.
8. Latching hardware operates and secures the door when it is in the closed position.
9. Auxiliary hardware items that interfere or prohibit operation are not installed on the door or frame.
10. No field modifications to the door assembly have been performed that void the label.
Gasketing and edge seals, where required, are inspected to verify their presence and integrity.


When performing the required annual inspection, the Door Security & Safety Foundation has created a nice guide to use as a reference. You can find more information here, along with the Top Ten Deficiencies often cited.  There is a reason that over 90% of fire rated doors are not in compliance with NFPA 80* – they are complicated and consist of much more than just labels or poor clearances (gaps) around the perimeter of the door. There is a whole list of items to look for when inspecting a fire-rated door and door assembly, and it takes a trained eye to spot the problems that could potentially cause you facility a significant threat from the loss of fire.


For more information about fire door inspections, contact us at 888.675.4519 or visit our website,


*Based on LSS inspection data.

 LSS Life Safety Services® is a passive fire protection inspection company that has performed over 4,000 fire safety inspections across the United States. Specializing in fire and smoke damper inspections, fire door inspections and barrier management programs, LSS is an industry leader in passive fire inspections per NFPA’s Life Safety code.

Photoluminescence (PL) in NYC – Then and Now

What is it?

Photolum2PHOTOLUMINESCENT. The property of emitting light as the result of absorption of visible light, which continues for a length of time after excitation (2009 IBC)

SELF-LUMINOUS. Means powered continuously by a self-contained power source other than a battery or batteries, such as radioactive tritium gas. A self-luminous sign is independent of external power supplies or other energy for its operations. (2009 IBC)

Slips, trips and falls are one of the major causes of serious injuries every year. Studies show that falls on stairways are often the result of poor design, lighting or visibility. With photoluminescent (PL) egress path marking systems, an image of the exit pathway is created by outlining such elements as steps, landings, handrails and any obstacles, outlining the space to prevent such accidents, should a building lose power or if it is left in dark and/or in smoky conditions. These systems are essential “Green” by today’s standards because they harvest sunlight or recycle existing electrical light.

PL material allows a building to have uninterrupted visual reinforcement, which provides a significant advance over traditional emergency lighting which could become obscured by smoke.

Background on PL in NYC

In the aftermath of the 2001 World Trade Center Attack, the New York City Department of Buildings convened the Word Trade Center Building Code Task Force to audit building design and operating requirement for high-rise safety.  These audits unveiled the need for retroactive installation of photoluminescent egress path marking systems and signs in high rise buildings. New York City Reference Standard RS6-1 was promulgated in May 2005, and is referenced in to the New York City Building Codes by New York City Local Law 26 of 2004. This law requires high-rise buildings in NYC to have photoluminescent way-finding markings in all exit pathways, and is supplementary to existing emergency lighting requirements and applies to all buildings, old and new. This law required all high-rise buildings to install a PL system by July 2006. The PL that was installed in the World Trade Center made a difference to egress speeds in the 9/11 attack by allowing occupants to clearly see their way down stairs.  Luminous egress systems require no electricity, therefore do not rely on emergency back up systems – they are virtually failsafe in the event of an emergency.

LSS has spent time in over 4,000 facilities across the country and one thing that we have noticed in NYC is that many high-rise buildings were retrofitted with photoluminescent tape on floors and handrails.  While the tape certainly met code requirements and may have been the least expensive option at the time, most of it is beginning to peel off. (see Westin1photo).

Photoluminescent way-finding systems have come a long way in the past decade – they are made of quality, hard-wearing material that is engineered to last. The top PL manufacturer’s in the business have created non-slip, rigid, PL step-edge products that last the life of your facility*. To learn more about luminous egress marking systems, visit our website or call us at 888.675.4519.

Oh Canada!

To our neighbors up North, did you know that fire and smoke damper, fire stop flap, and fire door inspection and repair are required by code? Here are 7 tips to keep your facility in compliance:

  1. Fire and smoke damper survey to indentify all of the dampers in your facility.
  2. Fire and smoke damper inspections to ensure compliance with NFPA Codes 80, 105 and NFPA 101 (in provinces that have adopted it), as well as the National Building Codes Section 3.1.8 and the National Fire Code Section 2.2.2.
  3. Fire and smoke dampers that are deemed inoperable must be repaired.
  4. Once repairs are made, these dampers must be re-inspected to ensure compliance with the Canadian NBC and NFC.
  5.  If dampers cannot be repaired, the NBC and NFC state: “if closures become damaged they shall be replaced.”
  6. Fire door inspection to ensure compliance with NFPA 80, National Fire Code Section 2.2.2, and the National Building Code Section 3.1.8.
  7. Anything found during the fire door inspection that leads to non-compliance must be repaired.

In addition to inspections and repairs, LSS Life Safety Services will provide you with a comprehensive report of all results that is easily understood by your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). To ensure all elements of your passive fire protection system are in compliance, visit

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