Ongoing maintenance is key for working buildings

Ongoing maintenance is key for working buildings

Simon Plummer, Divisional Manager for Axial Fans at Nuaire, says ongoing maintenance is key for working buildings to remain safe and compliant when it comes to smoke management and fire safety

In fire situations, most fatalities suffered are due to smoke, not the actual fire. Smoke fans, or high temperature axial fans, have been supplied to the marketplace for over 40 years. They are the main airflow driver with a smoke control system and respond to alarms.

As smoke control fans and their associated motors are a life safety product, maintenance rules differ from those applied to normal fans. Anything that operates on the alarm system must be tested periodically and maintained accordingly.  Fan maintenance and servicing are often overlooked or put off as it isn’t as straightforward as simply testing the smoke alarm works each week. These fans are often hidden away – in ceiling voids, up on roofs, or stuck up inside a riser – so are easily missed, or simply too inaccessible for a maintenance engineer to reach.

Smoke control fans often only run during testing or if called upon to perform a primary smoke control function. This means, that as a critical component within the building, steps must be taken to ensure that they operate effectively during an emergency as well as day to day, known as the “smoke control duty”.

When it comes to the maintenance of smoke fans, you can’t be too thorough. I would always recommend:

  1. Get set up in the right way – all building designs will have fan requirements stated within the fire strategy, make sure these match up. Determine that the fan being used is certified to EN 12101-3. It must also have a CE or UKCA label attached. Then check you have the appropriate installation, operating, maintenance and service instructions and that a valid maintenance record exists.
  2. Test weekly with the full fire safety system – the Smoke Control Association (SCA) recommendation is that smoke control systems should be tested weekly with each fan being tested at least once per week. They should be run up in accordance with the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance documentation, ideally for between 15 and 30 minutes to minimise the risk of the lubrication grease hardening and to reduce bearing corrosion. Recommended maintenance intervals are dependent on the fan function.
  3. Book bi-annual servicing of all fans by a suitably trained, competent supplier to ensure any underlying faults are dealt with. Look for a member of the SCA who specialises in fan maintenance and servicing.
  4. Keep everything updated and accessible - Fan installation records and associated DoP documents must be dated and signed and held in a safe and accessible location.

If you are unsure of what fans are operating in your building or need help with regular testing, always seek the help of an expert and don’t put it off. As active members of the SCA, Nuaire has the technical knowledge and experience to provide further advice. 

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