Testing Smoke Control Systems

Large-volume spaces are large, usually multi-story, and uncompartmented spaces in which smoke or fire can freely move and accumulate without restriction.  It is within these spaces and under these conditions that a smoke management system may be required.  

NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems, defines requirements for the design, installation, testing, and maintenance of these systems. Smoke control systems are designed to prevent smoke from going where it should not, into stairwells, means of egress, and areas of refuge. The system design is also must prohibit smoke movement and migration to other parts of building and provide optimal conditions for emergency responders to conduct their operations.

Once these systems have been installed, they must be tested to ensure that they will work properly, and in conjunction with, all other associated fire protection systems.  Chapter 8, of NFPA 92, provides direction on the testing of these systems. There are five critical steps that taken to ensure the system's operability and functionality.

Step 1. Review the design criteria and system documentation.

Step 2. Inspect the building and construction components.

Architectural components and structural features should be inspected to ensure that their installation is complete.  Items to inspect may include: smoke barriers, shaft integrity, firestopping, doors and closers, glazing, partitions and ceilings.

Step 3. Test individual system components.

All trades should be completed and signed-off on their work. Components that will be affected by the smoke controls system, and should be individually tested include: fire alarm systems, HVAC systems, electrical systems, power and standby power systems, automatic doors, elevators, other smoke control or smoke management systems, and firefighter control stations.

Step 4. Conduct full operational acceptance test of the smoke control system.

  1. Building equipment should be in normal operational mode.
  2. Demonstrate that the correct outputs are produced for the proper given inputs.
  3. Test the complete operational sequence:
    1. Normal mode
    2. Automatic smoke control mode
    3. Transfer to standby power, if applicable
    4. Return system to normal

Step 5. Confirm and document that all fans, dampers, and related equipment functioned properly.

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