The Importance of Smoke Control System Maintenance

10 April 2020 Kingspan Light + Air UK
Forming a crucial part of a building’s fire management plan, smoke control systems are designed to protect escape and rescue routes by evacuating the smoke generated by the burning building contents, keeping occupiers and firefighting teams safe. It is vital that they can be relied upon should a fire occur. Therefore, in addition to ensuring any system has been designed, specified, installed and commissioned properly, a regular maintenance schedule must also be put in place.

Why do smoke control systems need regular maintenance?

Smoke Control System Maintenance

Whether natural or mechanical, smoke control systems comprise several different components. The system’s performance is not only reliant on the interactions between each of these elements, but also its interaction with other parts of the fire management plan, such as alarm systems or sprinklers. Failure of a single element can impact the effectiveness of the whole system, potentially resulting in complete breakdown.

Components can fail for a number of reasons. In addition to expected issues such as age or usage, building users or contractors may accidently interfere with the system. For example, they may disturb the wiring, knock and damage the detectors or obstruct fans or vents. Whilst precautions can be taken to prevent such incidents, a proactive and frequent checking and testing schedule will help to ensure that no issue goes undetected for too long. It is recommended that this is done monthly, typically by site personnel, with a thorough service at least once a year to ensure it performs as anticipated as part of the fire safety strategy. This is usually the responsibility of the building owner or operator to ensure this happens, and the main service must be done by a competent person. 

Proactive maintenance can also extend the lifespan of the components, minimising the risk of system failure and the need for and cost of replacements. It offers the opportunity to upgrade the system in light of any advancements in the technologies used and helps to ensure that the system is always compliant with any legislative developments. 

What are the legal requirements for maintenance?

As regular and thorough testing and maintenance of a smoke control system is imperative to safeguard its performance, many countries have specific legislation that demands these checks are carried out. Legislation varies from region to region, and there are even different stipulations for different building types.

For projects in the UK , the maintenance of smoke control systems is covered under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It states that the “responsible person”, who is defined as the building owner or operator, must ensure that fire safety equipment such as smoke control systems “are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.” This must be done by a competent person who understands the requirements of smoke control systems. Meanwhile, BS 5588-12: 2004 recommends that smoke control systems should be serviced at least once a year and tested weekly. It is important to note that these may change in accordance with the current review of the building regulations. 

Whilst some regions may not enforce such strict maintenance laws as others, responsible business owners and operators must still apply a strict schedule to ensure the ongoing functionality of the systems in place and the safety of the building users. 

What steps should be taken to ensure a smoke control system is maintained?

Smoke Control System Maintenance

The specifics of how you maintain a system is dependent on a number of factors; what type of system it is, what building type has it been installed on, is it being used for ventilation as well as smoke control etc. However, there are some basic actions building owners or operators can take to ensure their smoke control system will always perform as expected.

Firstly, a service and maintenance contract should be taken out as soon as a system is installed. Competent maintenance providers will always look at the system holistically, checking every component, from the control panel to the ventilators, in the context of its role within the wider system and its dependency on other elements. They will also completely test the system for assurance, including checking that any back up power systems are active.

On an operational level, the smoke system checks should form part of the building maintenance plan, including checking the status of any monitoring systems for fault alerts and visually assessing components for any obvious damage. Any issues should be immediately reported to the overall maintenance service provider.

Be sure of your system

Maintaining a smoke safety system is vital to contributing towards a safe building. However, perhaps because the system is so rarely used, or just simply because of a lack of understanding around smoke control in the industry, this can be overlooked. By taking out a proactive service plan and working regular checks into the general building maintenance checklist, it is straightforward to ensure that any system will be ready to perform, should it be needed.

Get in touch for more information about smoke control maintenance, or to find out how we can support your project.

Kingspan Light + Air UK

Mellyn Mair Business Centre

Lamby Industrial Park

Wentloog Avenue, Cardiff


+44 29 2000 2695