Broken fire dampers can quickly spread flames

When a fire strikes in a home, smoke detectors and other safety mechanisms are in place to ensure the safety of the residents. In multifamily homes though, additional safety features – such as fire dampers in vents – are required to prevent flames from engulfing the entire building.

Multifamily home fires are common in metropolitan areas. Individuals who watch the news can spot reports of these fires most mornings.

In Omaha, Nebraska, a multifamily home inspection revealed that many of the fire dampers in an apartment complex for elderly residents were broken, according to local NBC affiliate WOWT. The devices had been inspected previously by the city, but an unnamed contractor maintained that about 150 of the dampers were not installed correctly. A second inspection confirmed many broken dampers.

Fire dampers, found in the vents of HVAC systems, help delay the spread of deadly smoke throughout a building, as well as cut off the lifeblood of a fire – regular air flow. The devices operate like window blinds do, sealing off ventilation shafts. Had the broken dampers remained in the building, a fire could have spread quickly through the complex and harmed its residents.

"It's shocking, more because the fact [is] they don't work," City Permits and Inspections Superintendent Jay Davis told the television station. "They appear to be normal, it's when they pull the links to do the test on them they discovered they were not closing. They were either wedged or jammed."

The incident articulates the importance of hiring an experienced Washington, D.C. home inspector when you're trying to ensure your property is safe and will not be the cause of additional problems should a fire strike. When the safety of home residents are on the line, property owners need a home inspection service they can trust.