Smoke detectors are a common legal requirement for commercial buildings. They also give occupants peace of mind and can be integral in getting people to safety, even saving lives.
But do smoke detectors provide enough protection?
When it comes to safety, Smoke Guard believes the more protective measures in place the better. While smoke detectors do save lives and are a valuable resource, there are other safety systems, like sprinkler systems and fire curtains, that do more than just warn occupants of potential threats.
Smoke Detectors Pros and Cons
In many states, smoke detectors are required — and for good reason. Smoke detectors provide early smoke warnings so building occupants have a better chance at getting to safety.
Many smoke detectors also have carbon monoxide detection to provide warnings against hazardous gas as well.
Of course, one smoke detector is not enough for an entire building. In commercial buildings, there needs to be at least one smoke detector on every floor, in every office, and in hallways. Larger spaces may need more. It can also be easy to forget to test the detectors and replace the batteries unless it is designed to chirp.
And don’t forget smoke detectors that beep are not enough. Hearing-impaired individuals need smoke alarms that flash so they can get to safety as well.
Do They Provide Enough Protection?
It is a common myth that smoke detectors can provide enough protection in commercial spaces.
They are good at providing early warning, giving the opportunity to some people to escape faster — but they don’t help everyone. Children, the elderly and people with physical disabilities might not be able to evacuate as fast, despite the early warning.
The best protection would be to isolate or extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading to give those inside the building a chance to get to safety. Smoke detectors, however, cannot extinguish flame, stop its spreading or even control the smoke.
What Else Can Be Considered?
Fire extinguishers are extremely effective in stopping a fire before it gets out of control. They are portable and immediate, so one can easily move it to the source of the fire and prevent it from getting worse or spreading. And although it’s not as good as professional fire-fighting equipment, it can still be an integral tool in saving lives and stopping a fire before it gets out of control.
A fire sprinkler system works automatically to contain a fire and save lives. Sprinkler systems also protect the surrounding area from any potential spread and allow for building occupants to get to safety without having to face the fire themselves in any way.
Sprinkler systems can also completely extinguish a fire, in some cases even before the fire department arrives on the scene.
And the damage from the sprinkler system is usually much less than the fire damage would be without this protection measure in place.
Fire-rated doors have become a common requirement for commercial buildings in order to adhere to the International Building Code (IBC) mandates. Fire doors are perfect for stairwells and elevator shafts to block the spread of fires.
Fire-rated doors, such as elevator doors, can be combined with smoke curtains for extra protection. These elevator smoke curtains are a passive smoke management system meaning they are triggered by a local smoke decector. This helps occupants escape to safety faster without the risk of confronting a fire themselves.
However, fire-rated swing doors or integrated fire doors can be unsightly or “clunky” in application, so many architects and builders are starting to use smoke curtains where possible instead.
Smoke and Fire Curtains
Deployable smoke and fire curtains are critical safety additions to any large space, such as schools, offices, retail premises, hospitals, residential buildings, airports and hotels. They provide automatic protection and act as a barrier where no walls are present.
These automatic barriers isolate smoke and fire to keep it from spreading to other areas. They also prevent exposure and create safe routes for occupants to escape and fire and rescue teams to get in and do their job.
Unlike fire-rated doors, smoke and fire curtains can fit discreetly into the building’s design to provide added protection without disrupting the aesthetics.
How SG Specialities Can Help
Ready to implement the safety systems your building’s occupants deserve? Our team of experts are standing by to help.
The consultative fire + smoke protective professionals at SG Specialities are prepared to find the correct systems to meet your exact project needs. Check out our full line of fire and smoke curtains, and reach out to one of our experts for more information.