Step right up and take a peek behind the scenes of fire protection in the healthcare industry! We all know fire doors are a dime a dozen in commercial buildings, but hospitals face a whole new level of complexity when it comes to fire preparedness.
Smoke curtains are a game changer in containing smoke to specific areas and keeping everyone safe. But, how do they work in medical facilities? What are the best types of fire and safety protection? Stick around and we'll explore all this and more!
What Makes Hospital Fire and Smoke Protection Unique
With various secure access points, gurney-accessible doors, and even quarantine areas like infectious disease treatment centers, traditional fire doors just can't cut it. But fear not! There are other options: flexible smoke and fire-rated curtains. These innovative curtains stay out of sight until an emergency strikes, helping facilitate safe and smooth egress. Once they're deployed, they're like superheroes swooping in to contain the fire and smoke, helping to keep patients and staff safe. Say goodbye to clunky old fire doors and hello to modern safety solutions!
For example, St. Joseph’s Hospital (pictured above) used elevator smoke curtains to solve an old design issue. They needed an alternative to the traditional swing doors in their lobbies, which made navigating gurneys in and out of elevators an issue. Using deployable elevator curtains created an easier traffic pattern and eliminated the need for the swing doors while still adhering to codes and regulations.
Some of the benefits of this passive smoke control system include:
Increased Safety: Fire curtains cannot be propped open with furniture or door stops like traditional fire doors.
Better Traffic Flow: Fire curtains are installed into wall or ceiling cavities and help maintain clear and open hallways.
Integrates Seamlessly Into Current Fire Management Systems: Deployable fire and smoke curtains are a great supplement to a comprehensive fire management system, including exhaust fans and/or sprinklers.
Maintains Design Aesthetics: Because they can be hidden, fire curtains help maintain the architecture and design of a building, especially in larger open spaces.
Energy Efficient: Fire curtains can help keep natural light flowing into spaces as well as aid in heating or cooling parts of a building.
Types of Flexible Smoke and Fire Curtain Assemblies In Hospitals
There are a few different varieties of smoke and fire curtain assemblies and each one can be designed to fit any space. Let’s review their most common uses in medical facilities, including a few examples from hospitals across the country.
In the event of a fire, elevator shafts can act like a chimney, making them dangerous pathways for fire and smoke to quickly travel from floor to floor. Using elevator curtains that deploy from directly above the elevator doors will seal each floor’s elevator opening, preventing the spread of smoke and fire.
An elevator smoke curtain will be triggered to deploy when the smoke detectors at the elevator openings are activated or if there is an extended loss of power. If emergency access is needed, the curtain rewinds by an on-screen rewind switch. Emergency responders can also push through the side of the screen to exit if there is no power available.
In another example, the John Muir Health, Concord Medical Center (pictured above) is a 267-bed hospital in California that also used elevator smoke containment systems to allow for more open spaces and make emergency egress safer for patients and their families.
Atriums and Open Spaces
Atriums with large open spaces need to be designed and built with a strong focus on safety to ensure they meet smoke and fire code regulations. Typically, these spaces will require a unique smoke and fire management system.
Historically, architects and contractors have been limited because of the requirements of conventional fire safety systems like rolling steel doors, automatic sprinklers and smoke exhaust systems. Not only did these systems impede the aesthetic of a building, but they were also expensive. Today, flexible fire curtains are the most design-friendly fire protection options for large open spaces and offer energy and budget savings.
Depending on the atrium’s layout, either the M3000 horizontal or M2100 vertical deployable curtain can be used to control smoke. These curtains will compartmentalize the space into smaller areas, giving additional time for building occupants to safely egress the building during a fire event.
This type of smoke control system also helps mechanical smoke evacuation systems by reducing the amount of make-up air required to flush out smoke. And as we have mentioned before, these smoke curtains remain invisible until they are deployed.
These are all great advantages for hospitals that help protect the health of patients, aid in wayfinding and improve the overall ability of all medical personnel and equipment to navigate easily throughout the facility.
Stairs and Escalators
When dealing with multi-floor staircases and escalators, perimeter curtains like the M4000 that deploy vertically are a good option that provides full coverage without the need for corner support posts. These curtains completely shield staircases or escalators from smoke and flames and provide a reservoir for smoke on the upper floors of an atrium or other open space.
Perimeter curtains also eliminate the need for steel fire doors or additional walls, which can complicate wayfinding for hospital patients and slow down day-to-day operations for medical care providers. They can be an effective complement to existing mechanical smoke and fire containment systems or additional fire curtains. And even though these curtains are a large installation, they can be discreetly self-contained in the ceiling.
The Todd Cancer Center Pavilion in Long Beach, California is a good example of how large, multi-story atriums can benefit from using flexible fire and smoke curtains. This hospital chose M200 curtains to provide the level of protection needed to meet regulations.
Find the Right Protection for Your Next Project
SGAS provides a variety of smoke and fire curtain options for hospitals as well as many other commercial projects. Our experienced team can help answer technical questions to find a fire safety solution that fits your budget and needs.
If you have questions or want to get started on your next project, contact an SGAS representative today.