Airports are bustling hubs of activity where large, open spaces collide with smaller, secure compartments. It's a unique challenge that demands the highest level of fire protection. In an emergency, it's critical to securely contain smoke and fire to protect people and property. That's why fire safety and protection codes are an essential consideration for airport planners and designers. But how do you achieve the right balance of safety and functionality?
Let’s explore the best fire and smoke protection options for airports, and take a close-up look at how these solutions were successfully installed and used in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Get ready to discover the cutting-edge technology and innovative design that keeps airport passengers and staff safe and secure.
Passive Smoke Control Systems In Airports
A smoke curtain system offers a lot of flexibility for airports by segmenting each area using smoke and fire-rated curtains. These curtains remain retracted in their hidden housings until they are activated by an alarm, a detector signal or a manual switch. Once triggered, they are designed to descend into their operational position.
There are three types of smoke and fire curtains:
Dedicated fire curtains: These will block some smoke, but their primary purpose is to contain the fire itself.
Dedicated smoke curtains: These will block some flames, but their primary purpose is to contain smoke.
Hybrid Fire and Smoke Curtains: These offer a balance of both fire and smoke prevention.
For now, let’s focus on different types of hybrid curtains ideal for airport layouts. These types of smoke and fire curtains can be installed in almost any area of a building and are suitable for almost any type of architecture. This makes the prospect of tackling a smoke or fire emergency much more manageable in every part of an airport — especially in concourse areas where they can be used to replace older traditional fire doors.
Concourses often include long hallways and large open atrium-like spaces. Smoke curtains can block off these areas into sections so it’s easier to contain the spread of smoke and fire, protecting the path of egress and easily retracting allowing fire personnel to enter the area safely. Flexible smoke curtains can also be used in conjunction with an exhaust system to remove smoke and toxins from the concourses.
Many airport concourses also contain stairwells, escalators and even trams or monorails. In this instance, deployable curtains along escalators or tram tunnels can help keep smoke away from exits to provide a safe path for airport patrons and employees.
Another unique area to consider is the air traffic control tower. This is part of an airport that cannot always be evacuated immediately because of its responsibility to direct air traffic. When using smoke and fire curtains, this area can be adequately sectioned off from the source of smoke or fire while also maintaining clear egress routes and securing important airport personnel.
What Type of Smoke Curtain Do You Need?
Fire and smoke curtains come in a variety of smoke and fire ratings, so it is important to select the models that will provide the right level of safety needed for each specific area of the airport, which is determined by the size of the space and the amount of traffic flow it experiences. If you’re not sure, our team is always available to help.
Perimeter curtains are a quick and efficient way to compartmentalize non-egress stairs and atrium spaces without taking up a lot of space. For example, the M4000 supplied by SG Specialties is a completely customizable, code-compliant fire-rated assembly designed to function as a vertically deploying opening protective requiring no corner posts. This is perfect for common airport areas like atriums, restaurants, shopping centers and waiting areas.
This perimeter curtain may be configured in a closed, box-like, condition or in a multi-faceted open-ended configuration with or without side-guide captures and are stored in a headbox installed above the ceiling until they are deployed. This also makes these curtains ideal for staircases.
Elevator curtains are another type of smoke curtain designed with a specific use in mind. When used in combination with the fire-rated doors that are in elevators, elevator smoke curtains like M200, M400 and M600 from SG Specialties provide code-compliant smoke and draft opening protection. Let’s take a look at how elevator curtains were used to open up space in one of the world’s busiest airports.
Elevator Curtains in the Tom Bradley International Terminal
Elevators pose a serious risk to smoke control and containment. Elevator shafts can act like a chimney, pulling smoke from the floor into the elevator to the floors above. As the smoke is pulled in the updraft, it will billow onto other floors. As a result, the fire intensity increases and the smoke will get out of control, damaging equipment and increasing the risk of death.
In the past, codes and regulations required a small lobby to be built in front of elevators so they could be blocked off in the event of a fire. Today, hybrid fire and smoke curtains meet the same safety code requirements but can be easily installed without disrupting the room’s design.
Like many airports, LAX is full of long hallways and large open spaces and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) is a great example of an exceptionally big airport concourse that welcomes millions of visitors from around the world every year. As part of a remodel, they needed an elevator smoke protection system that was flexible, foolproof and able to integrate seamlessly into the preexisting open space design. They relied on our team at SG Specialties to deliver high-quality protective solutions.
Because they are housed in a slim casing in the ceiling, our M400 smoke curtains blend well into the terminal's sophisticated, modern interior design. In fact, several of the units are mounted at the 12-foot height on the face of elevators throughout the facility.
Mounted above the elevator door frame, the curtains will deploy on the face of the door frame, allowing the elevator to continue operating without interfering with its functionality. If someone needs to access or egress through the curtain, it can be pushed through or retracted with a button, depending on the model.
Protect Airport Employees and Travelers
An ideal option for airports, smoke and fire-rated curtains are designed to help slow the spread of smoke and flames while still allowing emergency personnel to get to the threat faster and more efficiently. At SG Specialties, we bring form and function to smoke and fire protection — our products not only help keep your building and your occupants safe, but they also ensure your building’s aesthetics stay intact.
Click here to see our solutions for fire and smoke curtains that can seamlessly help protect several areas of airports, including terminals and aircraft hangars. If you’re ready to get fire and smoke protection or if you have questions on which protection solution is best for your next project, contact our experts at SG Specialties today!