How Do Fire Curtains Work?

Fire curtains should always be a top consideration when designing or remodeling a commercial building.

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FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration reported that between 2014 to 2016, an average of 100,300 nonresidential building fires were reported to U.S. fire departments each year, resulting in an estimated 90 deaths, 1,350 injuries, and $2.4 billion in property losses per year. Furthermore, 59 percent of these fires spread beyond the area where they started.

To ensure the safety of your building and occupants, incorporating a fire curtain system into your building design is essential. Understanding the mechanics and installation of fire curtains is crucial.

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What Are Fire Curtains?

When a fire protection system is triggered, fire curtains act as protection barriers where walls are absent. These curtains remain out of sight until deployment and can be placed anywhere within a building. They are commonly found in settings such as schools, offices, hospitals, retail buildings, residential buildings, hotels, and airports.

These curtain barriers can be customized to seal openings of various sizes and prevent smoke and fire from spreading to other areas. Having fire and smoke barriers in place is particularly important for designing egress routes, creating access points for fire and rescue teams, and safeguarding valuable equipment and other contents.

Fire curtains perform similarly to smoke and draft curtains but are specifically designed to withstand fire exposure and extremely high temperatures. These curtains must meet or exceed UL 10D standards for fire protection, which measures performance ratings based on fire exposure to determine the curtain's suitability for use in structures where building codes require fire protection for specific durations.

How Are Fire Curtains Used?

Different types of fire curtains are available to provide your building with the necessary fire and smoke protection. From small spaces such as dumbwaiters and pass-through containers to larger areas like atriums and theater stages, each curtain has a specific use. Let's explore these types of fire curtains and understand their uses.

1. Horizontal Fire Curtains

Horizontal fire curtains are gaining popularity in commercial buildings due to the trend of creating larger open spaces. These curtains deploy horizontally to separate floors and prevent smoke from entering other areas of the building. They can be placed at upper levels that open to the atrium, creating a partition that blocks the upper level(s) from smoke or fire in an emergency. The Smoke Guard M3000 is an example of a horizontal fire curtain that is installed between flooring decks and automatically deployed upon a signal from the smoke control system.

Horizontal fire curtains are not limited to atriums, as they are also ideal for use in I-3 facilities like jails, prisons and detention centers that have areas in which occupants are confined and where smoke and fire can spread quickly. These buildings are already somewhat segmented, but an added layer of smoke and fire protection would benefit residents and employees, especially for confined occupants who cannot easily relocate without creating security issues.

2. Vertical Fire Curtains

Vertically deploying fire curtains can be installed into a ceiling and are suitable for use with mechanical smoke and fire containment systems. They are effective in sealing off multi-level atriums and creating a smoke reservoir on the upper floors of the atrium. They are also ideal for use in other areas with large openings such as grand staircases and escalators.

Smoke Guard’s Model 4000 is a recommended choice for architects and designers, as it meets required performance standards and can be easily installed into a ceiling without corner posts or columns, making it a convenient option for both new constructions and renovations.

3. Flexible Fire Curtains

Hospitals have specific requirements such as controlled access points, the ability to move gurneys through doors, and the need to isolate areas for infectious diseases and research labs. In such cases, traditional fire doors may not be suitable, as hospitals must maintain traffic flow, even in emergency situations, and require unobtrusive fire protection.

Flexible fire curtains, which deploy from walls or ceilings, are designed to keep hallways clear and cannot be propped open with furniture or door stops like traditional fire doors. This makes them a safer option for hospitals. They also serve as a complement to a fire management system that includes exhaust fans and sprinklers.

Proper Maintenance

Regular maintenance and testing of fire curtains is essential to ensure they are effective in the event of a fire. Building owners and operations teams should be aware of the necessary steps to keep fire curtains up to code and what requires the attention of a professional.

  1. It is important to clear the area around the fire curtain to ensure it can fully seal off the area.
  2. Regular testing should be conducted, with local fire and building codes consulted to determine the required testing intervals.
  3. The fire curtain should be visually inspected for damage and wear, with the deployment track checked for blockages.

Documentation of maintenance should be kept, including the inspection date, time, inspector's name, and findings.

Make Fire Curtains Part of Your Fire Protection System

To ensure that your building remains safe and secure during a fire outbreak, it is essential to have the right fire and smoke protection systems installed. These systems help contain damage, keep occupants safe, and reduce downtime and repair costs after a fire.

If you need assistance in selecting the appropriate fire curtains for your building, click here to contact SG Solutions. Alternatively, you can check out our blog to learn more about how to enhance fire and smoke safety.