What Are Draft Curtains?

When providing fire and smoke protection for your building, smoke control and removal should always be a component of a building’s fire safety plan as smoke is the most damaging. Ideal for buildings like warehouses, manufacturing plants and aircraft hangars, draft curtains are very effective forms of smoke control and are often compatible with existing fire protection systems.

When providing fire and smoke protection for your building, smoke control and removal should always be a component of a building’s fire safety plan. While fire can be very destructive, it’s smoke that is most damaging. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider installing a smoke curtain system, especially in industrial buildings.

Smoke can travel very quickly in more expansive spaces with high ceilings, which can lead to occupant injuries and losses in product, equipment and machinery. Automated water sprinklers that are triggered by smoke can further add to the damage, creating an even larger problem.

Ideal for buildings like warehouses, manufacturing plants and aircraft hangars, draft curtains are very effective forms of smoke control and are often compatible with existing fire protection systems.

Lightweight and made from a durable smoke- and fire-resistant fiberglass material, these fire curtains are code-compliant (often exceeding requirements), will protect building occupants and reduce the amount of damage to the interior of the building and its contents.

How Do Draft Curtains Work?

When strategically placed throughout a facility, draft curtains can automatically funnel smoke toward ventilation and exhaust systems. When connected to detection systems, these smoke curtains deploy automatically to reroute and remove smoke.

Draft curtains work by pulling the “ceiling jet” away from the fire and out of the building through roof vents. Ceiling jet is the natural airflow within an enclosed space during a fire.

It is worth noting that these smoke curtains work best when combined with other smoke control systems. For example, a draft curtain used with exhaust fans will perform better than either of the tools being used alone.

Containing smoke and preventing it from spreading reduces potential damage and helps the HVAC system effectively ventilate smoke out of the building. These fire curtains work very well in tandem with sprinkler systems and can also be installed in environments that do not require sprinklers.

Let’s take a closer look at draft curtain installation within warehouses, manufacturing plants and aircraft hangars.

Warehouses

Warehouses are usually very large, open spaces that either hold a large volume of inventory or equipment for manufacturing. Because of their size, OSHA fire safety regulations and other requirements should only be considered the minimum level of fire and smoke protection that is needed in a warehouse.

Highly versatile and easy to install, draft curtains are a great example of an affordable and highly effective means of improving fire and smoke control in a warehouse. Because of their ability to redirect the ceiling jet through roof exhausts, they slow smoke movement and limit the amount of smoke that could enter evacuation routes for occupants, especially for those who may have a longer route to exit the warehouse.

These smoke curtains also delay sprinkler activation. This is especially important in warehouses that contain vast amounts of inventory or machinery that could be easily damaged by smoke and water. Although it is a rare occurrence, warehouses without a sprinkler system also benefit greatly from draft curtains. They serve as the primary smoke control system.

Manufacturing Plants

Manufacturing plants (or warehouses) pose an interesting challenge when planning a fire and smoke protection strategy. Not only are they large, open floor plans, but they often require the use of materials that are highly flammable or combustible.

Typically, manufacturing plants feature large vertical and horizontal openings that cannot contain smoke properly. In this instance, smoke curtains are highly valuable as they are the most effective means of closing off these large openings.

Using draft curtains will enable occupants to exit faster and allow fire and rescue teams to safely enter and control the fire. When a fire can be quickly extinguished, less damage occurs to the plant and its contents. These fire curtains also help minimize the risk of explosions inside the building.

Aircraft Hangars

Aircraft hangars are some of the most challenging structures when it comes to fire and smoke protection. Fire safety planning in aircraft hangars should be handled very carefully. Always double-check that NFPA guidelines are being met.

These large, open structures house aircraft, large equipment and extremely flammable, combustible materials like chemical additives and jet fuel—a combination that makes fire and smoke control difficult to manage.

Custom additions like draft curtains are a wise consideration for these buildings, as they add an extra layer of protection during a fire event. Smoke curtains can be deployed either vertically or horizontally, making them a very useful method of barricading smoke in a hangar.

Draft curtains can also close off offices or workplaces from the rest of the hangar, providing an egress route for occupants and ensuring the fire is kept at bay until emergency officials arrive.

Remember, there are likely more advanced rules and regulations involved when planning fire protection systems for aircraft hangars. Consult with a qualified, experienced engineer to ensure the hangar in question doesn't just meet codes but exceeds expectations.

Draft Curtain Installation

Installing, uninstalling and maintaining draft curtains in large buildings can be a quick and easy process. Typically, draft curtains are either semi-permanent or temporary additions to the ceiling and fixtures. This means to take down and set up of the curtains is a fairly easy process if they need to be removed during repairs or renovations that require access to girders or beams.

Want to Learn More About Draft Curtain Installation?

The Smoke Guard Draft Curtain is one example of a code-compliant draft curtain that can be manufactured in custom widths for ceiling spans of an unlimited width and variable drop length, making them a cost-effective fire and smoke protection strategy for industrial buildings.

SG Architectural Specialties’ skilled team of professionals have all the information you need about Smoke Guard Draft Curtains as well as other fire and smoke protection systems and services. Contact us today and let us help you protect your next project.

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