What Are Smoke Curtains?

When designing with fire safety in mind, it's important to remember that where there's fire, there's smoke. And smoke can do as much, if not more, damage to your building than fire alone. Smoke curtains can help prevent or lower the amount of damage incurred during and after a fire.

When designing a building, proper planning for fire protection should mean more than simply meeting fire and safety codes. You should also consider the potential impacts of smoke and include some best practices for smoke containment in your plans. This is especially important in buildings with several floors, like offices, hotels or multi-family dwellings.

Smoke inhalation is often the cause of fatalities before the fire itself even reaches certain parts of a building, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), accounting for an estimated 40% to 50% of fire-related fatalities.

The ideal solution for smoke containment, smoke curtains create additional layers of protection to keep your building and its occupants as safe as possible. These curtains help provide a physical barrier against smoke by sealing off doorways, elevators and other large openings where smoke can quickly travel through a building.

Finding the Right Smoke Curtains for Your Building

Whether you are designing a new building or upgrading the safety elements of an existing one, smoke curtains have the capability to work with other fire detection and response systems to further enhance your building’s defenses against fire and smoke.

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Smoke management is often something that will be unique to each building. What works for your building will depend on the building’s size, layout and occupancy number. Let’s review some of the most common types of smoke curtains and learn which designs offer your building the highest level of smoke containment and fire protection.

Elevator Smoke Curtains

Ideal For: Elevators

Elevator shafts can act like a chimney by taking in smoke through gaps around the elevator doors and pulling it up the shaft toward the roof. As the smoke quickly travels upward, it also spreads throughout each floor it passes. This poses a great risk to anyone who may be on higher floors waiting to exit the building.

Elevator smoke curtains should be installed on each floor to create a barrier system between the door openings and the elevator shaft. This helps prevent smoke from traveling and also allows for faster, safer egress routes.

The Smoke Guard M200 and M400 elevator curtains meet or exceed code regulations to offer extensive protection. These smoke curtains are connected to smoke detectors in the elevator landing area and are deployed when the alarm goes off or there is a power loss.

Operable from either side of the smoke curtain, the Smoke Guard M200 and Smoke Guard M400 magnetically adhere to the elevator frame to create a tight barrier but can also rewind and then re-deploy if someone needs to enter or exit the elevator.

If you are designing a building with unique custom features or have an existing building that requires non-standard measurements, the Smoke Guard M600 smoke curtain works like the M200 and M400 but is fully customizable, giving you the ability to seal nearly any opening.

Vertical Smoke Curtains

Ideal For: Atrium Separations, Wall Openings, Specialty Enclosures

Larger open spaces like atriums can also have a chimney effect where smoke is concerned. One of the best ways to prevent smoke from traveling in these areas is to divide the space into smaller, more contained rooms.

Vertical smoke curtains are great options for smoke containment. Housed in the ceiling, these curtains deploy downward to divide spaces within bigger rooms. This allows for a safer exit strategy for building occupants and an easier entry for fire and rescue teams.

Smoke Guard’s M2100 Fire + Smoke vertically deploying curtain offers dual protection for larger building spaces. This smoke curtain can be powered by emergency power sources for up to 18 hours after a power loss. It is also 2-hour fire endurance rated, complies with the UL 10D standard and is rated to UL 1784.

Draft Curtains

Ideal For: Warehouses, Aircraft Hangars, Manufacturing Facilities

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.

When strategically placed throughout a facility, draft curtains can automatically funnel smoke toward venting and exhaust systems. These curtains work very well in tandem with sprinkler systems and can also be installed in environments that do not require sprinklers

Draft curtains like Smoke Guard’s SG Draft are static smoke curtains that are a cost-effective, ideal solution for large spaces. This durable curtain is made of a glass filament fabric that is heat- and fire-resistant. These panels are also manufactured to custom widths for ceiling spans of an unlimited width with a variable drop to suit most ceiling heights.

Perimeter Curtains

Ideal For: Large Open Staircases, Escalators, Multi-level Atriums

Oftentimes, large open staircases and escalators have no surrounding walls which opens the opportunity for smoke and fire to travel quickly. Although they are primarily designed to slow fire, perimeter curtains can also contain smoke in these areas. These smoke curtains work by forming an independent perimeter around openings without the need for walls or corner support posts.

Smoke Guard’s M4000 fire-rated curtain is one example of a vertically deploying smoke curtain that works well alongside new and existing mechanical smoke and fire containment systems. It can also be customized to protect openings up to 15 feet in drop length and 200 linear feet wide.

Always Include Smoke Protection in Your Building Design

Remember, the most damaging part of a fire isn't the flames, but the smoke produced during the fire. By implementing smoke curtains into your fire safety plans, you are reducing the risk of building damage and increasing the level of safety for your occupants.

Be sure to inspect and test your system every six months and keep a record of your testing schedule.

Interested in learning more about protecting your building? Click here to talk to an SG Specialties representative about the right curtains for your building.