The technology for facilitating fire and smoke safety has seen a significant overhaul in the past few decades. Scientists and engineers have teamed up to devise innovative solutions for mitigating the threats posed by fires. Using these preventive and control measures, we have been able to significantly curtail the damage that fire and smoke causes.
If you live in California, or any place that frequently experiences wildfires, you must already be familiar with how much destruction and mayhem nature’s fiery agent can bring to your doorstep. In 2018, California experienced the worst ever wildfire season which resulted in a loss of over $3.5 billion in property damage alone, apart from the saddening loss of life.
With the advent of new technology, there, naturally, has been a surge in the sales of both active and passive fire solutions in recent years. Preventive measures such as smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire doors have seen a record amount of purchases. One such effective fire solution measure is the deployment of smoke curtains.
Smoke Curtains: Why They Were Invented
The construction or modification of any premise necessitates adequate fire safety. The measures in place for preventing the spread of fire must be strengthened, the fixtures installed and mechanisms involved fool-proofed. Smoke curtains serve as great tools for ensuring that the damaging effects of fire (and smoke, as a consequence) are minimized. That’s why it is crucial to know when and where their deployment is most applicable.
Smoke curtains offer a large degree of flexibility when it comes to installation and practical use. Owing to their inherent structure, they can be used at a variety of spots such as elevators, warehouses, labs and auditoriums. But it’s important to remember that there are different legal and statutory guidelines for each jurisdiction.
How and when you are supposed to use smoke curtains is influenced by the state or country you operate in. It’s important to keep in mind that, to comply with fire safety legislation, smoke curtain barriers must be protected from a short circuit or total power failure. In most frameworks, this takes the form of an electromechanical fail-safe system, such as a backup generator.
Smoke Curtains, Fire Curtains & Hybrid Curtains
It is essential to know how smoke curtains and fire curtains differ so that you can choose which one best fits your needs. Essentially, a smoke curtain acts as a channeling screen or a smoke reservoir screen to control the smoke and push it out of hazardous areas. Whereas, a fire curtain acts as a barrier between two spaces, such as a lift door or escape route, to curtail the spread of fire from one space to the next.
The fire resistance of a smoke curtain depends on the UL rating. For UL1784, which is the UL standard for most smoke curtains, temperature resistance is up to 400°F; for UL 10D (a two-hour fire-resistive rating common for most fire curtains), temperature resistance is up to 1,850°F.
Hybrid curtains, as you might have guessed, are curtains that serve a 2-in-1 purpose. They are crafted to provide the benefits of both smoke curtains and fire curtains. They can serve as the optimal solution for extensive safety if you have the budget.
Types of Smoke Curtains
All smoke curtains fall under one of two umbrella categories: vertical curtains and horizontal curtains. A smoke curtain is either deployed upon trigger vertically or horizontally, depending upon the structure they protect and efficiency. They can be further divided into three essential categories:
- Elevator Curtains: Smoke curtains that provide elevator shaft smoke protection. They are easy to install above elevator openings and integrate seamlessly with existing fire protection systems to quickly bring a structure up to code. They descend from above elevators’ openings and are important to install as elevator shafts can quickly become dangerous conveyors of smoke.
- Perimeter Curtains: Smoke curtains that completely secure the perimeter of a designated area. They are essential for protecting confined spaces from smoke contamination. Their installation requires an unobstructed ceiling but no corner posts so they can be installed in both a box-like configuration or in a multi-faceted, open-ended configuration
- Draft Curtains: Best suited for protecting large spaces such as aircraft hangars, warehouses and manufacturing units from smoke hazards. They are installed in the upper echelons of a structure and are deployable in both buildings with sprinkler systems and buildings with no sprinkler systems for automatic smoke removal. They achieve this by channelizing the ceiling air away from the fire and out of the building via roof vents.
Once smoke curtains have been installed, it is essential that they are regularly serviced and maintained. It’s recommended that smoke curtains are inspected every six months and tested with the fire alarm system annually. Most manufacturers and installers of fire and smoke curtains offer service and maintenance packages. By using smoke curtains, you can help ensure that the occupants of your facility are always protected.
If you’re looking for a way to safeguard your property and its occupants from the effects of an uncontrolled fire, smoke curtains should be at the top end of your priority list. Also, be sure to give due precedence to the quality of your smoke curtains. After all, they might just make all the difference.