Why Choose 3-Hour Smoke Curtains?

3 hour smoke curtains provide 180 minutes of fire and smoke protection. They save lives, limit damage, and satisfy safety codes.

The First National Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is a historic building that uses M400 elevator curtains to meet fire codes.

Smoke curtains are an integral part of any fire protection strategy. They help manage and contain smoke during a fire, enabling safe evacuation and minimizing property damage.

There are several types of smoke curtains, such as vertical smoke curtains, which are categorized by fire resistance ratings. Basic curtains may provide just 30 minutes of protection before heat comprises their integrity.

1-hour and 2-hour smoke curtains offer more robust construction. However, for optimal fire protection in high-risk settings, 3-hour rated smoke curtains are strongly recommended.

The Basics of Smoke Curtains

What Are Smoke Curtains?

Smoke curtains are passive fire protection systems designed to restrict the spread of smoke during a building fire. They are typically made of fire-resistant or non-combustible materials and work by limiting the movement of smoke and fire from one area to another, often buying time for safe evacuation and fire fighting.

Smoke curtains can be installed to compartmentalize large open spaces, isolate high-risk areas like elevator shafts or stairwells or create smoke zones in buildings. They activate automatically when smoke is detected. Once deployed, the curtains help prevent smoke from infiltrating adjacent spaces.

How Do Smoke Curtains Work?

There are two main types of smoke curtains:

  • Mechanical smoke curtains are physically deployed using spring-loaded rollers, gravity or compressed air.

  • Electrical smoke curtains use electro-mechanical actuators and linkages to unfurl.

Smoke curtains are typically mounted on the underside of the ceiling or the walls. They can unfurl vertically to the floor or horizontally across a space. Curtains installed on walls are often called sidewall barriers.

Sensors detect smoke and signal to the fire alarm control panel, activating the release mechanism to deploy the curtain. They can also be triggered by the building's fire alarm system. The curtain rapidly falls into place, helping to compartmentalize the area.

Smoke and fire curtains are designed to be fail-safe. Even during a power failure, they are engineered to default to their protective position using gravity or spring tensioning. They can also be manually activated in an emergency.

Understanding Smoke Curtain Ratings: How Long Can They Withstand Fire?

Smoke curtains are rated based on the time they can contain smoke and withstand exposure to extreme heat in a fire. Typical ratings are 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours or 3 hours. The rating indicates how long the curtain is designed to provide an effective barrier before losing structural integrity when subjected to flames and high temperatures.

30-minute smoke curtains provide basic, short-term smoke control. 1-hour and 2-hour curtains are more heat-resistant, but 3-hour smoke curtains offer the highest level of protection. Constructed with layers of fire-retardant, high-temperature fabrics and reinforced with metals, they are rigorously tested to maintain their integrity for a full 180 minutes.

For critical infrastructure, 3-hour smoke curtains meet the most demanding fire codes and safety standards. Understanding these ratings helps identify the ideal curtains for a building's needs.

Why 3-Hour Smoke Curtains Are Essential

3-hour smoke curtains provide a higher degree of fire protection and smoke resistance. During a fire emergency, these curtains can effectively contain smoke, hot gasses and some flames for up to 3 hours. This allows more time for building occupants to evacuate safely and prevents fire and smoke from spreading rapidly across other areas of the building.

3-hour curtains satisfy many model building code requirements. For example, the International Building Code (IBC) requires a minimum 3-hour fire-resistance rating for many wall partitions and barriers. Areas where 3-hour smoke curtains are commonly installed include:

  • Enclosing exit stairwells and egress paths

  • Separating elevator shafts

  • Partitioning large open spaces like atriums or lobbies

  • Protecting storage areas with high fire loads

  • Isolating hazardous operations like kitchens

3-hour smoke curtains utilize robust, fire-tested materials like fiberglass, stainless steel and fire-resistant coatings. They provide an added layer of passive fire protection for modern buildings. When choosing smoke curtains, verify that the products are UL-certified to meet the latest fire test standards. Reputable manufacturers can provide fire test data reports.

Key Reasons to Invest in 3-Hour Smoke Curtains

A gray elevator lobby with two elevator doors with translucent yellow smoke curtains deployed in front of them.

Enhanced Fire Safety

Installing 3-hour smoke curtains in your building enhances fire safety by containing smoke and fire during a blaze. These curtains are designed to withstand extreme heat and flames for 180 minutes, giving occupants ample time to evacuate safely.

Smoke curtains work by compartmentalizing a building into smaller sections. This prevents smoke and flames from spreading uncontrollably throughout the entire structure. When fire breaks out, the smoke curtain deploys automatically to isolate the fire.

This compartmentalization approach is a core principle emphasized by organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the IBC. It enhances life safety in the event of an emergency.

Compliance with Building Codes and Regulations

Smoke curtains help building owners comply with fire protection regulations. For example, the IBC requires smoke containment barriers for certain types of buildings based on occupancy, height and other factors. Elevator smoke curtains are particularly important for code compliance. The IBC mandates that elevator hoistways be separated from the remainder of the building with construction meeting specific fire rating requirements.

By investing in properly tested and certified 3-hour smoke curtains, building owners and managers can be confident their properties meet these crucial life-saving codes.

Long-Term Financial Savings

Though smoke curtains require an upfront investment, they offer major financial savings over the full life cycle of a building. Containing fires effectively reduces property damage and loss. Fire crews can also protect more of the building with the extra time that 3-hour curtains allow. Well-designed smoke curtains also minimize business disruptions caused by fires. With less impact on operations, organizations don't suffer productivity losses and opportunity costs from prolonged closures or relocation.

Insurance premiums may also be lower for buildings with active fire protection systems. When pricing policies, insurers favor properties demonstrating attention to risk management and fire safety.

Get Optimal Smoke Protection for Your Building with SGAS

This image shows the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Sunnyvale Center. This building uses M400 elevator curtains for fire and smoke protection.

When it comes to keeping your building protected in the event of a fire, you need smoke curtains that offer the highest levels of fire resistance and reliability. SG Architectural Specialties provides durable, customized smoke containment solutions to fit your building's needs.

SG Architectural Specialties manufactures 3-hour smoke curtains designed to meet the most demanding safety standards. Our curtains utilize lightweight yet extremely fire-resistant materials and are tested to UL 10D and UL 1784 standards, achieving over 2000°F flame resistance without losing integrity.

SG Architectural Specialties smoke and fire curtains can be configured for openings of virtually any size. The heavy-duty galvanized steel side guides ensure smooth, trouble-free deployment when seconds count. Whether you need automatic or manual smoke or fire curtain activation, SG Architectural Specialties offers completely tailored options including integration with fire alarms, building management systems and more.

Don't compromise when it comes to protecting your people and property from the dangers of smoke and fire. Contact our experts at SG Architectural Specialties today to get advanced smoke and fire curtains engineered precisely for your building.