Why Choose Vertical Smoke Curtains?

Vertical smoke curtains are an important fire safety system for modern buildings. Studies show that smoke inhalation causes more fire-related deaths than the fires themselves, so measures like vertical and elevator smoke curtains can make a critical difference in an emergency.

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Vertical smoke curtains are an important fire safety system for modern buildings. Studies show that smoke inhalation causes more fire-related deaths than the fires themselves, so measures like vertical and elevator smoke curtains can make a critical difference in an emergency.

But what exactly are these curtains, and why should you choose vertical smoke curtains over other options? Let's review their importance and why they may be a smart investment for your building.

What Are Vertical Smoke Curtains?

Vertical smoke curtains are fire-rated barrier assemblies that deploy from the ceiling down to the floor when activated by a building's fire alarm system. They are typically made of fabric or other material that can block smoke. The curtains hang vertically to compartmentalize large open spaces into smaller smoke zones. This contains deadly smoke and gasses to the area of origin during a fire event.

Vertical smoke curtains create temporary smoke partitions to support a building's passive fire protection system. When not in use, the curtains retract into housing units in the ceiling to maintain an aesthetically pleasing open space.

Fire Code Compliance with Vertical Smoke Curtains

One of the main reasons to choose vertical smoke curtains is to comply with fire codes for commercial buildings. Smoke compartmentalization is required in many occupancies under fire safety regulations like National Fire Protection Association 101.

Vertical smoke curtains help meet these requirements with reliable active fire protection. The curtains automatically deploy to separate smoke zones when smoke is detected. This allows architects and builders to maintain open floor plans without compromising fire safety.

Proper smoke compartmentalization is crucial for safe emergency egress during a fire event. Vertical smoke curtains provide an engineered smoke control solution that meets the intent of fire codes.

Superior Smoke Containment

A major benefit of vertical smoke curtains is their effectiveness in containing smoke and gasses. Curtains that deploy vertically from ceiling to floor provide a much better smoke seal than horizontal barriers.

With horizontal smoke curtains, smoke will quickly spread above or below the barrier. However, adequately designed vertical curtains limit smoke migration to adjacent compartments. This keeps escape routes and exits as smoke-free as possible during evacuation.

Smoke containment also helps firefighters by preventing smoke spread. This improves visibility and protects other areas of the building from smoke damage. Vertical curtains essentially form temporary smoke "walls" to maintain tenable conditions.

Reliable and Easy Activation

Vertical smoke curtains integrate with a building's fire alarm system for reliable automatic activation. When smoke or heat detectors go into alarm, sensors trigger the curtains to deploy immediately.

This removes the need for manual intervention and provides quick compartmentalization during a fire emergency. Occupants do not need to find and activate pull stations or remember specific protocols. The curtains deploy automatically within seconds to isolate the hazard.

Easy and reliable activation is essential for a life safety system. Vertical smoke curtains excel in this regard. They react quickly whenever smoke is detected to help contain it.

Improved Visibility for Occupants

In a fire emergency, seeing exit routes and paths to safety is critical. Unlike smoke doors, vertical smoke curtains provide a visible barrier and cue to occupants when deployed.

Seeing where smoke curtains have deployed aids situational awareness. The curtains send a clear visual message about where smoke hazards are present. This helps steer occupants away from smoke and toward safe exits. Vertical curtains also allow some visibility through the fabric. This helps occupants stay oriented to their surroundings as they evacuate. The curtains give critical visual cues while blocking deadly smoke.

Space Savings with Vertical Design


In many modern buildings, space is at a premium. Horizontal smoke curtains can occupy a significant amount of ceiling space for positioning and storage. However, vertical smoke curtains have a minimal footprint above the ceiling when retracted.

The vertical orientation means less building space is required for deployment hardware and curtain storage. Only slim housings around the perimeter are needed. This frees up ceiling space for other utilities and design elements.

Aesthetic Appeal When Retracted

When not used during normal building operation, vertical smoke curtains are retracted from sight above ceiling level. This maintains an open, aesthetically pleasing environment without unsightly barriers hindering views or daylighting.

The lack of visual clutter keeps interiors looking clean and modern. You gain the life safety benefits of smoke curtains without compromising interior design. In addition, some vertical smoke curtain models feature customizable colors or prints. This allows the curtains to blend into interior color schemes for an even less noticeable retracted appearance.

Key Takeaways on Vertical Smoke Curtains

Vertical smoke curtains offer major benefits compared to alternative smoke management solutions:

  • Meet fire code requirements for smoke compartmentalization

  • Contain smoke and gasses to the area of origin

  • Reliable automatic activation via a fire alarm system

  • Provide a visible barrier to aid emergency egress

  • Minimize space requirements with vertical orientation

  • Maintain aesthetic appeal when retracted

Additional Considerations for Smoke and Fire Protection: Hose Stream Testing

In addition to choosing compliant, reliable vertical smoke curtains for your building, you also need to thoroughly vet other safety products. One such way you can do so is through hose stream testing. Hose stream testing is a critical evaluation used for fire protection and safety elements. This testing assesses the structural integrity of different fire-resistant materials like doors, walls, glass and other building components.

Hose stream testing is conducted in accordance with the NFPA, and the NFPA’s standards define the parameters of the test. The main goal is to determine how well a material can withstand the impact of high-pressure water streams used during fires.

This resistance to high-velocity streams is considered one of the most challenging aspects of validating building components, but it’s essential for fire safety. If a building material or assembly cannot pass the hose stream test, it might not be safe or reliable during a fire incident.

There are a variety of hose stream test-certified products available that you can trust to provide safety and reliability in case of emergency. By ensuring building materials can withstand firefighting efforts, you can improve safety in your space.

Count on SG Architectural Specialties for Superior Smoke and Fire Protection

If you're seeking smoke and fire protection systems for your building, look to the experts at SG Specialties. Our team specializes in the installation and maintenance of these systems and can also provide a professional consultation to help you determine how to increase fire safety in your building.

If you're looking to explore vertical curtains, check out the innovative models from Smoke Guard. Or, if you prefer to consult with our team, contact us today. We're eager to help you enhance your fire and smoke safety with solutions that work for your building.