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, it's crucial to plan for fire protection beyond just meeting fire and safety codes. You should also consider the potential impact of smoke and include best practices for smoke containment in your plans, especially in multi-level buildings like hotels, offices, or multi-family dwellings.

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

Smoke curtains are an ideal solution for smoke containment, providing an additional layer of protection to keep buildings and occupants safe. These curtains act as physical barriers 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

Smoke curtains can be integrated with other fire detection and response systems to provide additional protection against fire and smoke. Whether you are planning a new building or upgrading an existing one, smoke curtains can work together with other safety elements to enhance your building's overall fire safety strategy. By working in conjunction with other systems, smoke curtains can provide an extra layer of protection, helping to contain smoke and prevent it from spreading throughout the building.

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The management of smoke is a specific aspect that requires individual attention for each building. The most effective smoke management strategy will depend on factors such as the building's size, layout, and occupancy. In the following sections, we will discuss some of the most commonly used smoke curtains and evaluate which designs provide the greatest level of smoke containment and fire protection for your building.

Elevator Smoke Curtains

Ideal For: Elevators

Elevator shafts can act as a chimney, drawing smoke through gaps around elevator doors and pulling it upwards toward the roof. As the smoke rapidly ascends, it spreads through each floor it passes, posing a significant risk to anyone on higher floors attempting to evacuate the building.

To prevent smoke from traveling and to allow for faster, safer evacuation routes, elevator smoke curtains should be installed on each floor. These curtains create a barrier system between the door openings and the elevator shaft, preventing smoke from passing through.

Smoke Guard M200 and M400 elevator curtains offer excellent protection and meet all code regulations. These curtains are connected to smoke detectors located in the elevator landing area, and are activated either by alarm or power loss. They can be operated from either side of the curtain, and can be magnetically attached to the elevator frame to create a tight barrier.

In addition, they can rewind and then re-deploy if someone needs to enter or exit the elevator. For buildings with unique or non-standard features, the Smoke Guard M600 smoke curtain is fully customizable and can be used to seal almost any opening.

Vertical Smoke Curtains

Ideal For: Atrium Separations, Wall Openings, Specialty Enclosures

Atriums, being large open spaces, can create a chimney effect where smoke can easily spread. One effective way to prevent smoke from traveling in these areas is to divide the space into smaller, contained rooms.

This can be achieved using vertical smoke curtains which are housed in the ceiling and can be deployed downward to divide larger rooms into smaller ones. This helps to create a safer exit strategy for building occupants and enables easier entry for fire and rescue teams.

The M2100 Fire + Smoke curtain from Smoke Guard is an ideal solution for providing double protection for large building spaces. It can be powered by emergency power sources for up to 18 hours after a power loss and has a 2-hour fire endurance rating, complying with the UL 10D standard and rated to UL 1784. This ensures that the curtain can effectively contain both smoke and fire in the event of an emergency.

Draft Curtains

Ideal For: Warehouses, Aircraft Hangars, Manufacturing Facilities

Expansive spaces with high ceilings can be particularly vulnerable to the rapid spread of smoke, which can cause harm to occupants and result in losses of equipment, products, and machinery. Automated water sprinklers, triggered by smoke, can further compound the issue, leading to additional damage.

However, by installing draft curtains throughout the facility, smoke can be channeled toward venting and exhaust systems in a more controlled manner. These curtains can effectively work alongside sprinkler systems and are also a viable solution in environments where sprinklers are not required.

Smoke Guard's SG Draft is a cost-effective and durable draft curtain that works well in large spaces. This static smoke curtain is made from heat- and fire-resistant glass filament fabric and can be customized to fit any ceiling span and height. Its primary function is to automatically channel smoke towards venting and exhaust systems, making it an effective tool in minimizing damage caused by smoke inhalation.

Perimeter Curtains

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

Open staircases and escalators without surrounding walls can pose a risk for smoke and fire to rapidly travel. Perimeter curtains, designed to slow fire, can also serve to contain smoke in these areas. They function by creating a separate perimeter around openings without the requirement of walls or corner support posts.

Smoke Guard's M4000 is a vertically deploying smoke curtain that is designed to complement new and existing mechanical smoke and fire containment systems. It can be tailored to safeguard openings up to 15 feet in drop length and 200 linear feet in width.

Always Include Smoke Protection in Your Building Design

It's crucial to remember that smoke, not flames, is often the most destructive element of a fire. By incorporating smoke curtains into your fire safety strategy, you can minimize the risk of building damage and improve the safety of the occupants.

It's important to conduct system inspections and tests every six months and keep track of the testing schedule.

If you're interested in learning more about protecting your building, contact an SG Solutions representative for assistance in choosing the right curtains.