Every building should have fire prevention and protection measures to protect people and minimise property damage. This is especially important for businesses or commercial or industrial premises with high volumes of people and/or flammable goods.

These safety measures should not only include fire barriers to limit the spread of fire, but also smoke barriers to contain the hot gases produced by fires – which can often spread further and faster than the flames themselves.

Smoke curtains play an essential role in fire safety strategies by deploying when triggered by a smoke alarm that has detected smoke, compartmentalising the area to stop the smoke from reaching other parts of the building.

Made from heat-resistant woven fibreglass, smoke curtains are strong yet flexible. They are specially fabricated for durability to hold back hot smoke from travelling through openings between spaces as it rises above head height.

Here’s what you should know about the importance of smoke curtains and how they can be used to improve building fire safety.

Why are smoke curtains important?

Smoke is one of the leading causes of fire-rated fatalities, being the most common cause of fire-related deaths in England in 2021 and the second most common in 2022.

Additionally, being ‘overcome by gas or smoke’ remains the leading cause of non-fatal casualties from fires year on year – making smoke inhalation responsible for almost half of all recorded fire-related injuries in England.

Smoke or other gases from fire can not only injure people through inhalation and make it difficult for them to breathe, but it can also irritate the eyes and obscure vision, so it is also harder to see the way out and evacuate to safety.

However, these figures are gradually declining – perhaps due to increased awareness of fire safety and compliance with stricter health and safety regulations.

Installing smoke curtains to contain the smoke to certain areas can save lives by keeping escape routes clearer, allowing civilians to exit the building and firefighters to locate and extinguish the fire much more easily.

What’s the difference between smoke curtains and fire curtains?

While you may also have heard about fire curtains or fire shutters, these are not the same thing as smoke curtains, and these systems are not interchangeable.

Fire curtains are thicker barriers – or in the case of fire shutters, metal shutters – that are manufactured, installed, and tested to national and international standards to make sure they can withstand flames for a graded period of time.

They are designed to deploy either automatically or after a time delay after receiving a signal from a fire alarm, either closing halfway then completely, or dropping fully closed from the start to seal off an opening between two spaces.

This helps to temporarily contain the fire, affording people in the building enough time to get out via  a clear escape route and the firefighters enough time to arrive and get the flames under control. The significant difference is that they have a much higher resistance to heat, so they can hold back flames and hot gases for longer.

While they can be made from similar materials, smoke curtains are designed specifically to direct the flow of smoke and prevent such gases from spreading – so they are not manufactured to withstand heat higher than around 600°C, and typically not fire-rated as highly as fire curtains or fire shutters.

This is why it’s essential to include both smoke curtains and fire curtains/shutters in any fire safety system, to preserve evacuation routes and protect people and property against the spread of both smoke and flames in the event of a fire.

Where can you install smoke curtains?

Typically installed vertically, with the aim of forming a boundary for a ‘smoke reservoir’ that helps to channel smoke upwards without blocking off an exit, smoke curtains can be used in various places throughout a building.

For example, they can divide and compartmentalise large open spaces, like open plan offices or building atriums, or close off doorways between different sections of the building to limit the smoke cloud to one place for as long as possible.

Alternatively, to prevent lift shafts from acting like chimneys and funnelling fumes between floors, a smoke curtain can be deployed while the lift is out of action.

You can install a smoke curtain in virtually any area that may require one, in almost any kind of building – from apartment blocks, schools, and healthcare facilities to offices, airports, and retail or industrial premises. 

Barely noticeable when retracted, with a minimal footprint, it’s fairly simple to incorporate smoke curtains into a building plan, whether new or retrofitted.

Depending on the model, they can be set up to activate under certain conditions, offering flexibility for easier integration into your fire control system.

Installing smoke curtains for your building

There are many advantages of smoke curtains, from their discreet design and ease of installation to efficient smoke control and legal safety compliance.

If you need smoke curtains for your building, here at Roller Shutter Services we can supply and install made-to-measure smoke curtains that are tailored to the needs of each particular space – no matter the type or size.

For high-quality smoke curtains that fulfil your requirements, or any of our other fire safety curtains or shutters, get in touch with the RSS team today.

Call us on 0800 328 9356 or send an email to info@rollershutterservices.co.uk to discuss technical specifications, dimensions, and locations.

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