The architectural scene is incomplete without adequate attention to safety. This is not only till the building is being constructed, but also extends to when the building becomes fully functional.
The building needs protection from fire, for instance. That’s where fire curtains come in. They’re essential tools in preventing the spread of fire and smoke, which could have disastrous consequences if not controlled.
Fire curtains are unnoticed, but play a big role in ensuring the safety of a building’s occupants, especially in public spaces like theatres and cinemas.
Understanding Fire Curtains
Think of them as barriers, made from fire-resistant materials. The main purpose they serve is to keep the area on fire separated from that which is still safe.
For example, imagine a theatre where a fire breaks out on stage. The fire curtain would descend, shielding the audience from the flames and smoke, ensuring their safety and preventing further spread.
Beyond theatres and cinemas, fire curtains are found in elevators, open kitchens, lobbies, staircases, open-plan designs, etc.
These curtains aren’t just passive devices waiting for human intervention. They’re designed to spring into action automatically when a fire is detected. But manual activation is an option as well, giving building occupants an added layer of control.
Now imagine making buildings safer by also using smoke curtains.
While fire curtains take care of flames from spreading, smoke curtains tackle the suffocating smoke that often chaperones fires.
By creating a barrier, they prevent smoke from entering unaffected areas, ensuring clearer escape routes and reducing the risk of smoke inhalation.
Mechanism of Action
This is pretty straightforward for such a big benefit they serve, but when a fire erupts, sensors detect it, triggering the fire curtains to close.
Installed vertically, these curtains are held by rollers or tracks. As they’re activated, they descend to the floor, forming a seal.
Some are even designed to be smoke-tight, using heavier materials to ensure no smoke seeps through.
For them to work all right in case of fire-related emergencies, fire curtains must work well, in the first place. That’s why they undergo regular testing.
Safety Testing: A Non-Negotiable Step
Given their critical role, fire curtains undergo rigorous testing:
- Fire Testing: Curtains are exposed to high temperatures and flames to make sure they can withstand and halt fire spread.
- Smoke Testing: This checks the curtain’s ability to form a smoke-proof barrier.
- Insulation Testing: For insulated curtains, this tests their ability to resist high temperatures.
- Water Curtain Testing: Some curtains use water barriers to halt flames, and this test ensures their efficacy.
Risks of Skipping Tests
If this part is skipped, it’s quite obvious everything is in chance’s hands. Untested curtains might malfunction, leading to rapid fire spread, property damage, and potential loss of life.
- Improper barriers would also mean smoke would be free to travel anywhere.
- Non-compliance with building codes can lead to legal repercussions and insurance complications.
Once there’s a malfunction, there’s a chance these fire curtains may block any escape route that occupants may want to use. This is counterproductive and may put many lives at more risk unnecessarily.
Fire and smoke curtains are silent guardians, ever-ready to protect us from the unpredictable nature of fires. Their presence, combined with regular testing, ensures that buildings are not just beautiful or functional, but more importantly, safe.
Looking for Solutions
If you’re looking for fire safety options for your property, check out A1S Group for advanced solutions. They’re leading manufacturers, installers and global exporters of Fire Curtains and Smoke Curtains. Impressively, they have more than 33 years of experience and have worked on many landmark projects such as Selfridges Oxford Street and the 2018 RIBA award-winning Bloomberg Building.