If you think that five breaths are all it takes to lose consciousness, you won’t be surprised to learn that as many as 70% of victims in a fire suffocate. Thick smoke can lead to disorientation and make it difficult to breathe, while the heat can cause parts of the building to collapse and start secondary fires. All this makes it difficult for people to find their way out of the building and for emergency services to make their way in to fight the fire.
Stopping the movement of smoke and heat
Building codes have identified the need for effective escape routes as well as fire and smoke compartments in order to prevent the movement of smoke and heat. However, the architectural trend is for buildings with large open spaces, hence no compartmentation. Fire and smoke curtains can provide a solution. They can be perfectly integrated into the building’s design so that they are virtually invisible when rolled up. They can also be connected to fire detection systems that will trigger them so that, in the case of a fire, they roll down creating compartments to prevent the movement of fire, heat and smoke.
Compartments help smoke ventilation
Creating compartments also helps ventilators extract the smoke efficiently. Hot smoke is more buoyant and tends to go up, so that natural ventilators will find it easier to extract it quickly. If the smoke is allowed to cool by moving around the building, it will tend to return to ground level.
Fire and smoke curtains: the options
- Fire curtains designed to achieve an integrity rating for 30, 60 or 120 minutes, resistant either to flame (e), radiation (w) or ensuring complete insulation (i) to the EN 1634/1 standard.
- Smoke curtains designed to withstand hot air and smoke at temperatures from 600oC (to the EN 12101-1 standard) up to 1050oC (under a standard fire curve according to EN1363/1) for 60 to 120 minutes.
When designing the smoke control system using fire or smoke curtains, you will need to consider whether they require side guides.
Fire and smoke curtains can provide excellent building compartmentation where permanent compartments are not desirable owing to design considerations. In future articles we will look in more detail at the characteristics of these various systems and how they can benefit your design and provide fire safety in your building.
Join Paul Compton, Technical Director at Colt UK, from 12.30-13.30 BST on Thursday 8th September 2016, as he presents a CIBSE CPD webinar on the design considerations when integrating smoke and fire curtains into a building.
Download the whitepaper which explains the differences between smoke and fire curtains, the standards which they comply with, and how to install, test and maintain them.
Paul Compton is Technical Director for Colt, experienced in smoke control, HVAC, solar shading and louvre systems.