At our recent webinar on smoke and fire curtains, I received a large number of excellent questions during the Q&A section. Here you can see my answers to these questions, slightly edited for clarity.
There is also a recording of the webinar available. Watching the recorded version will still enable you to claim CPD points.
Are there any requirements in Europe for a curtain to have a sensing edge to stop the curtain on contact with an obstruction?
There is no requirement in the UK, but this can be an option. I can’t speak for the rest of Europe, but I don’t know of any such requirement.
What is the minimum fire rating available for fire curtains? Is there a price difference depending on the rating?
This depends on the testing that the manufacturer has done. Although the minimum time given in EN13501-2 is 15 minutes, most are tested to at least 2 hours, though longer is possible. For Colt fire curtains there is a price increase above 60 minute fire rating as a more expensive strengthened fabric has to be used.
Are overlapped fire curtains allowed according to EN 16034?
Yes. The test Standard allows a test on an overlapped curtain, but you then need to specify a curtain that has been tested with an overlap. (An EXAP (extended field of application standard) is currently being finalised which will clarify the requirements.)
Which is better - gravity or drive down?
Gravity is the simplest system: there are no issues about fire rated cables and there is no need to protect any battery back-up system, since we know such curtains will always drop without power. Drive down systems are used in special situations, such as when you have multiple drops (although some gravity systems can also do this), or if curtain is not vertical e.g. horizontal or at an angle.
Once the specification has been established, are there any reasons why the cheapest curtain should not be selected?
On new build projects, which 'work package' normally includes smoke and fire curtains?
Are curtains in Europe mainly specified by architects or by fire engineers?
What sort of pressure ratings are we looking at in sealing a room?
Do you think that 15 minutes delay for an alarm of obstruction to a fire curtain in a dwelling is sufficient?
What is the status of pushing these products into the Building Standards in Europe?
Which applies to fire curtains, EN 16034 or EN 1634?
How well does an overlapping fire curtain stop smoke leakage?
Can you discuss if/ how an escapee can pass through a curtain if it is lowered?
Is there such a product called fire cum smoke curtain?
Are there any third party accreditation schemes that cover the installers, designers and service engineers for fire and smoke curtains?
Is the European certification regime similar to that required by NFPA?
How are horizontal curtains utilised in Europe?
They are generally used where there is a fire engineering need to fill a void between two storeys. A fire curtain would be used if the floor is a compartment floor, otherwise a smoke curtain would be sufficient.
What amount of smoke leakage occurs around the edges of a fire curtain, and would the curtain meet the designation of S for fire doors in the Building Regulations?
Will it damage the fire/smoke drop curtain if you manually lift the curtain, for example if people escape and just lift the curtain and crawl under it?
What should activate a fire curtain? Heat detectors? If so, at what heat should it operate the fire curtain and how far away from the curtain should it be located?
Is there any solution to design out unsightly side guides with fire curtains, e.g. when you have glass ballustrades, so that an open plan arrangement can be maintained?
Provided that smoke and fire curtains are not mentioned in the building legislation, does that mean that every design is subject to an "alternative solution"?
When being used in front of a lift, is there any issue with egress should the curtain be dropped? Is the curtain easy to lift by hand?
It is not the usual practice to site a fire curtain in front of alift door if that lift will be used for evacuation of fire fighting in case of emergency. The bottom bar can be lifted to assist escape but this is not ideal.
Are there any requirements in the EN testing for impact testing? Either some sort of weighted bag or hose stream test?
Fire curtains and smoke curtains are very commonly mixed up and the terminology around them is often interchangeably and wrongly used. This white paper examines what a smoke curtain is and what a fire curtain is, explaining how they are designed, the standards and test regimes that apply to each, and how they are each expected to be applied.
Paul Compton is Technical Director for Colt, experienced in smoke control, HVAC, solar shading and louvre systems.