Using fire curtains to comply with fire safety legislation
The use of fire curtains has become standard practice in many buildings across the world. The device is written into many fire codes for large areas that contain many people. The fire curtain has helped to save many lives over the years by channelling the blaze away from a group of people trying to escape a burning building. Although fire curtains are most often used in buildings, mobile versions of the device can be found in both fire brigades and police companies. Buildings can use fire curtains to keep complaint with Britain’s Fire Safety regulations, as spelled out in Approved Documents – Plan B.
What is a fire curtain?
A fire curtain is a device that is lowered from the ceiling to cover opening in case of a fire. Originally built for theaters, the fire curtain was created to stop on stage fires from spreading to the audience. Fire curtains are created to be fire resistant and control the path of the flames in case of a building fire. Historically fire curtains were manufactured out of Asbestos but are now are created out of high tech material that is flexible but fireproof. One of the main materials for a fire curtain is Zetex, which is a woven silicon based yarn.
How can a fire curtain help keep a building safe?
Although fire curtains have historically been used only in theatres, the device is now growing in popularity for commercial and residential properties. Fire curtains can be found in many apartment buildings and shopping centres, placed strategically to help control flame and smoke in case of a fire outbreak. These curtains often cover the openings of hallways, the entrances and exits, and areas available to a large group of people. These curtains are not visible during normal activity, but only are lowered in case of a fire.
These fire curtains also help contain smoke to a certain area, leaving other areas in a building smoke free. One common use of a fire curtain is by placing them in kitchens without a chimney or with no access to the outside. The fire curtain can contain the smoke and channel it to other areas, letting the staff and customers work and eat in a smoke free environment.
The Fire Safety Code
The Approved Documents – Plan B lists five areas a building must be compliant. These are: B1 – Means of escape, B2 – Internal fire Spread (linings), B3 – Internal Fire Spread (Structure), B4 – External Fire Spread, and B5 – Access and facilities for the fire service. A fire curtain can help any building comply with this list and bring it up to code.
B1 – Means of Escape
Plan B section B1 indicates that all buildings must have a way for people to escape using their own efforts. A fire curtain located in strategic places will help with this effort. They are fireproof and can corral smoke, creating a barrier to hold the fire back and clearing the air. This will allow the general population to find the fire exits or fire escapes and leave the building.
B2 – Internal Fire Spread (linings)
This section states that internal building linings needs stop the rapid spread of fire. A fire curtain is just that, a lining that stops the rapid spread of smoke and flame. A fire curtain isn’t built in to the building but can be mounted in various strategic spots throughout a building. This lining is fire and smoke proof and helps any building comply with the fire safety code.
B3 – Internal Fire Spread (Structure)
Section B3 states that the structure of the building should not collapse prematurely, allowing the people inside time to escape. Much like in B2, a fire curtain can help in this by providing the fire a passage to move through the building. Fire curtains don’t just contain flames, but also direct the fire in a controlled manner. This will help the structure of a building stay sound long enough for the people to escape and the fire brigade to arrive. Strategically placed fire curtains, once deployed, will set up a maze that the fire will use to move through the building.
B4 – External Fire Spread
Section B4 requires buildings to be placed far enough apart so that fire doesn’t easily spread to another structure. A fire curtain can’t help where a building is placed, since that has to be decided upon construction, but one can help keep flames from spreading to other structures. As stated before, fire curtains are flameproof and help corral smoke. These curtains will automatically help a building keep the fire internal so it doesn’t jump to another structure.
B5 – Access and facilities for the fire service
This section of the fire safety code is created to help each fire brigade have a clear path to the fire. Every building must be laid out so that the fire service can access the building with little to no trouble. This allows each person in the fire brigade to enter and exit a building in a safe manner during a fire. A fire curtain can make this access easier by containing the fire in the entry areas. Many fire brigades carry portable fire curtains to block off areas and control where fire is heading and what is fuelling the blaze. A building based fire curtain can do the same thing but on a larger scale.
Author – Kevin Fitzgibbon
Blaze Fire Technology Fire Curtains