Fire curtain design, installation, commissioning and maintenance

Hi All,

SFPE in conjunction with a few other interested parties has been talking about the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire curtains in buildings. We are looking for feedback from people are having issues with fire curtains as well as what has worked well in the past.

Here are a few headings to help you get started.

Is there sufficient information in the Acceptable Solutions and Verification Method to complete a design?
On the assumption that there is not sufficient information, what guidance have you been using to ensure compliance with the Building Code.
What standards are you referencing in your designs?

Are systems being installed to your specifications? If not, what are common areas of non compliance?

Normally the curtain(s) is interfaced with the fire alarm system and maybe security system. How well does this work out in practice?

What maintenance regimes are you using and what compliance schedules does it come under?

Dependent on the location of a curtain it may be raised and lowered regularly or only when it is tested. How due you manage long term durability?


Michael James

An interesting topic. I have been through this recently with a project and it is clear there is a lack of information and education in the industry.

The biggest issue I have had with fire curtains (apart from the not insignificant cost) is the insulation rating. As standard, fire curtains are integrity only (-/x/-) rated and therefore will not provide the insulation where this is required, such as dividing firecells, or other areas where a red hot curtain which billows out in the centre into the cold side is an issue. This seems to be poorly understood by specifiers, Building Consent Authorities and some suppliers.

There are some suppliers that sell “partially insulated” fire curtains, where the radiation from the curtain is reduced. The information provided is usually for an Australian variation to the DTS for a curtain by an escape route and radiation to the passing person.

What happens after RSET and hence if fire spreads to another firecell or fire fighters needs to be considered. The reduction in width of the escape route of the curtain billowing out in the centre will need to be considered and this information is often missing from the documentation.

Are tracks required? Fire curtains have tracks and smoke curtains may or may not have tracks. These are often overlooked in the design or architects don’t want them as they look out of place. Likewise, space and installation of the header box, and access to the drive motor.

In regard to smoke curtains, they have a few extra issues if they don’t have side tracks in particular. Smoke curtain leakage is often ignored because “C/VM2 doesn’t’ require it” BSEN12101 has guidance on leakage and the equations to hand calculate the leakage. With gaps up to 60mm on the edges, it can be significant if you need to maintain visibility.

The requirements for tracks for smoke curtains needs to look at the leakage (and if it matters) or mechanical smoke control systems. The pressure difference for fans in exhaust or supply will move the smoke curtain.

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Further to this, there is a some basic info at:

Another issue I have with fire and smoke curtains from a design perspective is ensuring the drop area is kept clear at all times.
Different coloured flooring to deliniate the "keep clear " area helps but we all know hatched markings and signs are routinely ignored.
In a past case, smoke curtains around an atrium dropped behind a ballustrade, but there was nothing to stop tables and chairs being pushed up agains the ballustrade so when the curtains drop, they can’t drop to the floor as intended. One architectural sulution is to have a low height wall or a bar or similar that keeps furniture away from the area the curtain drops, but it is not a popular solution.

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