Elevator Smoke Curtains

A guide on how to find the best fitted smoke curtains that will fully fit your elevator. This article will discuss the strength of the smoke curtains and how they can protect people from fires in a building or within an elevator.

Whether your elevator is located in a hotel, apartment, business building or even a shopping centre, one of the most dangerous things that can happen when people are inside is the outbreak of a fire. After all, these sorts of businesses and commercial areas can bring in a wide range of people, but also lead to the dangers from these people smoking, turning on heating products, utilising electrics, cooking or even just looking to do arson damage to the building itself.

With such a high volume of people (such as customers and employees) in these buildings, this will create even more potential danger, as they will be tightly packed together and looking for an exit in the event of a fire. While most of these people will make it out, the worst situation is that some of them may become trapped within an elevator as the fire rages on.

How will they be able to breathe whilst trapped in such a small space, especially if the fire causes the building to flood with smoke? Worse still, if the doors do open but then get partially stuck, this will allow the smoke to travel into the elevator, leaving the people with very little chance of escape.

According to FEMA, asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio. This why it is essential that you fully utilise the idea of adding a smoke curtain to your elevators.

For the sake of your clients and staff’s protection, and also as a means of protecting your insurance if there is fire damage to your building, you must always make sure your building fully utilises as many safety techniques as possible. A fire curtain is a modern technique that could truly save lives, as well as protect the elevator itself from any fire damage.

Why can’t I just use a traditional fire and smoke protection product?

Installing sprinklers and a fire alarm and having a fire extinguisher can be useful for providing the minimum necessary for retaliation against any potential fire hazards. Indeed, combining these fire safety essentials with any fire-resistant materials for the walls of your elevator or building in general can mean that the fire is quickly stopped before it gets out of hand.

However, consider how many of these products you may need to fill a large building. For a smaller business, it would not be a problem to install a fire extinguisher next to an elevator, but if you own or are working in a larger corporation or commercial building, you will need to buy a lot of these products in order to have them fully incorporated into the building.

You may even find that you struggle to locate the products due to the size of the building itself, which can be potentially catastrophic when an actual fire has broken out.

In addition to this, many companies and commercial buildings often can’t include traditional fire prevention tools in elevators due to their size, as well as the potential that these tools can be misused and damage the elevator itself, such as with any foam or water from sprinklers or extinguishers. This means that, if a fire breaks out inside an elevator, then this fire could quickly spread or destroy your elevator altogether.

Instead of simply buying a traditional product, it would be wiser to combine such products with modern fire prevention techniques. Instead of simply having a water, foam or powder extinguisher, you can also utilise a sound wave extinguisher or a fire blanket.

If people need to be evacuated from a building due to a fire, then why not consider combining an elevator smoke curtain to protect people from the heat and smoke of the fire, and an evacuation plan and safety meet-up point? This would mean that, if people become trapped in the building, there will always be somewhere they can go to seek shelter from any poisonous fumes or the heat.

Combine old fire safety techniques with modern techniques, as this combination can allow for a foolproof plan for saving lives should any fires appear within a building.

What is an elevator smoke curtain?

When a fire breaks out, the first thing that anyone trapped in the building is going to consider is where can they seek shelter. After all, the building will be quickly heating up, doors may be blocked and the smoke will be severely impacting their breathing.

Many people would deem hiding in an elevator a terrible idea in this situation, especially due to smoke inhalation. However, if an elevator uses a smoke curtain, this can prevent smoke from seeping into the elevator. It can also protect against the heat.

The smoke curtain can be in any design to suit your building, but it can be unrolled with the press of a button and used to shield the doors and any spaces from incoming smoke or heat. Once the fire has been quelled, then the elevator curtain can be rolled back up. Alternatively, it can come installed with a button that, once pressed, will automatically raise the curtain.

An elevator smoke curtain can also be a fantastic asset when a fire actually breaks out inside an elevator. If your elevator falls victim to a potential fire and you do not want it to spread, then the first thing you would need to do is unroll or press the automated elevator smoke curtain into place. This will prevent any smoke or fire from escaping from the elevator until the fire department arrives at your building.

This curtain will not be able to keep the elevator fully protected for a long period of time, as the fire will still be able to spread. However, the curtain will give you some extra time to take any guests, clients or staff to safety. It will also contain any smoke or fumes within the elevator itself. Once the fire department arrives, they will be able to remove the smoke curtain and put out the fire.

What are the requirements of an elevator smoke curtain?

While your elevator smoke curtain can come in a wide range of materials and colours, the first thing that it will need to fit any regulatory requirements is to be fire- and smoke-proof. Smoke curtain manufacturers usually use the term “curtain material” for their curtains’ material that consists of a mixture of cotton, steel, reinforced wire, woven glass fibre and silver polyurethane.  

In order to protect an elevator from both smoke and fire, an elevator smoke curtain can consist of a harder barrier and a fabric curtain, giving it two layers for protecting and stopping any escaping smoke, as well as keeping the temperature maintained for at least 4 hours.

The fabric itself must react efficiently to varying pressures and act as a sail to keep any escaping smoke or gases trapped. In order for the fabric to be optimised, some curtains even use off-set rollers and overlapping curtains to make sure any flames escaping from the steel barrier will still be kept behind the curtain.

Who can own elevator smoke curtains?

Technically, anyone can own elevator curtains as long as their building contains an elevator and is wide enough to fit them. However, it would be recommended that elevator smoke curtains are used mainly for commercial buildings and any sort of main housing estate.

That way, they can be utilised by a larger range of people on a daily basis, as there may be more risk associated with fires due to higher usage of the elevator and the larger population of the building.

What features can my elevator smoke curtains have?

If you are wondering what sort of smoke curtains can optimise the fire safety of your building, then you may want to consider having the following features added to your smoke curtains:

  • Double or triple fabric layering
  • Automatic movement
  • Plated bases
  • Horizontal/vertical placement
  • Fire shutters
  • Additional ventilation systems
  • Additional smoke plating
  • Additional evacuation barrier/curtains placement

How long can smoke curtains keep a fire or smoke inside an elevator?

As your elevator smoke curtains are designed to maintain a certain heat and pressure within the elevator, they can keep people protected, or a fire maintained, for at least 4 hours. This depends on the material used and how many layers you choose to have.

The stronger your curtain’s material and the more flexible it is under heat and pressure, the longer it will be able to last to protect your clients/staff from a fire and smoke inhalation. You will need a product that can last as long as necessary for the fire department to be called and arrive at your building to put out the fire. This is why it is recommended to always look for curtains that are made from steel or strong metal.

What sort of elevator smoke curtains can I purchase?

If you are interested in finding the appropriate smoke curtain for your elevator, then you will need to consider how big your building and elevator truly is. While these curtains will not appear ugly or ruin the aesthetic of your building, they can be expensive and you will need to consider whether or not you solely want a fire-proof curtain, a smoke-proof curtain or a combined product.

You should always spend the appropriate amount of money on the safety of your building and its customers and staff, which is why it is always best to buy a combined curtain.

Your curtain can also come with the following features:

  • Automatic – If you are after top-of-the-line technology alongside a smooth design, then you may want to consider investing in an automatic curtain. These curtains contain sensors that detect heat or smoke. When they detect it, the curtain will automatically be brought down to protect the elevator. However, it will also contain a button that will allow it to be hidden away again, just in case the fire was a false alarm. 

Keep in mind that, while an automatic curtain can be useful, it does contact electrical wiring that could become hazardous. However, as this is protected by the curtains, it remains very unlikely that this wiring will come in contact with the flames unless the product is damaged.

  • Gravity fail-safe curtains – Automatic curtains can be quite expensive to fit – so, if you are looking for a cheaper variation of them, you may want to consider installing a gravity fail-safe curtain. If this curtain detects heat or smoke, the fire alarm will be alerted and will power the curtains to instantly descend using gravity instead of an automated system.

As soon as the threat has passed and the fire alarm system is reset, the curtains can be either adjusted to their usual position, automatically retracted or rolled back up with the use of a roller and key system. These products can be powered by an electrical system or through a battery backup system, meaning that you will always be in control of your curtains even if the main power supply of your building fails.

What sort of designs can elevator smoke curtains come in?

This depends entirely on the architecture of your building, as well as what colours you think will suit the appearance of the elevator. You cannot visually differentiate between the materials of the smoke curtains themselves, such as copper, steel, cotton or wiring additions.

If you want your smoke curtain to be in a specific colour or have additional patterns or features added to it, be sure to talk to your provider to see what sort of colours and features they can use to make your curtain unique to your own building. However, keep in mind that you should always put the curtain’s efficiency first!

7 reasons to trust K & D Systems

  1. We're amazing value for money: all our manufacturing takes place within our plant in Sunderland.
  2. We have a team there to respond to all quotes within 24 hours.
  3. Our installation team have over 30 years' fitting experience.
  4. All our smoke and fire curtains are independently tested either by Warrington or Chiltern Fire and are fully certified.
  5. We offer controlled descent and gravity fail safe systems.
  6. We are continually investing in research and development.
  7. We offer a 3 day turnaround time* on production.

*3 day turnaround time subject to certain restrictions; please ask us.