Manufacturing Plants: Smoke Protection and Removal

The combination of expansive space, machinery and potential hazardous or flammable substances makes fire safety a challenge for warehouses and manufacturing plants.

Smoke control and removal should be key factors in the design of any building to keep occupants safe and prevent building or machinery damage.

Importance of Smoke Protection

While it’s obvious how destructive a fire can be, it’s actually the smoke that is most damaging. Even a fairly controllable fire emergency can create smoke levels capable of causing injury and equipment damage.

Uncontrolled smoke spreads quickly and can lead to the loss of products and machinery. Additionally, when activated by smoke, automated water sprinklers in the building can cause their own damage to equipment.

By combining smoke curtains with delayed sprinklers and other technology, you can more effectively slow the spread of a fire, reduce product loss, and offer protection to building occupants.

A high-performing smoke control system not only allows for safer evacuation of the plant, but also for emergency officials to enter the building more quickly. Although manufacturing plants will have been built to code to meet safety standards (i.e. emergency exit routes) this should be considered the bare minimum of protection.

Fire and rescue teams will be able to more safely enter and efficiently control a fire when smoke is contained. The more quickly a fire can be reached and extinguished, the less damage to the plant and products.

Designing an Effective Smoke Protection System

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The most effective fire protection system is one that's custom designed for your building to efficiently control and remove smoke. Your HVAC system is actually an invaluable part of smoke control. Being able to control air circulation is the key to controlling smoke.

There are two types of smoke control systems: dedicated and non-dedicated.

Dedicated systems are smoke control systems comprised of equipment that serves no other purpose than to provide smoke control protection. This means that any fans and dampers in place for ventilation are only used in an emergency. Dedicated systems are ideal for the more vulnerable areas of a manufacturing plant, like stairwells, elevator shafts and atria.

Non-dedicated systems are HVAC systems that are used daily as part of a normal ventilation control. These are slightly more variable in design, allowing for more customization to suit your needs. For example, each floor of the plant may have its own fan leading to an exhaust port. Alternatively, there may be numerous fans that cover multiple floors.

Aside from an appropriately-sized HVAC system, other tools at your disposal include draft curtains. Draft curtains like Smoke Guard’s SG Draft are static smoke curtains, ideal for manufacturing and industrial settings.

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Smoke Guard’s highly durable draft curtain is made of a glass filament fabric that is heat- and fire-resistant. When deployed, the curtain is fixed in place and controls smoke, while also functioning as a fire barrier. The curtain achieves this by pulling the ceiling jet away from the fire and pushing it out of the building through roof vents.

Containing smoke and preventing it from spreading throughout the building reduces potential damage and also helps the HVAC system to more effectively ventilate smoke out. Manufacturing plants commonly have large vertical and horizontal openings that normally would not allow proper containment of smoke. Smoke curtains are highly valuable as they are the most effective means of closing off these large openings.

Planning Ahead for Better Smoke Protection

Remember, one of the most damaging factors of a fire isn't the flames, but the smoke that is produced.

Thankfully, building owners can reduce risks by implementing a smoke control system. Establishing a strong HVAC system, dedicated or not, and installing draft curtains in a manufacturing warehouse is a valuable investment for protecting employees and your business.