Smoke Management in Buildings

While building fires can be scary, dangerous, and destructive, in multi-story buildings it’s often not the fire that’s responsible for most of the deaths. Smoke infiltrating elevator shafts and stairwells and seeping into walls and between floors often causes people to succumb long before the fire reaches them. Therefore, buildings with multiple floors including offices or hotels need some way to help control the spread of smoke in the event of a fire. Smoke management is a multi-pronged approach with no one-size-fits-all model; every building will have different needs based on its layout and occupancy, meaning that smoke management in buildings must be approached individually each time.



Elevator shafts are well known for drawing smoke. The shafts have the ability to act like chimneys, pulling the smoke from the floor with the fire, and directing it upward. Therefore, in a multi-story building with elevators, the first smoke management detail should begin here.

Smoke curtains, such as the M200 or M400 from Smoke Guard, make controlling smoke in these areas seamless and simple. The curtains install out of sight in front of the elevators and can be activated even when the power is out. They can be set to activate if there is a power interruption of several seconds or they can be connected to an emergency power supply. They can also be activated manually if necessary. The curtains unroll in front of the elevators to block smoke from traveling in or out, protecting the inhabitants on each floor.

Open Upper Stories


Atriums, lobbies, and other open spaces frequently have a second or third floor open to the view below. Usually protected by some type of rail, these upper stories help connect the area below in view, but can make smoke control difficult, allowing smoke or fire from a lobby or atrium to extend upward to the floors above.

Employing a smoke curtain in this area, such as the M2100, blocks the smoke from lower floors from escaping into high ceilings and open floors above. These vertical curtains can be operated on a battery, lowering from the ceiling to cover the railing completely and blocking any smoke from making its way through.

Smoke and Fire Protection


Buildings with solid walls are often constructed of fire resistant materials to help offer some protection when a fire begins in an adjoining space. More companies, buildings, and retail locations are switching to open formats, however, with glass walls separating rooms to help let in light while still offering some semblance of privacy.

Unfortunately, in these types of open format buildings, there is little to no protection from the spread of either fire or smoke. In these instances, smoke and fire curtains rated to help keep out the fire for up to 2 hours, like the M2100 smoke and fire curtain, can offer the crucial protection needed to help contain a fire until assistance can arrive. The curtains can be hung from the ceiling beside windows, glass walls, partitions, doorways, or any other area that has no barrier that can be sealed in the event of a fire. Smoke and fire curtains can be battery powered in the event of a power failure, with an external control box that can be mounted up to 50 feet away, allowing its activation in safety no matter what the conditions.

Ceiling Curtains


Industrial spaces that have high ceilings have additional concerns when a fire breaks out. As the heat and smoke are drawn upward, they can do a lot more damage to the building than the fire alone could possibly due.

In these situations, a fixed fabric ceiling curtain designed to run the length of the ceiling at a height that will help block and protect ceiling areas from the smoke or fire damage can be useful. The SG Draft panel is designed for just this purpose. It can be installed as a fixed curtain, semi-permanently, or temporarily depending on your needs.

Overhead Curtain


Another solution for buildings with high ceilings or that are open in the center column, such as atriums, is to use a horizontal curtain that rolls out from beneath a balcony and closes the gap between the floors, stopping the spread of the smoke. The M3000 moves out smoothly into the space of a headbox, blocking off the top of it and keeping smoke contained below.

Headbox Surrounding


Another way to contain the smoke in a headbox or atrium style building is to drop a curtain from the balcony or top of the headbox and to surround the area on all sides. The M4000, a pleated curtain that drops up to 15 feet in length to surround, protect, and contain specific areas.

Custom Smoke Management in Buildings

Every building will have varying needs. That’s why it’s important to review your smoke management and implement a plan that will help minimize damages and loss of life in the event of a fire. Protect your building with smoke solutions to gain peace of mind no matter what happens.