Cost-Saving Benefits of Fire-Resistant Curtains in Retail Stores

Every place of business should have a carefully thought out emergency plan in the event of a fire.

A fire safety plan should involve training staff and employees how to react in the event of a fire, how to extinguish a small fire, and the best evacuation routes for staff and customers to exit the building. These types of safety protocols are vital for saving lives and reducing the chance of injury, which is always the top priority.

However, the second priority is to get the fire controlled as soon as possible in order to reduce property destruction.

Common Fire Risks in Retail Settings

Retail and mercantile properties account for an average of 13,500 fires per year, according to statistics gathered by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Although retail property fires only account for 3% of all structural fires in the United States, the average amount of damage from a fire can be staggering. It's estimated that total damage to buildings and property is $604 million annually.

One of the main causes of retail fires is flammable liquids. This is more than just cleaning supplies. Many stores sell products that are flammable as well. Take care when placing these products on the sales floor and make sure they are in an area that won’t get too hot or is near any type of flame.

Another big cause of retail fires electrical failure or malfunction. Having old or damaged electrical in your space is a big fire risk, and can be fixed by having your electrical inspected on a routine basis.

More troubling than the loss of property is the harm to human life. It's estimated that retail property fires will take 12 lives and injure as many as 300 each year.

In the event of a fire, it's important that the building is outfitted with a fire control system to either extinguish the fire or keep it controlled until firefighters arrive.

Benefits of Fire-Resistant Curtains

Smoke alarms and automated sprinkler systems are some of the more commonly used equipment for fire safety. Both are required to be in any retail location to meet safety codes, regardless of the business type.

What business owners may not know is that there is another way to control the spread of flames and smoke: fire-resistant curtains. Fire-resistant curtains are heavy curtains that either automatically or manually deploy during a fire.

There are three main types of fire-resistant curtains: dedicated fire, dedicated smoke and hybrids. Dedicated fire curtains focus primarily on blocking fire and won't completely block smoke. Dedicated smoke curtains focus on blocking smoke, but may have a lower fire rating. Hybrid curtains balance smoke and fire control in one product.

The main advantage of using fire-resistant curtains is their function as a physical barrier to smoke or fire. Most traditional fire safety designs lack a physical barrier, which makes controlling fire and smoke difficult or even impossible.

When these curtains deploy, they help to compartmentalize the building, ideally blocking off the rest of the building from the fire. This allows for safer evacuation of occupants.

Additionally, with the fire or smoke contained in one area, fire officials can enter the building and extinguish the flames more quickly. By installing fire-resistant curtains, retail businesses significantly improve the safety of the building.

Utilizing Fire-Resistant Curtains in Your Store

Fire-resistant curtains come in a variety of styles that are easily installed in both new and existing buildings. There are four main fire curtain designs used in retail settings.

1. Perimeter Curtains

Perimeter curtains are dedicated fire curtains that require no corner post supports. They are the best choice when you want to block off staircases or escalators. When deployed, the curtain will lower vertically. This essentially creates a fire curtain “box” around the staircase or escalator, ensuring that any flames in the open space are contained inside and any flames outside the space aren’t able to easily, and quickly, reach the other floors.

2. Vertical Curtains

Vertical curtains are the most simple type of curtain and an economical choice for most retail stores. They can be installed over windows, doorways and in atriums. When deployed, they will lower vertically, blocking smoke and/or fire. Vertical curtains come in either fire-dedicated or hybrid varieties.

3. Horizontal Curtains

Horizontal curtains work similar to vertical curtains except they deploy horizontally to close overhead spaces, typically within atriums and lobbies. When closed, they keep smoke and flames from moving to the floors above or below the fire. Most horizontal curtains are dedicated fire curtains.

4. Elevator Curtains

Elevator curtains are dedicated smoke curtains that deploy over elevator doors. Elevator shafts create a vacuum that will pull smoke from the bottom of the building up through to the top. When you use elevator smoke curtains, they block the air flow, stopping the creation of a vacuum, which prevents smoke from entering other floors.

Choose Curtains That Work for Your Business

Examining your own store and developing a rough blueprint where doorways, atriums, staircases and elevators are located is the first step to creating a safer store. The next step is to contact Smoke Guard to discuss your particular business setup and develop a design plan for what fire-resistant curtains may be right for you.