Increased Airport Fire Safety With Fire & Smoke Curtains


Airports are home to more than just planes. They house restaurants, boutiques, newsstands, coffee shops and more. Not to mention, they temporarily house thousands of people as they wait for planes or baggage. The constant movement of people through multiple stores and terminals can make fire safety a challenge. Instead of protecting just one type of building, you are actually trying to protect dozens. So how do you keep an airport safe from flames and smoke with all the different openings and structures you have to protect? The answer: combining compartmentation with fire and smoke curtains.

Fire Control Through Compartmentation


Fire prevention and efficient extinguishing are often the two main focuses in airport terminals. The third, occasionally overlooked, element of fire safety is controlling and containing the fire and smoke. Between the fire being detected and firefighting commencing, there is an opportunity to reducing risk to human health and building damage by containing the fire.

Compartmentation of buildings is the practice of deploying barriers to break large areas down to more manageable zones. Compartmentation of airport terminals is vital in slowing the movement of smoke and containing the fire until help arrives.

One of the most effective ways of creating compartmentation is through the use of fire and smoke curtains.

Functionality of Fire and Smoke Curtains

Fire and smoke curtains are made of heavy-duty, fire-resistant materials. Some designs deploy vertically, lowering from their housing in the ceiling to the floor to block off the room. There are also horizontally deployed curtains which are often used in spaces with atrium ceilings to close off one floor from another.

There are three types of smoke and fire curtains: Dedicated fire curtains will block some smoke, but their primary purpose is to contain the fire itself. Dedicated smoke curtains will block some flames, but their primary purpose is to contain smoke. There are also hybrid fire and smoke curtains which offer a balance of both fire and smoke prevention.

Airports tend to be open and wide, some with beautiful atriums, restaurant and shopping centers and waiting areas. Perimeter curtains can address the issue of compartmentation around non-egress stairs and atrium spaces. These vertical curtains form an independent barrier in an open space and require no corner posts or walls to anchor them.


Elevator curtains are another type of smoke curtain designed with a specific use in mind. Shown above is an example of a deployed elevator curtain in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

Elevators pose a serious risk to smoke control and containment. Airflow in elevator shafts causes smoke to be pulled from the floor into the elevator and up to the floors above. As the smoke is pulled in the updraft, it will billow outwards onto other floors. This updraft not only stokes the fire but it also allows for the smoke to get out of control, damaging equipment and increasing the risk of smoke inhalation.

In the past, code requirements required a small lobby to be built in front of elevators to allow for them to be blocked off in the event of a fire. Today, smoke curtains that are designed for elevators meet the same safety codes requirements, are easily installed and won’t disrupt the room’s design, as they are invisible unless deployed.

Incorporating Fire and Smoke Curtains in Airport Design

Fire and smoke curtains are a valuable safety addition to every airport. They are a passive form of fire safety equipment, meaning they function independently, and their versatility allows them to be used in multiple applications.

They are easy to install because they are non-invasive; it doesn’t take a full remodel to add them into your current design. The majority of ceilings can easily house a smoke or fire curtain as they fold accordion-style, making them slimmer in size that you'd expect.  

These curtains can also be linked to existing fire detection and control systems for automatic deployment. You can set up curtain deployment to start as soon as a smoke or fire detection alarm is triggered, letting you quickly get flames and smoke under control.

Contact Smoke Guard for more information on the use of fire and smoke curtains in airport design, including terminals and aircraft hangars, and how they can work with your design.