What to Look for in Fire and Smoke Curtains


Buildings are complex systems containing many different elements that need to be considered when creating a fire safety plan. From windows and doors to elevators and stairways, as well as that atrium that is the showpiece of your front lobby, how will you control the spread of smoke and fire if the worst occurs?

Fire and smoke curtains are a simple and effective way to manage fire and smoke migration in the event of an emergency. They are more affordable than engineered ventilation systems and can be configured to fit and protect any space.

But there are many types of curtains that serve different functions. Is your goal to contain the fire or facilitate evacuation? It can be hard to know which type, or which combination, of curtain to choose. Here are some things to consider when selecting the right fire and smoke curtains for your building.

Elevator Smoke Curtains


Elevator smoke curtains work in conjunction with fire-rated elevator doors in the event of a fire. Smoke curtains seal off the elevator doors to prevent smoke from entering the elevator and to reduce smoke migration to other floors through elevator shafts.

Elevator smoke curtains are generally designed to be activated by the closest smoke detector in the event of smoke or fire. When deployed, they roll down over the front of the elevator doors and framing and use a magnetic system to ensure a proper seal.

When selecting a smoke curtain for your elevator system, factors to consider include:

  • Dimensions. Ensure your selected elevator smoke curtain has the appropriate width, as well as height. An elevator smoke curtain will only function properly when the entire area of the elevator door and frame is covered. If standard models don’t work with your existing or proposed elevator system, consider customizable models.
  • Return. The depth or distance between the wall and the face of the elevator door frame is often referred to as the "return." Certain elevator smoke curtain models have specific return requirements, or you may need to choose a model that can be customized.
  • Mounting. Elevator smoke curtain housings are designed to be mounted to the elevator door frame, or to the ceiling or valence. Make sure you know which type of housing will work with your elevators.
  • Power-failure contingencies. While they are most frequently activated in the event of a smoke alarm, elevator smoke curtains can also be set to deploy during a power failure. If your building or area is prone to occasional short-term power interruptions, investigate whether your smoke curtain has a delay to prevent unnecessary and nuisance deployments.

Hybrid Fire and Smoke Curtains


Working both to control or contain the spread of fire and smoke, hybrid fire and smoke curtains can be configured to work in almost any space, including doorways, atria and even large commercial warehouses. When selecting a hybrid fire and smoke curtain, consider some of the following:

  • Containment or extraction? There are a variety of hybrid fire and smoke curtains available, and it’s important to understand their purpose. While floor to ceiling curtains can be used to contain fire and smoke, draft curtains only extend partially and are used to channel smoke to ventilation points and extract it from the building.

  • Dimensions. As with all fire and smoke curtains, know the size of the opening you need to cover. Standard-sized hybrid fire and smoke curtains can be an economical choice, but if you need more flexibility in sizing, choose a customizable option.

  • Space use and occupant needs. When selecting curtains, think about how the space is used in day-to-day operations. While these curtains are effective at preventing the spread of fire and smoke, they can also be used to partition large areas and provide refuge for occupants who may not be able to easily evacuate, such as in nursing homes.

Fire Curtains


Fire curtains are made of fire-rated material and are designed to contain or prevent the spread of fire throughout the building. If you are considering installing fire curtains, here are some points to remember:

  • Configuration. Fire curtains come in vertical and horizontal configurations. Vertical curtains are installed and deployed around stairwells and escalators to facilitate occupant evacuation. Horizontal curtains are used to divide an atrium into smaller areas in order to limit the spread of fire. Window curtains will contain the fire at exterior windows. In large, multi-story buildings, chances are you will need some combination of all of the above.

  • Fire rating. Fire curtains are rated for both fire protection and fire endurance. Although we like to think that emergency services will arrive on the scene in minutes, depending on your area and the size of your building, make sure you select fire curtains rated to withstand fire long enough for the fire department to control the spread.

  • Supports and housing. Fire curtains can be designed to cover large areas. Smoke Guard’s M4000 fire curtain can cover spaces as wide as 200 feet. But all that material needs to go somewhere. When selecting a fire curtain, it’s important to understand the space requirements for your curtain when it is not deployed, and whether or not additional corner supports will be needed to ensure it maintains its appropriate shape when in use.

  • Power. Fire curtains should be installed with a back-up battery system to ensure they can be deployed even in the event of a building-wide power failure. Some systems can also be wired into your building’s standby power system. Ensure your fire curtain is installed and powered correctly.

  • Ease of operation. While fire curtains are an effective way to protect building occupants as they evacuate through stairwells, it may be necessary to open a curtain, either to facilitate exits or to allow additional people into the stairwell. Choose a model that is easy to operate and will be easy to train others in its use during an emergency situation.


As with all smoke- and fire-control equipment, when selecting smoke and fire curtains for any part of your building, make sure you understand their maintenance and testing requirements. These make up a critical component of any fire safety plan. For more information on choosing the right smoke and fire curtains for your facility, contact Smoke Guard.