How To Meet NFPA Draft Curtain Requirements

Fires and smoke are a real concern for commercial and industrial spaces. To help minimize the threat, fire and smoke mitigation systems have become required in some form for all commercial spaces. The rules and requirements for each type of space can vary by use, with one singular goal: to help reduce and contain the spread of flame and smoke.

To that end, the National Fire Protection Agency has issued specific requirements for single-story buildings such as hangers, warehouses and industrial environments which are designed to help channel and contain smoke, both on their own and in conjunction with fire suppression systems such as sprinklers.

Utilizing draft curtains properly can help ensure that you not only meet those requirements but also create the safest environment possible for your workspace.

What Are Draft Curtains?

According to the NFPA, a draft curtain is a non-combustible barrier. It may be permanently or temporarily fixed in place, or it may be deployable upon detection of smoke or flame. It’s meant to hang or protrude from the ceiling, where it can help to block and channel smoke migration.

In other words, a draft curtain acts as a barrier to move smoke to a ventilation system, contain smoke where it is so it does not trigger sprinkler systems in other areas of the building, cause damage in areas away from the fire, or compartmentalize the smoke and flame.

Draft curtains can be made of several materials including flame-retardant fiberglass, glass smoke baffles or sheets of metal. However, flexible, fabric curtains are the most common, as they can be deployed as needed or fixed in place in a variety of ways that less flexible materials cannot.

Draft Curtain Requirements

Draft curtains can be used alone or in conjunction with other types of smoke and flame mitigation systems. Not every building is going to have the same needs, and some draft curtain requirements will be specific to different building or industry types.

Draft curtains must be used as part of standard smoke control systems in most buildings. They’re most often required to be used in stairwells, particularly those that are used as a method of evacuation or exit. They work in these areas to help mitigate smoke from rising within the stairwell.

They are also required to be used with sprinkler or fire mitigation systems. Smoke curtains can help minimize damage from the sprinkler system. They ensure that the smoke remains close to the fire, which in turn activates the nearby sprinkler systems more efficiently, and ensures that other sprinkler heads do not turn on unnecessarily, preventing excess water damage.

Smoke curtains are also required with heating and ventilation systems, particularly those ventilation systems that help move smoke out of the buildings. The draft curtains can help move the smoke to the ventilation system, or they can help contain the smoke in that area. This makes the ventilation systems more effective at removing the smoke from the building.

In non-sprinkler, single-story buildings, including aircraft hangers, smoke curtains are also required to help create barriers or compartments. Each building has specific requirements regarding the length and placement of each curtain. In all cases, they must extend vertically down from the ceiling, and the width and length of the curtain must not exceed eight times the ceiling’s height.

The purpose of this is to compartmentalize the building, so that smoke rising in one area does not flow along the ceiling to other areas of the building, putting more areas and people at risk.

Know Your Building’s Needs

The most effective way to ensure that you are meeting NFPA draft curtain requirements is to have a specialist visit the site to help visualize your building and its needs. Ceiling slopes and measurements, sprinklers, stairwells and other items can all impact the use of a draft curtain, its placement and its function. Therefore, each building should be treated individually so that its exact safety and fire prevention needs are met.

In addition, draft curtains may also be installed to deploy as needed. These can help block and channel smoke from sensitive areas as needed, rather than being suspended at all times. Knowing when and where to make these installations can be critical to ensuring success.

Get the Protection You Need

NFPA draft curtain requirements are necessary not only to meet code requirements but also to ensure your building, equipment and personnel are protected in the event of a fire. Smoke can often do just as much, if not more damage than fire. By utilizing smoke curtains in conjunction with other mitigation systems, you can help protect your building and your assets.

Contact Smoke Guard today to get started in finding the right draft curtain solutions for your building.