Smoke and Fire Curtain Applications

Among the major elements of a commercial or industrial building design are emergency escape routes. Later down the road when it’s time to furnish the routes with emergency equipment, where to use fire curtains becomes clear. 

Fire curtains can be installed whether the building was designed with a deliberate escape route or a route that has been modified with a better, more accessible route. Self-closing fire curtains have been in existence since 1904, but have never become a commonly known idea in the minds of people like say, a fire hose, detectors, or extinguishers would. 

Before we begin talking about where to use fire curtains, let’s make sure everyone knows what we’re on about. 

What are Fire Curtains?

Fire curtains are most often drop-type curtains that are made from fire-resistant materials. These days, they are often enclosed in a steel frame, and the curtain itself is a woven, fire-retardant, fiberglass material.

After installation, the metal curtain frame (or box) is then wired to the building’s fire alarm system. This permits the release system to take place automatically, engaging the curtains as soon as the alarm is triggered. They can also be released manually if the fire is detected by a human before the alarm has engaged.

They serve a couple of purposes.

Fire Curtains Save Lives

The most important of its purposes is to save the lives of people within a building that’s caught fire. Fire curtains do this by sealing off wings, hallways, rooms, or other areas where it can restrain the spread of flames, and holds back smoke from entering an area. 

Fire Curtains Help to Slow the Spread of a Fire

After everyone’s out and the occupants are ok, the fire may be more easily put out having been restrained or slowed down by the curtains. This helps to save buildings in extreme circumstances and to keep fire and smoke damage at a minimum for less extreme situations. 

That’s just a quick rundown of what a fire curtain is along with its purpose. They are an important tool to be used against dangerous elements.

Where to Use Fire Curtains in a Building

A well-protected building will have fire curtains installed throughout, having been placed in strategic locations. 

Fire Curtains in Theatres

Fire curtains have been used to keep people on either side of the curtain safe from fire should one break out during a show or an event. After being engaged, the stage is separated by the curtain, giving the audience a chance to escape harm with less of a chance of smoke inhalation problems. 

Fire Curtains for Atriums

Atriums are furnished with fire curtains, and how they are furnished changes with every design. If there are stores situated with their opening facing the atrium, the curtains will be there among other places such as reception areas. The DSI-A4HR is a great model to use for this kind of coverage. 

In other circumstances, they will be much larger or more complicated and can close off much larger areas to ensure a safe and easy escape route for residents, customers, or employees. 

Elevator Shaft Openings

If not fire, smoke is known to flow from floor to floor through a building’s elevator shaft (or shafts). When the alarm is triggered, these fire curtains roll down covering elevator shaft door openings to hold back the smoke or flames. Models like the DSI-600 rest hidden against the elevator door structure, drawing no attention to themselves until being deployed.

Fire Curtains for Floor / Ceiling Openings

Fire curtains don’t only drop vertically once an alarm is triggered. Some types are made to open and close horizontally. 

For such a fire curtain type, check out the DSI-H3HR. Primarily, these are used to seal off openings in floors or ceilings (between floors). 

Fire Curtains can be Used in a Variety of Access Areas

Not all access areas are deemed to be a part of a route of evacuation. In an emergency, these need to be blocked off to prevent the spread of a fire-related issue. These areas can be as simple as a doorway, or as complex as an escalator (See the DSI-A4HR).

Unique Areas, Accesses, or Openings

Because of the variety of shapes, sizes, and openings that make buildings exclusive, there are options available to safeguard these areas unique to the building. Chief of which is fire curtain models that are constructed in such a way that there is no need for corner posts and columns. The DSI-C1HR and DSI-C3HR Fire Smoke Curtains can be used for such area types.

This is a great curtain option for things such as open, unwalled stairwells, oversized or awkward wall openings, and other oddball openings. Even cornered-off sections can be deployed, creating room-like structures around objects that may need extra protection or precaution. 

What is the Difference Between a Smoke Curtain and a Fire Curtain?

The major difference between the two products is length, location, and purpose. The first difference is exposed in the names- fire and smoke. 


The smoke curtain is designed and intended to block or control the flow of smoke but isn’t any help when it comes to the actual fire. Fire curtains, on the other hand, can control or cut off the flow of smoke, but are designed to withstand a fire for up to four hours. 


Smoke curtains don’t usually reach the floor, but are set up off the ground. Fire curtains need to hold back fire as well as its smoke, so these go from floor to ceiling. 


Either of these curtain styles will differ from building to building. There are all kinds of methods used to mount, hang, or set these safety curtains. 

In some circumstances, smoke curtains fall and go no farther than above sensible head height to allow all evacuees to pass without obstruction. Exceptions to this are if the ceiling height is too low, and the curtain will instead drop down to a reasonable level. 

As aforementioned, anywhere there is the possibility of fire, the fire curtain is going to 100% blanket an opening. Regardless of its location, it will be completely blocking passage on either side of it. 

Final Thoughts

You never know what’s going to happen at any given time. Accidents happen, and things can go wrong. At times such as those, it’s good to have all safety measures accounted for. 

Fire curtains are every bit as important as other products, and should be just as present. Without them, people trying to escape a burning building may have a greater chance of succumbing to the heat of the flames or smoke inhalation while attempting to traverse a well-lit and marked escape route. 

When the rubber meets the road, these curtains save lives in ways that other fire safety products can’t.

Elevator Shafts

The DSI-600 elevator smoke curtain creates a code-compliant smoke and draft control assembly when paired with fire-rated elevator doors.

Wall Openings & Atriums

The DSI-C1HR and DSI-C3HR Fire Smoke Curtains are completely Gravity Fail Safe, reset automatically, and incorporate the latest in electronic technology.

Access Areas

The DSI Accordion Fire Curtain Model DSI-A4HR creates a four-hour opening protective fire barrier for a variety of applications without the need for columns or corner posts. Applications include atriums, stairwells, escalators, and other custom applications.

Floor Openings

The DSI Horizontal Fire Curtain Model DSI-H3HR allows architects to compartmentalize large floor openings and reduce or eliminate mechanical smoke evacuation systems. A solution to design challenges of preventing smoke and fire from spreading through the ceiling and atrium voids, stairwells, and skylights.

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