Fire shutters and fire curtains are both specifically designed to prevent the spread of flames and smoke in the event of a fire emergency.
They do this through compartmentation – where fires are closed or sealed off from other sections of large or complex buildings.
Both fire risk measures are especially important for:
- Saving lives and protecting occupants in a building from fire and smoke whilst making an emergency escape
- Limiting the spread of fire and smoke throughout the building in advance of the emergency services arriving
- Minimising property damage
Fire shutters and curtains can be integrated into active fire protection systems to automatically respond to the presence of fire via connection to a central fire alarm system by automatically opening or closing. This creates a barrier to fire and smoke and allows more time and safe passage for occupants to escape the burning building.
Despite their similarities, fire shutters and fire curtains are often confused as the same thing. There are a number of differences that set these two products apart.
What are Fire Shutters?
Fire shutters look very similar to regular steel shutters; they’re both made from sections of galvanised steel lath making a full “shutter curtain”.
The difference between a fire shutter and a regular steel shutter is that the fire shutter has had a number of small adaptions to ensure that the integrity is not compromised under fire conditions. The fire resistance level of a fire shutter has been tested and is rated between 60–240 minutes, according to BS EN 16034:2014.
Fire shutters can be upgraded to include a performance insulation core to reduce the thermal energy transference. This means the shutter can have a fire blazing on one side and feel relatively “cool” on the other side. These are known as “twin skin” fire shutters.
In the event of a fire, a fire shutter is designed to automatically ‘close’ and contain a fire when it detects fire (heat or smoke).
Due to their construction, fire shutters can also act as a decent form of security over an aperture.
What are Fire Curtains?
A fire curtain is a vertically descending, fire-resistant curtain, usually made from using a mixture of synthetic and treated materials including interwoven Kevlar and stainless steel thread.
Although they operate in a very similar way to fire shutters and have a very similar purpose, fire curtains are visually less obtrusive than their shutter counterparts. This makes them more versatile and suited to a wider variety of business premises with no compromise to safety.
Fire curtains are also generally better at restricting the flow of smoke due to the fact the “curtain” is one continuous piece of material rather than being made from a number of “slats”. In fact, fire curtains can offer smoke resistance up to BS 1634-3 which fire shutters do not.
On other hand, because fire curtains are made using a fabric, they do not offer any security and should not be used as such. This is one of the benefits of choosing a fire shutter over a fire curtain.
Key Differences Between Fire Shutters & Fire Curtains
Traditional fire shutters have a more industrial and obtrusive appearance – with chunkier detailing and more visible fixings.
Due to their relative “thickness”, fire shutters roll up into quite a large coil and consequently need larger housing above.
Fire curtains, on the other hand, have a very small overhead box; owing to the fact the curtain can roll up much “tighter” than the shutter. The box is easily hidden from sight and unobtrusive. They also offer flat bar options for seamless closing onto the ceiling.
For this reason, fire curtains blend more seamlessly into modern spaces, have neater lines and are generally more architecturally pleasing with their hidden fixings. They can also span wider distances due to the fact they weight significantly less.
A fire shutter curtain is constructed from a number of interlocking steel slats.
A fire curtain curtain is made from flame-resistant woven or stitched fabric.
As fire curtains are fabric-based, they are not to be used as security products. The shutter system on the other hand, can be utilised as both.
Depending on the size of the opening, fire shutters can be extremely heavy; often weighing between 800kg to 2000kg. As such, heavy lifting equipment will usually be required to move and install fire shutters.
In comparison, fire curtains are much easier to install due to their relative weight; often not requiring any specialised heavy lifting equipment. They are also easier to transport.
Fire shutters are generally cheaper than fire curtains. However, fire curtains may be more suitable depending on the space you have.
If your project can handle the weight of shutters, side guides and the head-box, then fire shutters are usually the most cost effective option.
Bear in mind, you would also be unlikely to use fire curtains daily to “close areas off”. They would only really ever be used in the event of a fire.
Both fire shutters and fire curtains can be operated via single phase, tubular motors. However, depending on the weight, a fire shutter may require 3-phase power if the opening is particularly large.
Both come with a variety of different control panels that allow you to integrate the door with your existing fire alarm system.
Both fire shutters and fire curtains can be successfully integrated into most fire prevention systems and will help contain flames and prevent the spread of a fire.
Fire curtains make an excellent, unobtrusive option with better smoke control qualities. Fire shutters, although bulkier, are generally more cost effective and can also be used as part of your security measures.
Of course which you choose will be entirely dependent on the location and your needs.
To find out more about the difference between fire curtains and fire rated shutters, call UK Roller Shutters today on 01384 221743 or contact us here.