Open floor plans are necessary for many large spaces, whether public or private, commercial or residential – but by removing non-load-bearing walls, open plan designs pose a fire safety problem.

If a fire breaks out, the lack of barriers throughout the open space means there is nothing to stop or slow down the spread of flames and toxic gases, increasing the damage level and fatality risk.

This is why building safety regulations require proactive measures to restrict fire and smoke in such emergencies, ensuring there are clear evacuation routes.

In addition to smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, fire curtains can provide an effective safety measure to mitigate the spread of fire in open spaces.

How can fire curtains help?

As their title suggests, fire curtains are a special type of curtain that’s designed to prevent fire from passing through a space. Made from heat-resistant fibreglass, these curtains can be installed discreetly in ceilings and programmed to descend when triggered by a signal from the fire alarm system.

When deployed, a fire curtain will form a fire-resistant barrier, compartmentalising larger open areas into smaller sections to prevent flames from travelling through them, temporarily containing the fire.

This confinement limits the fire’s access to further oxygen that would allow the fire to grow, reducing the intensity of the flames and containing their potential damage to a smaller area.

Not only does this help to maintain clear escape routes so people can evacuate the area safely, reducing injuries and fatalities, but it also helps emergency responders to extinguish the fire faster.

This makes getting the fire under control and recovery efforts afterwards much more manageable – all without affecting the architectural design or usability of the space when the curtain is stored away.

How does a fire curtain work?

A fire curtain uses a sheet of fire-resistant fabric to cover an opening, thereby blocking flames and smoke from travelling past it. While it is strong enough to withstand extreme heat for some time, it isn’t completely fireproof, as the curtain will have its limits.

Fire curtains are constructed from tough materials woven together, typically threads of fibreglass and metal filaments, which allow the curtain to be flexible yet extremely strong. Polymer coatings may also be applied to improve its resistance further.

To be given a fire rating and approved as a sellable fire curtain after testing, the product must be resistant to temperatures of around 600°C1,000°C for a minimum period of time, usually at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

A functional fire curtain must be professionally installed and maintained in line with building regulations, with its control panel connected to the building’s main fire alarm system so it can automatically deploy as programmed when activated by the alarm.

There should also be a manual option to override the mechanism if needed, and a failsafe that releases the curtain to deploy via gravity if there is a loss of power.

Fire curtains may be rolled up in a concealed fitting in the ceiling or stored in a discreet headbox above an opening, with guide rails to position them correctly when they descend into place.

In some cases, they can also have transparent windows in them, which makes it easier for both people evacuating and firefighters to identify when flames and smoke are present on the other side.

Where can you install fire curtains?

When they aren’t in use, fire curtains are rolled up around a central mechanism that can be recessed into a ceiling, either in an open area or above a door, window, or opening in a wall.

Being more lightweight, flexible, and slimmer than shutters, fire curtains are easier to install in a wider variety of places, including internal areas such as:

  • Entrances and exits
  • Atriums and lobbies
  • Stairways and lifts
  • Corridors and halls
  • Open plan spaces

They are typically installed in the absence of walls, which is why they are often found in commercial or industrial venues. Though they can also be used in residential buildings, like high-rise apartments, fire curtains are regularly installed in:

  • Office buildings
  • Retail stores and shopping centres
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Theatres and cinemas
  • Manufacturing plants and warehouses
  • Healthcare and educational facilities

They can even be installed in historical buildings to improve fire protection without disrupting their features – fire curtains can be retrofitted pretty much anywhere, if they aren’t included in the original design plans at the time of construction.

Made-to-order fire curtains

If you’re looking to install fire curtains as part of your property’s fire safety system, the experts at Roller Shutter UK can help. We supply and fit a range of bespoke fire-rated barriers, made to fit the required space.

We also provide smoke curtains and fire shutters, in addition to maintenance services for these systems – to find out more about the technical specifications of our products, please get in touch.

You can reach our team by calling 0800 328 9356, or email an enquiry to and we will get back to you very soon to discuss your made-to-measure fire curtains.

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