Fires account for one in every ten insurance claims by businesses, according to a recent study by Hartford Insurance Company. The same study found damage from fires at the top of the list of the most expensive claims.
A fire in a business can start for many reasons, and extensive damage, and even loss of life, can happen in minutes. Fire shutters are one part in a complete strategy of fire safety for many businesses, along with fire alarms, sprinkler systems, smoke extraction systems, and permanent fire-walls.
Types of Fire Shutters and How They Work
Fire shutters are a special breed of door used for controlling smoke and flames inside a building during a fire. They are installed in strategic locations inside the building or over openings in the exterior walls and block-off critical areas to prevent the spread of fire and fumes. Like sprinklers and alarms, these devices are constructed to react automatically when they detect heat, smoke, and fire.
Fire shutters are similar to security shutters, and some types can be used for both fire and theft protection. However, most security shutters are not rated for fire protection. Fire shutters can be installed over existing security gates and on buildings made from concrete, masonry block, steel frame, and wood frame, however, each make and model of shutter is has its own installation specifications.
While some fire shutters can be operated manually for overnight theft protection or other purposes, many models only automatically activate in the event of an actual fire. Most models are built to automatically close at a controlled rate of about ten centimeters, or three inches, per second when a fire is detected.
Fire shutters are designed to hold their integrity for a specified amount of time in the event of a fire and are typically rated from one to four hours of fire resistance. The fire resistance of a shutter needs to match the fire rating of the surrounding walls and structure, and choosing a shutter with the best fit for its location and purpose is a job for someone with training and experience in this area of construction.
The main way fire shutters work is by compartmentalizing a building and preventing the spread of fire and smoke once a fire has started. Shutters must operate even if the power fails or if there is a malfunction in another part of the fire protection system, like the alarm or sprinkler system. For this reason, they must be designed and manufactured in strict accordance with fire safety standards.
Many models of fire shutter are wired into the overall fire detection system in the building and are activated by the alarm system. However, some types also have built-in heat and smoke detectors for additional security. The specific conditions where the shutter is being installed determine which type is most appropriate.
Shutters for smaller openings come in tubular motor designs with a small motor housed inside a compact head plate above the door. These models are usually installed on openings under ten square meters and have a fire rating of two hours. Block motor models are the more traditional type of fire shutter used for larger openings with a need for a fire rating of two to four hours. In block motor models, the motor is typically housed in a unit located to the side of the opening.
Similar to fire shutters, fire curtains also control fumes and flames during a fire, but these safety devises are made with flexible materials, rather than the ridged or folding panels used for shutters. Fire curtains expand when heated, creating a barrier to fumes, but they also allow the easy passage of people and equipment.
Installation of fire curtains and shutters can be beneficial for businesses. Here are five important benefits.
- Compliance with Laws
Many localities have laws requiring the installation of fire shutters in certain situations. Food counters, kitchen areas, and corridors in public spaces are only a few of the areas where building codes require the use of these fire safety devices in many municipalities.
Codes governing the material specifications and installation methods for fire shutters are complex and vary from one location to another. Talking to a building department official, architect, or company specializing in fire shutters can provide the necessary information about local codes applicable for a specific business.
- Safety for Employees and Customers
Fire shutters work by automatically sensing fire and smoke and then closing to compartmentalize the building, slowing the spread of fumes and flames. By slowing a fire’s progress, people inside the building have more time to evacuate and are less likely to be overcome by smoke inhalation, injured, or even killed.
Some models of fire shutter are designed to close incrementally. These systems work together with a Fire Detection Interface (FDI) unit to control the closing of the fire shutter. When the fire is first detected, the shutter closes to just above head-level. This stops smoke and flames from traveling at ceiling height, but makes it easier for people exiting to get out of the building. After a programmed amount of time, the shutter finishes closing for maximum control of the fire.
FDI units and automatic fire shutters also come with built-in auditory and visual alarm features for alerting people and starting evacuation. When fire shutters are in place, everyone in the building has a better chance of getting out safely.
- Reduced Losses from Fire
By automatically closing and compartmentalizing the building, fire shutters reduce the chances of catastrophic loss of property in the event of a fire. Inventory, furniture, and equipment in other areas of the building can be protected from flame, smoke, and water damage during a fire.
Uncontained building fires can grow rapidly, moving from a source and quickly engulfing storage rooms, warehouses, offices, and retail areas. Fire doors are specifically designed to prevent the spread of fire and reduce the loss of property. Saving property from destruction in a fire saves money, time, and effort needed for getting the business back in operation after a fire event.
- Theft Protection
Some fire shutters are designed for being opened and closed regularly, and these models double as security shutters. Security shutters are a reliable way of stopping smash and grab break-ins on storefronts. They are also used to protect rear door openings, loading docks, and rooms inside a building.
Combining fire and theft protection in one shutter saves money and requires less hardware and equipment for getting both jobs done. But, it is important to install a shutter specifically designed for both fire and theft protection.
- Business Aesthetics and Value
New designs of fire shutters are not only more technologically sophisticated, but are also more aesthetically pleasing than older models. Fire shutters can be built to blend into the surrounding environment, so they do not detract from the interior or exterior design of the building or make the place of business less attractive.
Shutters and gates can also be custom-made in colors and surface textures to accent and complement the interior or exterior, becoming an integral part of the building’s aesthetics. Adding attractive, high-quality fire shutters to a business location can improve the look and the resale value of that enterprise, as well as make it safer.
Looking to install a security gate for your New York based business? Get in touch with New York Gates at 718-614-0616.
Source for statistics: