When people think of a building fire, the first thought is usually the destructive flames accompanying this event. However, smoke is dangerous, too. This fire-related element can cloud visibility and cause evacuation issues. Smoke is also a toxic substance that we shouldn’t breathe in. For all these reasons, a smoke control system comes in handy.
What is a Smoke Control System?
A smoke control system is a life safety system that helps people evacuate a building in the case of a fire and resulting smoke. The smoke control system uses fans or physical barriers, depending on the type of system, to help people see the area around them and get to an exit quickly. Two main types of smoke control systems include a mechanical smoke control system and a passive smoke control system. The mechanical system uses fans to reduce the smoke, while the passive system works with barriers to prevent smoke from moving to different areas of the building. Both systems can help save lives and aid in building evacuations.
Design Standards & Fundamentals
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a regulation dedicated specifically to smoke control systems, NFPA 92. NFPA 92 Standard for Smoke Control Systems includes requirements pertaining to the design, installation, and testing of these smoke control systems.
The design objective of smoke control systems is to either contain smoke in one area or disperse it out from the area, depending on the system type. Overall, the main objective is to make the area in such a condition that people can see to evacuate and not breathe in harmful smoke.
Types of Smoke Control Systems
There are two primary types of smoke control systems: smoke management systems and smoke containment systems. Each type of system achieves similar goals, although the method of doing so differs.
Smoke Management System
A smoke management system is effective for larger areas, such as warehouses and other large buildings. Two main types of smoke management systems include mechanical smoke exhaust and natural smoke ventilation. Here’s information on both types of systems:
- Mechanical smoke exhaust system: Propellers move smoke and air outside, and then makeup air is injected into the larger space.
- Natural smoke ventilation system: With a natural smoke ventilation system, the smoke is removed by using its buoyancy.
Smoke Containment System
Smoke containment systems work a bit differently than smoke management systems, and there are a variety of smoke containment systems, including the following:
- Stairwell pressurization: Mechanical fan pressurizes stairwells to keep smoke out.
- Elevator pressurization: Mechanical fan pressurizes elevators to prevent smoke from filling them.
- Zone smoke control: A specific zone is protected from smoke.
- Vestibule pressurization: A vestibule area is pressurized to keep smoke out.
- Smoke refuge area pressurization: A specific area is pressurized to keep smoke out of it.
All types of smoke containment systems keep these areas clear of smoke for as long as possible to enable speedy and efficient evacuation.
How Activation Occurs
Smoke management and smoke containment systems are put into motion when one or more fire detection devices activate. For example, when a building’s smoke detector, sprinkler system, or heat detection system activates, the smoke control system activation follows.
When These Systems Must Be Installed
Look at your local regulations and fire codes to determine when smoke control systems must be installed. These regulations will show if your building must have a smoke control system in place. You’ll also find information on how often you must have these systems maintained and inspected by a fire safety specialist.
Find the Right Smoke Control System for Your Building
Find out if your building needs a smoke control system and determine the correct type of system for your premises. Contact Total Fire Protection for help!