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Understanding fire shutters

Automatic fire shutters can be an essential part in the overall fire strategy of a building. This article describes how fire resisting rolling shutter doors work and some important considerations when choosing and specifying fire rated shutters.

The role of fire shutters in a building's fire strategy

A closed fire shutter.
The role of fire shutters is to compartmentalise a building and prevent fire from rapidly spreading.

Nowadays, fire shutters are typically part of the overall building fire strategy. Together with other systems for controlling fire such as sprinklers, smoke extraction systems and fire-walls, fire resisting shutters can help protect property and lives.

All fire protection systems react to fire, heat and smoke in different ways and each play very specific roles. Together, they aim to keep a building safe for occupants and emergency services in case of a fire.

The role of fire shutters is to compartmentalise a building and as such, help prevent a fire from rapidly spreading. This way, fire shutters allow people to evacuate safely and help make the work of the emergency services easier.

How fire resisting rolling shutter doors work

As opposed to simpler static barriers that are permanently visible and remain fixed in one place (e.g. fire-walls, glass partitions, etc.), a fire shutter only moves into its operational position in the event of a fire.

To this end, fire roller shutters are normally wired into the building's fire detection system and close automatically on a signal from the fire alarm. In addition to this, a fire shutter can also have its own independent smoke or heat detector.

Some types of fire shutters still gravity close under their own weight, but modern fire resisting shutters now close at a controlled speed (typically 10 centimetres per second).

a Fire Shutter Interface panel.
A Fire Detection Interface (FDI) panel.

In fact, fire shutters have become much more sophisticated. For example, in combination with a Fire Detection Interface (FDI) panel it is now possible for a fire roller shutter to initially deploy to a pre-determined safe height, (normally just above head height) to act as a smoke barrier while allowing people to escape. After a pre-determined time (dictated by the fire protocol for the building), the shutter then closes fully to create fire resistant barrier. The FDI panel can also act as a visual and acoustic alarm, alerting occupants that a fire shutter is about to close.

An automatic fire-wall

A good way to think about a fire rated roller shutter is as an automatic fire-wall that's only there when needed. As such, fire shutters allow buildings to keep the open character that is so desirable nowadays, while ensuring compartmentalisation in a fire situation.

Specifying the right fire rated shutter

Fire shutter on test.
Choose a fire rated shutter that has been fully tested for true fire resistance and integrity.

Because lives and property may depend on it, specifying any fire rated product has to be done correctly. In the case of an automatic fire shutter, it's important to choose a product that has been fully tested for true fire resistance and integrity.

If all else fails, compartmentalisation of a building is considered one of the best ways to prevent the spread of fire. Therefore another consideration is that the shutter must close into its fire operational position when required, even if its primary power source fails or in case of any faults in the building's fire detection system.

In short, specifiers need to choose fire rated products that are fit for purpose. There can be many options and scenarios to consider and it's usually wise to liaise with a building control officer and suppliers at an early stage.

The importance of correct installation

Bolt used to fit a fire shutter.
It's important to specify an installer that will correctly fit fire shutters.

Fire rated shutters can play an essential role in controlling a fire through compartmentalisation, and specifying the right product is therefore very important. But if a fire resisting shutter is installed in the wrong way, even the best system will not perform as intended when needed. Therefore, it's important to specify not only a product that's fit for purpose, but also an installer that will fit it correctly.

One of the best ways of ensuring a fire shutter gets fitted correctly, is by choosing a specialist installer such as HVP Security Shutters.

Types of fire roller shutters

For different situations there are different types of fire roller shutters. As a minimum a fire shutter needs to match the fire resistance and integrity of the compartment wall it is fitted into, so the shutter's certified rating is an important consideration. We supply and install shutters with a fire rating of one to four hours (fire rating is the minimum time a shutter will keep its integrity in a fire situation).

Tubular motor fire shutter

For shutters with an overall area of less than 10 square metres, the FS50 tubular motor fire shutter is a good choice. This shutter has a smaller head plate size and has its motor fitted within the barrel. It is fire-rated up to two hours.

Block motor fire shutter

For larger openings the Fireguard FS75 is the right choice. The FS75 is a traditional fire shutter with the motor fitted externally and is fire-rated up to four hours.

Fire resisting rolling shutter doors and security

Fire resisting roller shutters on a reception desk.
Fire shutters can also be used as security shutters.

Fire shutters can double as security shutters. This way it's possible to provide both security and fire protection to an area with a single product. Both the FS50 and FS75 Fireguard roller shutter are made from solid lath and can be powder coated in a colour of your choice. In appearance they are very similar to our Screenguard roller shutter and they can be used in the same applications.

Product overview fire shutters

The table below shows an overview of our range of fire resisting rolling shutter doors.

Overview Fire shutters
Product Price Security Visibility Short description
FS50 Fireguard fire resisting roller shutter FS50 Fireguard ££
0% Tubular motor fire shutter. 2 hour fire rating. Powered down. More compact. More »
FS75 Fireguard fire resisting roller shutter FS75 Fireguard ££
0% External block motor fire shutter. 2-4 hour fire rating. Powered down / Self-closing. More »

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