Building fires can cause indescribable damage to life and property, devastating families, destroying businesses and leaving communities distraught. Not many are aware that smoke is a major killer in structural fires, contributing more to fatalities and serious injuries than even actual burns.

A research project into Australian fire fatalities over a five-year period confirmed that smoke inhalation was the major cause of death, combining with burns to cause even more fatalities. In the event of an incident, there is the fire itself and the buoyant hot smoke immediately around the fire that present a serious risk to human safety. Then there is the cooler smoke and toxic gases, which can rapidly spread through the building, threatening people and property some distance from the fire. 

Though smoke alarms serve as an early warning system to give occupants sufficient time to escape from the fire, more can be done to address the issue of smoke itself. For instance, smoke door assemblies used in commercial buildings can be designed to limit the spread of smoke through door openings, keeping exit paths clear and functional.

Smoke door specs and standards

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) references smoke doors in section C, Specification C3.4, noting their construction must ensure that smoke will not pass from one side of the door to the other. “Performance Based Alternative Solutions” are also permitted, allowing Fire Engineers to frequently reference two important Standards: AS1530 Part 7:2007-Smoke control assemblies-Ambient & medium temperature leakage test procedure; and AS6905:2007-Smoke Doors.

These standards allow practitioners to specify smoke doors with quantifiable levels of performance, with the knowledge that installed assemblies will meet their building design requirements.

Kilargo smoke seals

Australian company Kilargo offers smoke seals that assist with limiting the spread of smoke from one building compartment to the next. By properly locating and securing an appropriate door sealing system, building managers can help save lives in the event of a fire.