Fire Protection Smoke Vents; + ESFR Sprinklers

When moving into a pre-existing facility the emergency fire system may need updating to fit current requirements. However, knowing the exact requirements for each building can be a challenge. While most warehouses in the U.S. require ESFR (Early Suppression, Fast Response) sprinkler systems many large facilities may also need Fire Protection Smoke Vents.

Choosing the right fire vents are important for code requirements and for safety, so no matter whether it’s in a warehouse or another workplace building, ensure you have the correct prevention measures and equipment to avoid having costly damage. Using both is not always the right answer, as the two systems are not always compatible. Before making any decisions, it is important to know the advantages and drawbacks of fast response sprinklers and Fire Protection Smoke Vents like the Moffitt Firex.

Fire Safety for Your Facility

ESFR Sprinklers

Unlike traditional in-rack sprinklers, a fast response system will fight a fire at its point of origin. It extinguishes flames by releasing a deluge of water directly at the source. It can release up to 2-3 times more than conventional sprinklers. Plus, unlike traditional sprinklers that only slows the fire to keep it from spreading, ESFR sprinklers will extinguish the fire completely. As a result, the sprinklers extinguish the fire before it has a chance to spread.

ESFR sprinklers become recommended for, and often even required in, large warehouses that use palletized, racked, or high-piled storage solutions. This is because lots of items stored in a small space can lead to quick and expansive fire growth. Close quarters can also make firefighting difficult. Fast response systems become made for facilities wherein the storage does not exceed forty feet and the ceiling height is less than 45 feet.

Certain shelving types and placement are required to ensure that an ESFR system works correctly. Certain types of solid shelving that retain water cannot be used with an ESFR system. This is because solid shelving may prevent sprinkled water from reaching the lower shelves and completely extinguishing the fire. Placement can also be important. When items are too close together or in the wrong configuration, this can lead to a fire hazard. Special shelving units and correct rack placement are required for facilities that use early suppression sprinklers.


Firex Smoke Vents Fire Protection Smoke Vents

Automatic smoke vents are completely different from ESFR sprinkler systems. Emergency heat and smoke fire vents, like the Moffitt Firex, prevent a fire from spreading rather than suppressed. The automatically opening vent lids allow the heat and smoke to escape from the building and move upward instead of outward. This prevents the spread of fire and smoke throughout the facility. When there is less smoke firefighters can more easily reach, and extinguish, the source of the problem.

Large, open, single-story buildings with soaring ceilings are often ideal for smoke vents. Theaters, auditoriums, open manufacturing areas, paper plants, and schools use automatic vents. Most building codes throughout the United States require smoke vents. With architects or building engineers typically specify new construction fire and smoke vents. Most smoke vents are UL listed and FM approved so making the selection become generally based on price, manufacturer reputation, and options.

The key to most Fire Protection Smoke Vents is the heat-sensitive fusible link. When the building reaches a certain temperature, it automatically disconnects, letting the doors fly open allowing the heat and smoke to escape. This smoke release prevents the fire from spreading and decreases the chances of smoke inhalation. Decreased smoke also improves firefighter response time. In the event of a fire, smoke vents can save lives and property.


sprinklers vs Fire Protection Smoke Vents

Opinions on the best option for fire protection become split. Many people say you can’t use sprinkler systems and automatic smoke vents together. Others will say that you should only ever use sprinklers and never use smoke vents. There has been much research on this topic, and it turns out that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

People often cite past incidents, such as the large fire at a Michigan General Motors plant in 1950’s, when they discuss the relationship between smoke vents and sprinklers. Smoke vents prevent overhead sprinklers from performing correctly. Because the smoke left the building the sprinkler mechanism did not trigger. As a result, the sprinklers never activated, and the fire’s never put out.

However, that was over 60 years ago, and fire engineering and technology have come a long way since then. In buildings with ESFR sprinklers, consider the temperature at which the fusible link expires. The lids only release at a certain temperature. As a result, the release temperature needs to be higher than the sprinkler activation temperature. Providing the Fire Protection Smoke Vents have a “high-temperature rated, standard response operating mechanism”, they have proven to work just fine.


There have been many studies on the interaction of sprinklers with smoke and heat vents over the years. They have shown that smoke vents rarely, if ever, have a detrimental effect on sprinkler systems. On the other hand, smoke vents become seldom required in buildings with ESFR sprinkler systems. In fact, you can find many automatic fire and smoke vents “in buildings that don’t require ESFR sprinkler systems”.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t become used together. Nor does it mean it isn’t beneficial to use them together. The smoke vent can be an effective fail-safe in the event of a water shortage or low-pressure. They can also be of use in situations where firefighters need access to the interior of the building. The smoke vents and ESFR sprinkler systems must be designed together if they are going to work together. On the other hand, if the two systems are designed separately this can lead to conflict. We design the entire system together to achieve the benefits of both ESFR and Fire Protection Smoke Vents.

Fire Protection Smoke Vents

Fire Protection Smoke Vents can be crucial to your building’s safety, so before undertaking any fire safety building improvements contact a fire engineer or someone familiar with local building codes. Your local fire department can also be a valuable resource in determining the right fire prevention and containment solution for your facility. You can also contact the Moffitt team to learn about the Firex automatic heat and smoke vent.