Ohio fire departments warn against shower curtains for social distancing barriers

Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 7:22 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As more businesses reopen while trying to follow social distancing guidelines, some are getting creative with barriers to keep people apart.

However, local fire departments are warning some methods are safer than others.

Stow Fire Department posted this warning:

In case you've been told that a shower curtain is a great way to help separate spaces to open your business, think...

Posted by Stow Fire Department on Monday, May 18, 2020

At the Parma Fire Department, T.J. Martin said, “you’re trying to save lives by preventing the coronavirus spread, but you also could have the potential of taking lives by putting up something that could burn in the event of a fire.”

He added, “anything vertically does have the potential to burn and burn quickly.” He said he’s seen photos of businesses using plexiglass dividers and even shower curtains to establish social distancing barriers, and he believes it’s not a good idea.

“If you take a shower curtain you can actually melt the curtain. Imagine being in a restaurant that serves hot steamy food and they melt that shower curtain. Sometimes they can produce second- and third-degree burns.”

He said every business, including salons, barbershops, retail and restaurants are subject to a different set of fire code guidelines they must follow. However, Martin added anything hanging close to the ceiling can be a risk. “Where we have concerns is if the building is sprinklered that could impede the sprinkler system from activating properly. If it impedes an exit that also creates a problem. If it impedes even an exit sign where someone can’t see the exit sign that creates a problem.”

He said plexiglass dividers are better. But, they should be at least 18 inches below the ceiling and sprinklers, and out of the way of any exits.

He said he understands businesses want to use as much space as possible, but he thinks the best method “would be to open up the area. Maybe take out 50% of your tables to space it out a little bit more.”

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