Preparing a building for the event of a fire minimises the risk of damage to property assets. There are many ways you can prevent the impact and spread of a potential fire. A key component of fire protection is Active fire protection. This type of fire protection acts as a preventative measure to contain or slow down the spread of fire. The role of this measure is to provide maximum safety by detecting and eliminating the fire hazard.

The term ‘passive fire protection’ describes structural measures implemented to minimise the risk of fire damage. Passive fire protection systems work in various ways to reduce fire damage. These include dividing buildings into manageable spaces to limit the passage of flames and smoke (also known as compartmentation) and reinforcing load-bearing structural elements (e.g. columns, partitions and beams) so they can withstand fire damage for an extended period.

Active and passive fire protection systems work independently of each other.

What is the Difference Between Passive Fire Protection and Active Fire Protection?

Fire protection within a building requires two types of protection Active fire protection takes action in order to put out a fire.

Passive fire protection will help prevent a fire from spreading or resisting the initial ignition. They work together by alerting people inside the building of a fire and safely containing the fire so that people may evacuate and/or try to suppress the fire.

Active Fire Protection

Active fire protection systems tend to be immediately visible in most buildings. These systems can be automatic or operated manually, but they require some sort of action in order to work. The purpose of active fire protection systems is to provide occupants more time for evacuation and reduce the risk of damage to the building before the emergency services arrive. Active Fire Protection is vitally important to protect life and to ensure a quick response via automatic or human intervention

These systems are an extremely important part of protecting property and the lives of people within.

The most common forms of fire protection systems include sprinklers, fire detection alarmsfire extinguishers, suppression, firewalls/floors and smoke extraction.

Detection: This category describes products that either detect heat, smoke and flames or alert a building’s occupants to the presence of a fire. Primary examples include smoke detectors and fire alarms

Suppression: Fire suppression systems can either be activated or wielded by trained professionals to extinguish flames. Often using water, foam or inert gases, these can range from sprinkler systems to fire hoses and extinguishers.

Ventilation and Evacuation: Many buildings will use products such as automatic vents and fans to help clear smoke from corridors and stairwells so that occupants and firefighters can safely exit a building. In addition to this, emergency escape lighting and intercom systems can be vital in aiding evacuation in the event of a fire.

A common trait shared by the above measures is that they all react to action or motion. Fire alarms, for instance, must be ‘activated’ to bring attention to a fire. Similarly, a fire extinguisher must be actively used to put out a fire. Fire sprinkler systems are often automatically activated to suppress a fire.

Passive Fire Protection

Once completed, a fire risk survey will culminate in a series of recommendations for a passive fire protection strategy. The exact nature of a passive fire protection strategy will vary based on the building itself, as well as any unique industry requirements.

Passive Fire Protection is a critical element of any building structure. It plays a preventive role and it represents all the construction methods that allow a structure to resist a fire during a given time.

Passive Fire Protection methods are intended to:

  • Stop the progression of fumes
    Avoid the spread of flames
    Contain thermal effects in the disaster area
    Maintain the fire stability of structural elements

These methods are known as “passive” as they work without any human intervention or external energy input. They aim to allow the evacuation of people and the intervention of the emergency services, confining the fire as long as possible in a compartmentalised space.

To provide an answer to all of these objectives, we distinguish two types of fire protection solutions:

Structural protection solutions – such as intumescent paints
Firewall solutions for subdivision – such as foams, sealants and other fire stopping solutions.

Intumescent Fireproofing

Intumescent fireproofing involves adding a protective coating for structural steel, which is usually either spray applied (as an intumescent paint) or added as a thin film layer. This coating contains chemical properties which expand when exposed to high temperatures, forming an additional layer around steel beams, columns and other structural elements. This layer extends the length of time in which the steel can withstand high temperatures, without compromising its basic functionality.

Compartmentation

Compartmentation aims to contain fire and smoke to a specific area of a building. This helps to protect the building’s structural integrity and provide a clear path of escape. A compartmentation system can take on a variety of forms. For instance, contractors will erect specially designed barriers and partitions to contain fire and smoke. These barriers and partitions will often be made using specific fire-resistant materials.

Fire doors

For many, the main purpose of a fire door is to provide a clear means of escape. However, they are also a key element of a building’s compartmentation strategy. Fire doors are usually reinforced with either intumescent strips or a cold smoke seal, which offer additional fire resistance by preventing the passage of smoke.

Fireboard Encasement

Fire-rated board encasement protects the structural integrity of concrete, steelworks and timber frameworks in the event of a fire.