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Passive Vs. Active Fire Protection: What are the Differences

Check your passive and active fire safety equipment regularly

Responsible for the safety systems for your construction, business or commercial building? Or just curious to know more about active and passive fire protection systems? Well, you’ve come to the right place. After all, we’re the experts on passive fire protection and we’re happy to share all we can about ensuring your buildings and the people in them are protected when it comes to fire risks and fire emergencies. 

Essential to all types of buildings, fire protection and safety measures have life-saving capabilities and should never be overlooked when considering safety measures for your home or business.

What is a Passive Fire Protection System: Containing & Preventing Further Spread 

When we usually discuss fire safety systems it’s easy to initially consider the very basics when it comes to fire safety equipment. For example fire alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers. However, there’s so much more available to us in containing, slowing and preventing the further spread of fires. Rather than just the physical “active” equipment we are so familiar with, there’s a whole array of passive fire protective equipment and furniture that could prove truly life-saving. Passive fire protection measures allow individuals time to evacuate safely while minimising the spread and structural damage caused by building fires.

Passive Fire Protection Examples 

Fire Resistant Walls 

Barriers are constructed from fire-resistant materials, minimising and restricting the spread of fires between rooms or areas. They extend from floor to ceiling and can be compromised of materials such as concrete or masonry. 

Fire Compounding and Penetration Sealing

For those existing walls, additional measures can be enforced to ensure greater protection against the spread of fire. Here, a passive fire protection example for existing walls could be: penetration sealing, or wall compounding designed to secure wall cavities, fill and seal any gaps to ensure fire, toxic gas and smoke do not move easily through gaps in walls and ceilings.   

Fire Doors 

Made from fire-resistant materials, fire doors withstand smoke and fire for a certain amount of time, slowing the spread of a fire to ensure time for evacuation. Fire doors must always be kept closed and any gaps found between the door and the wall should be sealed and filled to prevent smoke travel.  

FD30 & FD60 rated doors ensure fire resistance for up to 30 or 60 minutes. Fire doors are a legal requirement for residential buildings and flats that open up into communal spaces and areas.

Fire-Resistant Coatings

Directly applied to structural elements and steel frame structure. Fire-resistant coating applications can be carried out during construction, ensuring structures withstand temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius. Protecting the steel structure and the structural integrity of the building. 

Cavity Fire Barriers 

Designed to close off and fill space, concealed spaces, cavity fire barriers fit into small cavities to essentially close off the space from unnecessary airflow. Airflow that could potentially allow for the fast spread of a fire and ease of movement through your building, detrimental to the structure and those in it. 

Fire Compartmentation 

Divisions and partitioning walls can be installed to reduce the size of large spaces or create escape corridors, to help slow the spread of smoke and fire and allow time for escape.  Invasive fire compartmentation surveys allow accurate evaluation of existing fire safety measures including doors, ceilings, roofs and floors – measuring their effectiveness in reducing fire spread. 

Active Fire Protection: Detecting & Extinguishing Fires

When joining a new business or moving into a new residential block it’s likely you were taken through some simple fire safety tips and training. Whether this is simply explaining escape and evacuation routes, meeting points, where the fire alarms are located or how and when to use a fire extinguisher these are all active fire protection methods. They usually require you to take action in the event of a fire. Active fire protection systems like sprinklers and or automatic fire detection systems will work without manual activation. However, manual or not, active fire systems will detect and suppress fires through extinguishing. 

Fire Alarm Systems 

Manual or automatic fire detection systems will notify occupants within a building with an alarm sound, letting them know a fire has been detected and evacuation procedures must be followed. Fire marshals will calmly guide teams to their nearest and safest fire exit or fire lead them along the designated fire routes to safety.

Fire Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler systems automatically release water in a sprinkler-type fashion to extinguish flames. The system will automatically detect and emit water if a temperature around 57 degrees Celsius (depending on the sprinkler) or above is reached around the sensor. 

Fire Extinguishers 

Fire extinguishers are one of the most common active fire protection systems and are found in almost every building. They are used to quickly extinguish early-stage small fires and prevent them from spreading and escalating into a much larger blaze. There are different types of fire extinguishers, and each type is designed to extinguish fires caused by specific materials such as wood, paper, or electrical equipment.

  1. Class A – for wood, paper or cloth fires
  2. Class B – for flammable liquids like oil and grease
  3. Class C – for electrical equipment 
  4. Class D – for combustible metals like magnesium, titanium and sodium 
  5. Class K – for cooking oils and fats 

It’s essential for all individuals to receive proper training in their use as early prevention can avert catastrophic damage. 

Ensure regular checks are carried out of all fire safety equipment by a trained professional

Hose Systems

Hose systems can sit within a building, integrated into the structure to be used during fire emergencies by firefighters. These hoses are already linked to a pressurised water supply for quick and efficient fire fighting.

Active Vs. Passive Fire Protection

There’s no need to disregard one or the other with active vs passive fire protection. It’s essential to note that these two fire protection systems work in harmony, together to ensure maximum safety and protection against fires. Both systems will work to ensure occupants of a building or structure are made aware of a potential fire risk or breakout, minimising structural damage by slowing the spread so everyone has time to evacuate safely. With active fire protection equipment, individuals may need to take action whereas passive fire protection methods require no reaction or response from occupants or individuals within the building allowing time for escape and safety.

Installing Fire Protection

Safeguard your home or business by installing both active and passive fire protection systems. Protect your property, business, employees, residents and family with thorough fire safety measures and protection. Don’t forget: enforcing fire safety procedures and training where necessary is essential for individual safety. Ensuring you choose the right team to carry out and enforce your fire protection measures. Contact Fire Immunity today to organise a free consultation and call back, learn how we can help you and ensure building safety through our passive fire protection systems and services.

Please remember that it’s essential to carry out regular fire protection inspections and safety checks. We recommend carrying out checks every six months to ensure the effectiveness of seals, and compounding.