We often define fire protection as safety features we encounter in any building. These features range from alarms and smoke detectors to fire extinguishers and doors. All of these are important to...Continue Reading
We often define fire protection as safety features we encounter in any building. These features range from alarms and smoke detectors to fire extinguishers and doors. All of these are important to protecting both buildings and their inhabitants. However, they form only part of a whole system of preventative measures. All of these measures will belong to one of two categories – either active or passive fire protection. Not encountered these terms before? This article will explain the difference between active and passive fire protection, and how they ensure a building is safe in the event of a fire.
What is active fire protection?
The measures mentioned at the start of this article are categorised as ‘active fire protection.’ This is because 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 in order to put out a fire. Fire sprinklers are also an example of active fire protection. This is because they are automatically activated in order to suppress a fire.
Active fire protection works in two ways, detecting the presence of a fire and fighting the flames. Fire door systems are also actively used in order to safely evacuate a building – therefore they too fall under active fire protection. It may help you to think of these systems as having an ‘active’ presence, as more often than not they are immediately visible in most buildings.
What is passive fire protection?
Active fire protection systems are installed to detect and fight fires. In comparison, passive fire protection systems are structural measures implemented to prevent a fire from spreading. Specialist contractors will be brought on as part of the building process to advise on passive fire protection measures. According to Global Market Insights, the passive fire protection market is estimated to be worth $31 billion by 2026.
By limiting the speed at which fire spreads, passive fire protection systems open up a vital window of time for safe escape. These systems can be categorised in the following ways:
- Fireproofing: This primarily involves spraying steel frames with fire retardant paint (known as intumescent paint). Fireproofing extends the amount of time the frame can withstand any fire damage. This ensures there is enough time to evacuate a building.
- Compartmentation: Contractors erect specially designed barriers and partitions to contain fire and smoke. This limits the spread of fire, protecting the building’s structural integrity and providing clear paths of escape.
- Firestopping: Sometimes, tradesmen can inadvertently compromise a fire resistant structure. Whether it be electricians or plumbers, their work can create cavities in floors, ceilings, walls, or ventilation ducts. The smallest cavity might provide the opportunity for fire and smoke to spread. Firestopping is the practice of filling these cavities. This should always be carried out by specialists to ensure adherence with industry standards.
Hopefully these examples help explain the difference between active and passive fire protection. All of the above measures work ‘passively’ to protect both a building and its inhabitants.
Active and passive fire protection systems work independently of each other. However, they must both be maintained to the highest standards to be effective. Otherwise, in the event of a fire the ramifications can be devastating. We strongly advise all construction projects involve fire protection experts from the outset. so preventative measures can be implemented as soon as possible.