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 term ‘active fire protection’ can be used to describe measures put in place for two primary reasons: detecting the presence of a fire and fighting the flames. Another common trait shared by these 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 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. Due to their immediate visibility in most buildings, you may find it useful to think of these systems as having an ‘active’ presence.
What is passive fire protection?
The term ‘passive fire protection’ describes structural measures implemented to prevent a fire from spreading within a building. Specialist contractors will be brought on as part of the building process to advise on passive fire protection measures such as compartmentation, firestopping and fireproofing using intumescent paint. 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. Fire doors also fall under the category of compartmentation, as they are strategically placed to inhibit the passage of flames and smoke.
- 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.
CLM Fireproofing are experts in passive fire protection and firestopping, with over 35 years of experience in the industry. Our trusted team of specialists have worked on some of London’s most iconic buildings, including The Shard. We also specialise in fire protection compliance, working to ensure that our clients deliver projects to the highest possible standards. Contact our dedicated team to find out more.