Active vs Passive Fire Protection Systems

When you think about the measures and protocols that are put in place to protect a building and inhabitants, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s just water sprinklers and alarm systems. After all, these are the fire protection systems that are the most obvious. Sprinkler systems are the systems that get shown in films and TV every day (more on that here) and Fire Alarms often make noisy appearances in our everyday lives.

Active Fire Protection

Fire extinguisher maintenanceThe above systems that we encounter daily are known as ‘Active’ fire protection methods. AFP (Active Fire Protection) is characterised by items or systems which require response in order to work.

These systems can be a huge range of methods and fire suppression systems that are activated manually, such as fire fighting with fire extinguishers or dry and wet risers by trained personnel.

Alternatively, they could be automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers. These are activated automatically in the presence of fire and require no human action. For this reason, they are often mistakenly categorised as passive fire protection.

Alongside fire suppression techniques are fire detection systems. Fire Detection Systems can be activated in the presence of smoke, flame, or heat (and manually) and are programmed to initiate a number of functions. In most cases, this is sounding an emergency alarm, which allows occupants of the building to evacuate. However, they can also alert authorities, open vents and compartmentalise the building by closing fire doors.

The above (both fire suppression techniques and fire detection systems) fall under the umbrella of Active Fire Protection.

Passive Fire Protection

Passive Fire Protection is always protecting against fire and is intended to contain a fire and slow its spread. PFP systems can be fire-resistance rated walls and doors, fire-resistant glass, cable coating and spray applied fireproofing.

All of these systems are designed to make the building as fireproof as possible, causing a fire to burn out quickly before it can find more fuel. Most buildings built in the UK must now comply with a series of stringent British Standards to maintain the safety and security of building occupants.

These standards allow fire fighting and emergency services to accurately predict the spread of the fire and conduct themselves accordingly.

If we can offer one “tip of the day” piece of advice on passive fire protection, it’s this – make sure your fire doors operate correctly and are kept closed, or on an automatic closer.

How they work together

In the event of a fire, active fire protection systems will initiate. This is typically an alarm to alert the building occupants to evacuate the building and some form of fire suppression system will initiate – manual fire fighting or sprinkler systems.

Meanwhile, passive fire protection measures are working to compartmentalise the fire and stop it from spreading to other parts of the building. These give occupants more time to evacuate and prevent widespread damage to the building before emergency services arrive.

Active Vs Passive Protection

Simply from these descriptions it becomes clear that there’s no “Active vs Passive” discussion. They are both as important as the other in terms of protecting building occupants and businesses.

Both form 2 parts of an important 3 part fire protection plan to maintain the safety of people within your business.

The third part of the 3 point fire protection plan is Fire Prevention. Minimising ignition sources, educating building occupants and maintenance are all aspects that fall into fire prevention and are outlined in a business’s fire risk assessment.

Need help with your business’s Fire Risk Assessment? Contact us.

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