Fire and rescue services in the UK attended to over 500,000 fires in 2020 alone. When a fire consumes your business premises, you risk a significant financial and personal loss. More importantly risk to the lives of your staff and members of the public. Both active and passive fire protection methods can save your business and help mitigate the risk of fire. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about the two main methods of fire protection.
Passive vs Active Fire Protection
What’s the difference between active and passive fire protection? While passive and active fire protection work together to stop fires from spreading, active protection requires action from individuals in most case scenarios while passive protection works without anyone or anything having to act.
Active Fire Protection
Think of active fire protection as a function that requires a machine to kick in or a person to flip a switch. The action results from a signal or an alarm going off, telling a machine or a person that a fire has started. The machine or person then does something, actively, to stop the fire. Active fire protection works to suppress and even extinguish a fire before it can damage or harm.
Passive Fire Protection
What is passive fire protection? If active fire protection requires a person or machine to trigger it, how does passive fire protection work? Passive fire protection protects buildings and limits the damage a fire can cause. These systems and methods do not require a person or machine to trigger them because their very presence prevents fires from causing more damage. Think of them as a fire stopping method. Our fire prevention experts can design and adapt existing buildings to have passive fire protection, built into the structure to keep fires from moving through the building. For example, fire-resistant doors and walls can slow a fire down long enough to give people can chance to escape. Fire dampers and fire doors can prevent oxygen from feeding the fire. Passive fire protection basically attempts to keep the fire in a small area and allow you or authorities to put it out before it engulfs your entire structure.
Methods of Active Fire Protection
Active fire protection requires someone or something to turn it on. Otherwise, it does no good. A sprinkler system that does not automatically go off with a fire has a huge disadvantage. Here are a few different methods for active fire protection:
- Fire extinguisher: A person must pick up the extinguisher and operate it for it to work.
- Sprinkler systems: A machine must detect that a fire is present for the sprinklers to kick in and douse the fire.
- Fire detection or fire alarm systems: Smoke or heat will trigger the alarm which alerts proper authorities that a fire is present. The alarm may also activate sprinklers or close doors.
- Firefighters: These individuals qualify as active fire protection since they walk into the building to stop it.
- Photoluminescent egress path markers: These path markers will light up when the system detects a fire. Building occupants will be able to follow the markers out of the building and to safety.
When we think of fire protection, our minds automatically go to active fire protection as this is the most traditional method of stopping a fire.
Methods of Passive Fire Protection
Passive fire protection requires installation and planning. It limits the damage a fire can do to a building, and it gives people a chance to evacuate unharmed. Here are a few of the most common passive fire protection methods:
- Dampers: You can have dampers installed that close when a fire is detected. They prevent fire and smoke from spreading throughout the building.
- Fire doors: Specially designed external and internal fire doors create a barrier for fires. Fire doors consist of a fire-resistant material that will slow a fire down. Use our FREE Fire Door Inspection checklist to make sure your fire doors are up to government standards.
- Curtain and cavity barriers: You can have fire experts install cavity barriers either vertically or horizontally to create a cavity that stops the fire. These fire-proof barriers will compartmentalize the fire in a smaller area.
- Fire Batts: A fire batt is a board coated with mineral wool. We can install this board on walls and floors to keep the fire from penetrating the surface.
- Fire sealing compound: A fire sealing compound will provide load-bearing fire seals for light foot traffic on your floors. Often building programmes need to make a place for pipes or cable trays. These breeches will compromise fire stopping walls and floors, but a fire sealing compound fixes this.
- Collapsing collars and wraps: These wraps and collars go on plastic pipes that pass through walls and floors. The material around the pipe will squeeze it and collapse it until the opening has sealed completely.
- Acoustic and smoke seals: Fire experts can apply this sealant to windows, cables, joints, pipes, fire doors, and any small hole through which a fire could spread.
Passive fire protection works without you have to do anything to make it work. It just stops the spread of fire.
Combining Active & Passive Methods
If you want the best chance to save your structure from a fire, you should consider having both a passive and active fire protection system in place. These systems work best when they work together. Active fire systems will put the fire out. Passive fire protection systems will keep the fire from spreading. Plus, you have to remember that active fire systems can fail. Sprinklers will malfunction due to water supply problems, inadequate water pressure, or a lack of maintenance. But passive systems always work if installed correctly by an accredited installer.
We Help to Stop Fire & Save Lives
Basic passive fire protection will keep a fire from spreading, save your structure from complete damage, and give your building occupants a chance to escape. Fire stopping doors, walls, and other methods give you the best chance to avoid the full disaster a fire can cause. If you’re interested in having your commercial premises evaluated for fire safety, contact us. We have an array of passive and active fire protection solutions, and we can recommend a system that will keep your building safe, compliant to the latest in fire safety regulations and ultimately bring you peace of mind.