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What is Passive Fire Protection?
Everything You Need to Know

For more information on our passive fire protection services please click the button below. Alternatively read on to find out more about passive fire protection and why it should be carefully considered as part of all commercial fire safety strategies.

Passive Fire Protection
What is Passive Fire Protection?
Everything You Need to Know

Introduction & Statistics

Fires happen more often and faster than you expect. Many businesses and commercial premises are not equipped with sufficient passive fire protection measures.

The table below shows recent statistics on the number of commercial fires both accidental and deliberately set from 2019 to 2020 across the scope of business related premises.

Building TypeTotalAccidentalDeliberate
Office and call centres47541065
Retail premises1,4741,187287
Industrial premises1,9731,783190
Agricultural premises535410125
Hospitals and medical care652438214
Education premises52442599
Food and drink premises1,4211,263158
Entertainment, culture and sport505360145
Hotels and boarding houses56549174
Communal living1,116972144
Private non residential buildings3,0522,165887
Other public buildings1,7654071,358
Unspecified Commercial251124127
Total14,30810,4353,873

These are only primary fires which are defined as follows;

  • any fire that occurred in a (non-derelict) building or outdoor structure
  • any fire involving fatalities, casualties or rescues
  • any fire attended by five or more pumping appliances.

Industrial premises includes: Industrial manufacturing, Industrial processing, Laboratory/research, Mines and quarries – above ground, Public utilities, Vehicle repair, Warehouses and bulk storage.

Hotels, boarding houses, hostels etc. includes: Animal boarding, Boarding house/B&B for homeless/asylum seeker, Boarding house/B&B other, Caravan site – in caravan/camper van, Hostel, Hotel/Motel, Other holiday residence and Youth hostel.

Communal living includes: Boarding school accommodation, Military/barracks, Monastery/convent, Nurses’/Doctors’ accommodation, Other residential home, Residential home, Sheltered housing and Student hall of residence.

Private non-residential buildings includes: Other private non-residential building, Private garage, Private garden shed, Private greenhouse and Private summer house.

Other public buildings includes: Car parks, Public admin/security/safety, Public toilets, Religious buildings, Sports pavilions and Transport buildings.

Fire data is collected by the Incident Recording System (IRS) which collects information on all incidents attended by fire and rescue services. For a variety of reasons some records take longer than others for fire services to upload to the IRS and therefore totals are constantly being amended (by relatively small numbers).

How does passive fire protection help and how do these systems work?

Passive fire protection is built into the structural components of the building. Designed to minimise potential fire damage to buildings and their contents. Unlike active fire protection, such as fire extinguishers and hoses, passive fire protection is installed to slow the spread of smoke and flames at all times. Learn more about the difference between active and passive fire protection.

With passive fire protection in place, you can rest assured that there is a safeguard against fires protecting you and minimising risk at all times.

What are the different types of passive fire protection and how do they protect your business premises and workspaces?

Fire Compartmentation

One of the most fundamental principles of fire protection is compartmentation.

This is the concept where any building is sectioned off in a series of compartments with each section sealed with a fire-resistant material creating a series of compartments. This can be accomplished by dividing up a large space into several rooms.

By dividing up the structural components of the building, the fire can be contained to the section in which it started. If it does eventually spread, the fire will have to break through the barriers of the next section before it can continue through the rest of the building.

Every second counts when it comes to putting out fires. Compartmentation slows the spread of fires and saves lives.

Fire Doors

Almost any room in a building has one major breach in its walls: a door. Every fire compartment needs a fire door, so it is important to have fire-resistant doors.

The fire stopping capability of a door is tested in a controlled space. When a fire occurs, the timer is started with each fire door keeping the fire at bay for at least 30 minutes with an FD30 door.

Fire always follows the path of least resistance and will find any nook or cranny to get through. A regular door has numerous small openings where fire can get through. Investing in fire doors is an essential part of your fire strategy.

Fire doors are available in various types (timber, steel etc) and specifications (FD30, FD60, FD90). FD30 fire doors being resistant to fire for at least 30 minutes, FD30S specification would mean they are resistant to, and limit the spread of, both fire and smoke for 30 minutes. FD60 at least 60 minutes and so on.

We install a range of fire doors to meet both your safety and aesthetic requirements.

Also don’t forget to download our FREE Fire Door Inspection checklist to confirm your fire doors are meeting government standards.

Penetration Seals

A less obvious place where fire can break through compartmented spaces is near pipes and electrical wires.

Plumbing and electrical systems wind their way all through your building, between rooms and levels. If you don’t form a complete seal at the location where these pipes and wires pass through a wall or floor, you are leaving a breach in the fire-protection membrane.

These small openings may seem inconsequential to some plumbers and electricians. But even the tiniest flame can spread into a ruinous fire.

It is always worthwhile to have a passive fire protection expert examine your plumbing and electrical systems to ensure they are well sealed.

Fire Glazing & Coating

Another key way to prevent the spread of fires is to make sure as many surfaces as possible have a fire-resistant nature. You can achieve this with a fire-resistant glaze or coating.

One of the most common and affordable methods of coating your glass to increase fire protection is adding a wire grid. As the glass heats up from the fire, it may shatter, but the wire will hold it in place. You will see this method used in public-funded buildings like schools and prisons.

If you want a more attractive pane of glass without wires, you may want to go with a ceramic glaze. Ceramics are almost impossible to combust. This is why, when making pottery, ceramic artworks can withstand the extreme temperatures of a kiln.

There are even special types of gel or resin coatings that will expand upon exposure to fire. This gives the glass extra thickness, increasing the amount of time it takes a fire to break through.

Fire Dampers

Another common path a fire will try to take through a building is through the air ducts. Like plumbing and electrical systems, ventilation ducts pass through walls and ceilings, creating an easy opening for fires to pass through.

That’s where fire dampers come in. These are places wherever an air duct passes through a fire-resistant membrane like a wall or floor. When the air temperature reaches about 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the dampers are activated. Their grates automatically close and form a permanent, airtight seal.

This removes the need for a person to manually close the grates in an emergency and prevents fire from spreading through air ducts.

Stairwells

Stairwells are one of the most important tools for firefighters. They are necessary to get to all parts of the building. This is where the fire hose is usually found in most high-rise apartment buildings.

Because the stairwell is not meant for living or workspaces, they can be streamlined for maximum fire protection. You will usually find that fire doors within stairwells have the highest level of fire rated protection. Without a fire-resistant stairwell, firefighters won’t be able to do their job.

Passive Fire Protection Products To Look Out For

There are numerous Passive Fire Protection (PFP) products on the market today. While we have covered a few of the essentials above, you may want to consider investing in some of the following products as well.

  • Fire protection to the structural frame of the building
  • Fire-resisting doors and fire door furniture
  • Fire shutters
  • Compartment walls and floors
  • Fire-resisting walls and partitions
  • Fire-resistant suspended ceilings
  • Fire-resistant glazing
  • Fire doors and hardware
  • Industrial fire shutters and curtains
  • Smoke shafts and compliant fire rated stairwells
  • Fire-resisting dampers (mechanical or intumescent) used in horizontal or vertical ventilation ducts
  • Fire-resisting ductwork
  • Linear gap seals
  • Penetration seals for pipes, cables and other services
  • Cavity barriers
  • Fire Batts
  • Fire Compound
  • Pipe collars and wraps
  • Fire-resisting air transfer grilles (mechanical or intumescent)
  • The building envelope, e.g. fire-resisting external walls, curtain walls etc.
  • Reaction to fire coatings
  • Hydrocarbon structural fire protection systems

Passive Fire Protection Is Essential

It can be tempting to cut corners when undertaking maintenance and fire compliance work on your commercial premises. You may have never experienced a fire before and expect that one will never happen to you, but fires can break out in mere minutes and with no warning. If you find yourself in that situation, every spare second you save could mean the difference between life and death.

By investing in fire protection now, you substantially reduce the risk of fire damage. Passive fire protection systems limit the damage that can be done should the worst case scenario occur.

If you have questions about how to make sure your building is compliant with the current fire safety legislation and is as safe as possible, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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