Examining The Relationship Between Active And Passive Fire Protection


Friday, December 21, 2012


As one of the leading passive fire protection contractors in Europe, we at Sharpfibre often take for granted our technical expertise on fire stopping.  However, when discussing passive protection with others, we sometimes receive a reminder that not everyone is quite as well versed in the subject as we are.  One of the most common issues that arise is the confusion between what exactly active and passive fire protection is and the relationship between the two.  Although our expertise focuses on passive fire protection systems, such as Promat DURASTEEL® fire barriers, we do also have an understanding of active fire protection. 

In order to clarify the two types of fire protection we will seek to explain the differences between them and gives examples of which products fall into which category. 

Passive Fire Protection

Passive fire protection is the use of fire barrier systems that are integrated into the structure of a building.  Their purpose is to contain fires and slow the rate at which they spread.  This is achieved by creating fire-resistant walls, floors and doors through the use of products such the aforementioned Promat DURASTEEL®.  They also aim to protect load bearing columns and other critical structures to prevent the building collapsing during fires. 

By creating a fire resistant compartment between rooms and floors, passive fire protection greatly slows the spread of the blaze from the room where it originated.  As a result the amount of damage that the building sustains is dramatically reduced.  In addition, the building’s occupants have more time to evacuate the building and reach a place of safety. 

The reason that passive fire protection is given its name is that it does not typically require any motion or to be activated by electronics.  There are some exceptions to this rule, such as fire door closers and fire dampers. 

Active Fire Protection

Unlike passive fire protection; active fire protection entails systems or items that require some degree of response and motion.  The first stage of active fire protection is to detect the fire, which is done by locating heat, smoke or flames.  In such instances the fire alarm is of course activated and the emergency services alerted. 

In larger buildings where it is difficult to ventilate central areas through natural openings such as windows, smoke and heat extraction systems are often used.  Their purpose is improve the visibility in the building so that occupants can make their exit and to prevent flashover. 

Sprinkler systems, typically installed at ceiling height, will also be activated.  This usually occurs when excessive heat from the fire causes glass in the system to burst, thus releasing the water.  This method serves release water only in the location of the fire, which prevents damage to other areas of the building. 

A dual solution

When considering fire protection it is essential that you do not view active and passive as two competing methods.  It is not a case of making a choice between the two.  The key to effective fire stopping is to use active and passive fire protection in unison together.  By doing, so you will improve the chance of occupants safely exiting the building and reduce the level of damage that the property might sustain.  



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