Passive Fire Protection: What Is It and Why It’s Important

Posted On: May 5th, 2021

Perhaps the most concerning (and unrealized) danger of fire is how quickly it can spread. A contained fire is easier to deal with and allows those residing in a home or business to escape to safety. It also limits damage and makes suppression easier. Today we will look at passive fire protection, what it is, and the benefits to your home or business.

What is Active and Passive Fire Protection?

Active Fire Protection

Active fire protection is about two things: motion and response.

Let’s elaborate.

A fire extinguisher, a sprinkler system, and a fire blanket are great examples of active fire protection. Fire is recognized, either by a person or an automatic system. A response is initiated to bring the fire under control. 

This is normally achieved by removing one or more aspects of the combustion triangle from the equation to effectively suppress the fire. 

In the systems mentioned above, a fire extinguisher and sprinkler system remove heat and oxygen from a fire. A fire blanket relies on a person actively positioning a blanket over a fire to deprive it of oxygen.

Active fire protection works to suppress or completely extinguish fire through a defined action.

Passive Fire Protection

Passive fire protection is a little different. Unlike active fire protection, passive systems don’t require a response or motion to be effective. 

In simple terms? 

They are an inherent feature that requires no monitoring or response to reduce the danger of fire. They are always present, and they don’t need to be activated to perform their role.

Want an example? Something as simple as a fire door is a great example of passive fire protection. It is inherent in a fire door’s design that it is more heat resistant, substantial, and will normally offer a high degree of smoke insulation too!

What is the Purpose of Passive Fire Protection?

Passive fire protection is all about limiting the reach of the dangers present when a fire breaks out. Namely preventing the spread of heat, flames, and smoke. When you consider that the last factor, smoke, accounts for the vast majority of fire deaths, it is easy to see why any system that stops its spread is particularly valuable.

Passive fire protection is inherent in the design of an area or building. It will prevent the spread of fire and its associated dangers. 

It might surprise you to know that fire can spread in several ways, some of which aren’t obvious. If you want to learn more about how easily a fire can spread, we’ve got a great article just here.

Want a really quick example of passive fire protection, and one which most businesses probably have never thought about? Internal wiring. 

Most people believe that wires only cause fires when there is an electrical fault. How would you feel if we told you that a fire in one room could ignite a fire in another room, even if they aren’t next to each other?

Wires conduct heat, which can ignite material that is actually nowhere near the original fire source.

Frightening, right? This can be guarded against using passive fire protection, provided that the threat is anticipated and recognized. 

How? Cable coating is a great example of passive fire protection. It creates an insulating layer between a heat source and the cabling. Preventing a fire from spreading. It can also reduce costs following a fire as the cable may still be usable as an additional benefit.

Examples of Passive Fire Protection

There are plenty of examples of passive fire protection. Remember, passive fire systems are inherent and exist ‘as is’ without any need for activation or response

Fire Doors

Fire doors are thick, sturdy, and heat resistant. They act by keeping a fire compartmentalized. By limiting fire (and smoke) to one area, they effectively contain a fire. This has three key benefits:

  1. Reduces the immediate risk to people.
  2. Buys time for people to get to safety.
  3. Keeps a fire in a localized area, making it easier to suppress.

All of the above is only beneficial if a fire door is correctly fitted in the right place. If this is something that you are unsure about, then it is well worth consulting a professional service that can advise on where fire doors are most effectively placed 

Fire Damping

Air conditioning ducts make heat transfer easy. After all, what works for cool air will also work for warm air, right?

Damping systems close when they go beyond a certain temperature, preventing heat from traveling long distances to other rooms or even other floors!

Sealing

Smoke is as dangerous as flames. It makes sense to limit its spread. Sealing is an excellent way to achieve this. If smoke is contained, it presents less of a risk.

Training

You might not realize this, but passive fire protection isn’t all about physical systems. 

What do we mean? How people behave and respond to a fire is just as effective as any fire door. 

Teaching people how to limit the risk and reduce fire spread is paramount to continued safety in any building. Consider consulting a local fire protection firm to see if they offer courses or briefings in first response if a fire is discovered.

Planning

Anything that reduces the risk of fire spreading is a good thing. But the benefits can be limited if you are unsure as to what needs to be done.

It is no use fitting a fire door between two rooms when heat can easily spread through internal wiring, or smoke can make its way through the grate above the door.

The best solution to ensure complete fire protection is to recruit the help of an expert, who will quickly and easily offer an appraisal of the most effective combination of passive fire protection methods

Conclusion

Active fire protection suppresses a fire. Passive fire protection limits the damage and the risk, often in areas that aren’t immediately obvious. Fraker Fire offers fire protection systems and can advise on areas where it would be most effective.

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