When you think ‘fire protection’ you might think of images like this:


And yes, they are all forms of fire protection…but they are all forms of active fire protection.

Active Fire Protection

Active Fire Protection (AFP) systems work to detect, alert, control and suppress or extinguish a fire. This category of fire protection represents:

  • Fire Detectors
    • Ionic or photoelectric smoke detectors
    • Very early smoke detection apparatus (VESDA)
    • Heat or flame detectors
    • Optical detectors
  • Alarm Systems – most of us have been through a fire drill or two so we’re familiar with the horns, bells, sirens and strobe lights.
  • Suppression Systems
    • Water sprinklers
    • Gaseous suppression systems
    • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire Fighters!

So with all of the above protection, why do we even need passive fire protection?

Passive Fire Protection

Passive Fire Protection (PFP) compartmentalizes a building to slow the spread of heat, fire and smoke to provide as much time as possible for safe evacuation.  A secondary function is to limit damage and preserve the building if possible, but that is a distance second – the main goal is to get everyone out safely.

Passive fire protection systems include:

  • Fire and smoke dampers
  • Fire doors
  • Fire rated floors + walls

Expansion joint fire barriers are also classified as passive protection systems. Unprotected expansion joints act as a chimney to rapidly spread heat, smoke and flames throughout the building.

The passive systems listed above all work to reinforce the compartmentalization of a building. So while they don’t necessarily work to extinguish the fire, they work extremely hard to keep the smoke and flames from spreading.

In a perfect world, fires would rarely occur and when they did – we would be ready to act by pulling the alarm, and our systems would work perfectly to extinguish the flames. But in the real world fires occur when no one is around, sprinkler systems can fail, or extinguishing agents might not be suited for that type of flame. That’s why it is so important to rely on both active and passive protection system to mitigate the risk of fire.

Download our free white paper for a deeper investigation of active vs. passive fire protection systems.

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