What is Active and Passive Fire Protection?

By Ian O’Neill – Assistant Building Surveyor

To mitigate the impact of fires within buildings, both passive and active fire protection measures are essential.

Passive fire protection involves the incorporation of fire-resistant materials and design strategies, while active fire protection includes systems designed to detect, suppress, and control fires.

Passive Fire Protection

Passive fire protection involves the incorporation of fire-resistant materials, design features, and construction techniques into buildings to slow down the spread of fire and smoke, allowing occupants more time to evacuate and emergency responders to control the situation. The following are some examples of passive fire protection methods used:

  • Fire-Rated Doors: Fire-rated doors are engineered to delay the spread of fire for a specific duration. They are often used in fire-isolated stairways, plant rooms and residential unit entrances.
  • Fire and smoke dampers: Fire and smoke dampers are often installed within service ducts that pass through fire walls or floors and can help prevent the spread of a fire from one compartment to another.
  • Fire-Resistant Insulation: Fire-resistant insulation materials are used to protect structural elements, such as steel beams and columns, from the effects of heat during a fire. This insulation delays the weakening of structural components, contributing to the overall integrity of the building.

Active Fire Protection

Active fire protection consists of systems designed to detect, suppress, and control fires once they have ignited. These systems are typically automated and require intervention from fire safety professionals or emergency response teams. The following are some examples of active fire protection methods used:

  • Fire Detection Systems: Fire detection systems such as smoke detectors and heat detectors continuously monitor the environment for signs of a fire. Upon detection, these systems may trigger an alarm for the occupants within the building, or in more complex systems, alert the Fire Brigade. More complex systems within larger buildings incorporate an Emergency Warning and Intercommunication System (EWIS).
  • Sprinkler Systems: Sprinkler systems are a widely adopted active fire protection measure within specific classes of buildings. They consist of a network of pipes and sprinkler heads installed throughout a building. When a fire is detected, the heat activates the sprinkler head releasing water to suppress or control the fire.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Fire extinguishers are portable devices filled with fire-suppressing agents, such as water, foam, dry chemicals, or CO2. They provide occupants with a means to combat small fires before they escalate, allowing for immediate action and potentially preventing further damage.

Benefits and Challenges:

Passive and active fire protection measures offer numerous benefits, including increased occupant safety and reduced property damage. However, challenges such as proper implementation, maintenance, and cost considerations must be addressed to ensure the effectiveness of these measures.

It is imperative that designers, builders, and building occupants collaborate to implement comprehensive fire protection strategies and ensure the well-being of all stakeholders.

Please contact Credwell at info@credwell.com.au or call 02 9281 8555 for any further advice on active and passive fire protection.