The Basics of Passive Fire Protection

What is Passive Fire Protection?

Passive Fire Protection or PFP, is an integral part of fire safety and structural fire protection in a building. Its purpose is to slow down or impede the spread of smoke and fire. This is done through the use of a multitude of devices, including fire-resident doors, floors and walls. Despite the name, Passive Fire Protection is always at work, and can save lives, assets and your building itself should there be a fire. 

How does Passive Fire Protection work?

There are four main areas of passive fire protection. 

Structural Fire Protection

Structural fire protection shields essential structural components of a building such as walls, floors, columns, beams and joints from the effects of fire. This is achieved by applying fire-proofing materials to these areas, or by building a structure out of concrete products. 


The purpose of compartmentation is to divide a building into compartments in order to make a fire more manageable, should one break out. Things like fire barriers, firewalls, fire partitions, and smoke barriers are all features of compartmentation. 

Under Irish law, compartmentation is defined as “A building or part of a building, comprising one or more rooms, spaces or storeys, constructed to prevent the spread of fire to or from another part of the same building, or adjoining building (a roof space above the top storey of a compartment is included in that compartment)” – Building Regulations Technical Guidance Document B (TGD-B) – Fire Safety. 

Fire walls fall under the category of both compartmentation and structural fire protection as they are put in place to limit the spread of fire, and to allow for anyone in the building to escape the fire safely. The purpose of these walls is to ensure that even if the buildings on either side of the firewalls collapses, the wall remains structurally intact. 

Opening Protection

Keeping the spread of fire and smoke under control in buildings that have larger open spaces can prove difficult. This is where opening protectives come in. 

Opening protectives usually come in the form of fire doors and windows. They are installed in an opening of a fire barrier to maintain fire resistance, and used to ensure a safe evacuation in case of fire. Opening protection also includes fire and smoke dampers which are often used in duct systems. 

Firestopping Materials

Buildings often require maintenance. Service providers like electricians, plumbers, and communications engineers can often leave behind hidden holes in the fire barriers of your building as they perform their duties. Should this penetration happen, firestopping materials are used to limit the spread of fire. If not properly sealed, the holes that were created render the firestop system less effective, and fire will spread beyond the point of origin in your building. 

Examples of firestopping materials include: 

  • Cement mortar.
  • Gypsum-based plaster.
  • Cement or gypsum-based vermiculite mixes.
  • Intumescent mastics.
  • Linear gap seals.
  • Cavity barriers.

Other forms of Passive Fire Protection 

Whilst the four types of passive fire protection listed above are considered to be the main areas of PFP, it is worth noting that other forms should also be considered. 

Cable Coating: This is the act of applying fire retardants to wire and cabling throughout the building. 

Joint Systems: This includes changes in the direction between fire-separating elements and the spaces surrounded by those elements. 

Perimeter Fire Barriers: These deal with the perimeter of the floor and the exterior curtain wall of a building. 

Passive Fire Protection can successfully stop the spread of fire throughout your building, however it is important to note that PFP should be used in conjunction with fire suppression systems. 

In other words, installing fire-sprinkler systems, alarms and detection systems as well as educating occupants on fire safety, used in conjunction with passive fire protection is the safest and most balanced approach to fire safety. 

Maintaining Your Passive Fire Protection 

Like most aspects of buildings and construction, passive fire protection is subject to codes and regulations. This is where confusion arises. For example, a window isn’t fire rated in and of itself. It is only fire rated when installed properly by a professional, and used in a fire rated assembly or system. The construction documents for your building will indicate where fire resistant components are installed. They should also include where you need to have fire-rated components. 

As a building owner or manager, you are a vital stakeholder in ensuring that the building’s PFP is maintained. Knowing the regulations, codes, and where each component of your PFP system is very important as it ensures you can maintain the systems put into place. 

It is important to keep an eye on every component of your PFP system. Every time you walk through a fire door make sure it doesn’t stick, if it does, get it fixed. If works are being carried out on the building, ensure fire safety labels aren’t painted over, or if holes are made in firewalls ensure they are fixed. Continuous testing and vigilance is essential to ensure your passive fire protection system does its job in protecting your building, and reducing loss of life in case of fire. 

The Bottom Line

Passive fire protection needs constant attention and monitoring. If an older building needs to be updated, or a newer building needs updating this can be done effectively, with costs depending on the level of work required. 

The bottom line is that you can’t afford not to have adequate passive fire protection. The price of saving lives, property, and assets is incalculable. Life safety should be your number one priority.

At Fire Stoppers our highly experienced team of industry experts are always on hand to assess the fire protection needs of your property, providing the appropriate recommendations based on industry leading standards.

If you have a project or development that requires Fire Prevention then contact Fire Stoppers today!

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