What are active and passive fire protection systems?

You should find two types of fire protection in any residential or commercial building. These two systems are known as active and passive protections. These two systems are both fire safety measures and work in tandem with each other. Active protection refers to attacking a fire using suppression or extinguishers, and passive protection refers to compartmentalising or impeding the flame’s ability to spread.

In this article, we will look at what the components of a passive/active fire protection system are and how they work together to extinguish. contain and slow fires.

Active Fire Protection Systems

Active fire protection systems are designed to detect and respond to a fire emergency. These systems are typically automatic and require some form of action or response. Examples of active fire protection systems include:

Fire Sprinkler Systems

These systems are designed to detect heat or smoke and automatically release water to suppress or extinguish the fire.

Fire Alarm Systems

These systems use smoke detectors, heat detectors, and manual pull stations to detect fire and alert occupants to evacuate the building.

Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are manually operated devices that can be used to extinguish small fires.

Smoke Control Systems

These systems use fans and dampers to control the movement of smoke and maintain safe evacuation routes.

    Passive Fire Protection Systems

    Passive fire protection systems are built into the structure of a building and do not require any active intervention or response. These systems are designed to contain or resist the spread of fire and provide protection for a specified period of time. Examples of passive fire protection systems include:

    Fire-Resistant Construction

    This involves using materials and construction methods that resist the spread of fire, such as reinforced concrete, masonry, and fire-rated walls, floors, and ceilings.

    Fire Doors and Fire-Rated Partitions

    These components are designed to contain and prevent the spread of fire and smoke between different areas of a building.

    Fire-Resistant Coatings and Insulation

    These materials are applied to structural elements to provide a protective barrier against fire and heat.


    This involves dividing a building into separate fire-resistant compartments to prevent the spread of fire and smoke.

      Main Difference

      The main difference between active and passive fire protection systems is their mode of operation. Active systems are dynamic and require some form of detection, activation, and response to a fire event. They are designed to actively suppress or extinguish fires. On the other hand, passive systems are static and work by containing or resisting the spread of fire without any active intervention. They provide protection by creating barriers and compartments that limit the movement of fire and smoke.

      It’s important to note that both active and passive fire protection systems are essential components of an effective fire safety strategy. They work together to detect, control, and contain fires, allowing for safe evacuation and minimizing damage to property and loss of life.

      Image of an enginner in high visibility jacket installing a passive fire protection system

      What do fire protection systems offer?

      Every business in Ireland is responsible for ensuring every precaution is taken to prevent loss of life and property damage. So if you manage fire safety, it’s essential to know the difference between active and passive protection.

      image of 3 engineers installing passive fire protection methods in a commercial premises

      What materials are used in the design and construction of a PFP System?

      Passive Fire Protection (PFP) systems utilise various materials for their design and construction. Endothermic materials such as silicate board, concrete, calcium and gypsum wallboard absorb heat and slowly release it. 

      Structural fire resistance can be achieved using two types of materials: intumescent and vermiculite. 

      Vermiculite materials are applied in a relatively thick layer to cover structural steel. The porous nature of steel bars makes them unsuitable for environments. Especially where water exposure is a possibility.

      Unlike vermiculite, Intumescent fireproofing is applied like paint in a relatively thin layer. The layer of paint will typically measure 350 to 700 micrometres, and its thickness depends on which steel is used. Vermiculite coating has a smoother and more aesthetic finish and helps stop or slow corrosion.

      two passsive fire protection engineers conducting a site survery at a commercail premises iin north dublin

      Installation of Passive Fire Protection Systems

      The installation of a passive fire protection system is a highly intricate process, one which requires excellent levels of care and attention. 

      The installer is responsible for ensuring that the system is installed to the highest possible standard and comes with the approved certification.

      Following an installation, regular checks will be made to ensure it operates how it should in the event of a fire. 

      image of a passive fire protection system working in a comercial warehouse, the system is a series of intumescent paints and sprays over steel structural components

      Protection System Maintenance

      In order to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of fire protection systems, regular maintenance is paramount. By conducting routine inspections and maintenance procedures, building owners and facility managers can enhance the safety of occupants and safeguard valuable assets. In this article, we will delve into the significance of maintenance for fire protection systems and highlight key considerations for establishing a robust maintenance plan.

      Ensuring Proper Functionality

      Regular maintenance plays a vital role in ensuring that fire protection systems, including both active and passive measures, function optimally when needed. Components such as fire alarms, sprinklers, smoke detectors, fire doors, and fire-resistant materials require periodic inspections to identify any potential issues or malfunctions. By proactively addressing these concerns, maintenance helps prevent system failures and maximizes the effectiveness of these protective measures.

      Compliance with Regulations and Standards

      Adhering to local fire safety regulations and industry standards is crucial for maintaining a safe environment. Many jurisdictions require building owners to perform regular inspections and maintenance on fire protection systems to comply with specific codes. By implementing a comprehensive maintenance program, property owners can demonstrate their commitment to meeting these legal requirements and ensure the safety of occupants and visitors.

      Minimising Downtime and Business Interruption

      Unforeseen system failures or malfunctions can result in significant downtime and business interruption. Regular maintenance helps identify potential issues beforehand, allowing for timely repairs or replacements. By proactively addressing maintenance needs, businesses can minimize the risk of unexpected shutdowns, mitigate financial losses, and maintain operations continuity.

      Extending Equipment Lifespan

      Just like any other mechanical or electrical system, fire protection equipment has a limited lifespan. However, regular maintenance can significantly extend the operational life of these systems. Through proper cleaning, lubrication, and calibration, the longevity and reliability of fire protection components can be optimized. This not only helps to save costs associated with premature replacements but also provides peace of mind knowing that the systems are in good working condition.

      Enhancing Safety Preparedness

      Maintenance of fire protection systems goes hand in hand with fostering a culture of safety preparedness. By conducting regular inspections and maintenance, building owners and facility managers ensure that all safety measures are up to date-and functioning correctly. This helps to instil confidence in occupants, employees, and visitors, promoting a safer environment and enabling swift and effective response in the event of a fire emergency.

      Regular maintenance is a critical aspect of fire protection system management. By investing in routine inspections, cleaning, testing, and repairs, building owners can uphold compliance with regulations, minimize downtime, extend equipment lifespan, and enhance overall safety preparedness. Collaborating with qualified professionals and establishing a comprehensive maintenance plan will help ensure the continued effectiveness and reliability of fire protection systems, ultimately safeguarding lives and property.

      image of a man installing intumescent paint on a commercial office block in ireland

      The Benefits of Fire Protection Systems

      Each fire protection system has its own benefits. Passive Fire Systems are designed to contain, control, and slow fire, preventing the fire from spreading through a building. Whereas active fire protection is about detecting and fighting the fire. Which method is more effective, depends on the type, speed and aggression of a particular fire.

      Although both systems have different merits and ultimately work most effectively in tandem, they both have different Pros & Cons.

      A passive fire system will attempt to preserve the building’s structural integrity while simultaneously attempting to slow the fire allowing occupants to escape and emergency services to respond.

      Whereas active fire measures detect and attempt to put out the fire using alarms and sprinklers.

      In conclusion, both systems offer a completely different level of protection and should be considered two sides of the same coin.

      What is an example of a passive fire protection plan?

      A passive fire protection plan, otherwise known as PFP Audit, is where a fire protection company maps out exactly what needs to be done to manage the risk of fire effectively. 

      A plan would map out where fires are most likely to occur and then explain how the passive protection technologies would help protect both the structure and the occupants.

      How do protections complement each other?

      We often asked the question “If I have active fire protection, why do I need passive fire protection?

      ?An active fire protection system takes action to extinguish fires, but it’s not always foolproof. Issues like inadequate maintenance, problems with a water supply such as frozen pipes, or insufficient water pressure can cause sprinklers to fail.

      On the other hand, passive fire protection utilises systems that help manage and prevent the spread of fire and smoke. However, it doesn’t directly engage in extinguishing fires. Therefore, both active and passive fire protection systems are intended to work in tandem during a fire rather than one replacing the other.

      The primary concern today lies in the quality of construction and substandard workmanship involving unsuitable materials. This is compounded by inadequate protection of concealed spaces, particularly compartmentation in roof voids, which poses a significant risk of concealed fire spread.

      Both active and passive fire protection are designed to safeguard lives and buildings, and they should be taken into account during both construction and maintenance processes. Ensuring the effectiveness of passive fire measures will provide you and the occupants of your building with peace of mind, knowing that in the event of a worst-case scenario, people will have ample time to evacuate. Active and passive fire protection systems work in conjunction to control fires and preserve lives.

      If you require assistance or guidance in evaluating the safety of your building, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can arrange a site survey, or if you lack a suitable and comprehensive fire risk assessment, kindly provide us with your details, and we will get in touch with you promptly.

      Passive Fire Protection Installers Ireland

      As Ireland’s leading fire prevention/detection supplier, Firestoppers offers a full range of products and services. Our products come from only the best names at a competitive price. 

      We offer a complete range of services which include Fire Equipment Maintenance/Installation and Training Courses. We offer a fully tailored service to businesses and organisations, from design, installation and commissioning to certification.

      Contact us today to discuss how we can help you and your project.

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