As many of the elements which make up the area of passive fire protection are already built into the structure of a building, this type of fire safety can sometimes be overlooked. While many people are already very familiar with the tools of active fire protection, such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets and sprinklers, much less is known about passive fire protection items.
The main difference between active fire protection and passive fire protection is in how fires are tackled. The tools which make up the area of active protection work to meet the fire head on, hopefully extinguishing a blaze completely. In contrast, passive protection seeks to contain the fire and prevent it spreading to other areas of a building. Fire doors and fire curtains are both active in this area. The structural elements of passive fire protection also work to prevent a building from collapsing.
By containing a fire in a smaller section of a building, the risk of the structure being completely destroyed is lessened greatly. This is where fire curtains and barriers come into the equation. Fire-resistant walls, ceiling and floors are other ways in which the spread of a potentially devastating blaze can be prevented. The containment of a fire in a particular section of a building also allows occupants to be safely evacuated from the danger zone.
While fire curtains and fire-resistant walls work to contain fires in designated areas, the elements of a building which are essential to structural integrity are protected by other means. Load-bearing columns and beams have the potential to cause total structural collapse if they are damaged during a fire. These elements are protected by the application of fire-proof materials such as gypsum plasters, mineral wool wraps and fireproof cladding, which all work to ensure that a building’s load-bearing capacity does not reach critical levels.
Both active protection and passive protection are integral to fire safety. Whilst the former is perhaps the most well known, passive fire protection continues to work away in the background. It seems that many of the elements which make up the area of passive fire protection are too often taken for granted. However, they have the potential to stop a minor fire escalating into a disaster of far greater proportions, saving a number of lives in the process.