Fire Protection is a Balance of Active and Passive Components
The test of a building’s fire protection design is ultimately its performance in case of a fire. You would expect that occupants of the building are able to evacuate safely, that the spread of fumes or flames is effectively minimised, and that fire teams are able to access the premises safely. Effective fire protection is a blend of both passive and active components, with the design tailored to a specific building, and its usage.
What is Active Fire Protection?
Active fire protection comprises all those systems that we traditionally associate with fire control. It includes: sprinklers, fire extinguishers, alarms, smoke extraction. An active fire protection component requires activation in order for it to fulfil its function. Each of the devices will help to slow the progress of a fire, and alert occupants to the need to evacuate the building.
What is Passive Fire Protection?
Passive fire protection is a group of systems that compartmentalise buildings. Fire rated walls, floors, ceilings and doors contain the fire, and prevent it from spreading beyond the compartment in which it started. Passive fire protection materials can offer up to 4 hours of protection, allowing occupants to leave the building in an orderly manner.
Balancing Active and Passive Fire Protection
Key to creating a comprehensive fire protection system for your premises, is an awareness of the need to balance both active and passive materials. The two approaches are required in order to achieve the orderly evacuation of employees, the maintenance of structural integrity, and – therefore – a safe environment for fire crews to enter.
Compartmentalisation is Key to Fire Protection
At the heart of all fire protection systems is secure compartmentalisation. This requires that the building is segmented in order to create safe passage for evacuees, wherever the fire may start. Each compartment should be completely sealed. Comprehensive compartmentation is achieved using:
- Fire Protection Barriers. These are used on walls, ceilings and floors to stop the flames spreading.
- Intumescent Paint. A protective shield which stops steelwork reaching high temperatures at which point it’s liable to collapse.
- Fire and Blast Resistant Panels. Used to protect critical plant and escape routes from the impact of explosions and fast moving fire.
- Cable Ducts. Providing the effective sealing of holes used for cables, ducts, or pipe work. These stop smoke or toxic fumes spreading.
- Fire Doors. Fire rated door sets ensure that doorways are sealed and can maintain the integrity of the compartment.
Once the large components are in place, a cable duct sealing system is required to ensure that the compartment is hermetically sealed in case of fire. Even the slightest crack in the defences can prove disastrous when trying to control a raging fire, or explosion.
About Wallace Fire Protection Ltd
We are a specialist contractor, an experienced installer and designer of Promat DURASTEEL® passive fire protection systems, and a leading UK designer an installer of fire protection solutions in high risk environments. These include power stations and nuclear facilities. In this context the requirements are at their most stringent, and compartmentation has to be able to withstand severe fire conditions.