The Difference Between Active and Passive Fire Protection

For most people fire protection means fire extinguishers or fire alarms. These, however, are the most visible elements of fire protection, whilst being just a small part of any comprehensive fire protection solution. There are two components that make up fire protection; active and passive. The difference between active and passive fire protection has nothing to do with which is more important. Both are vital to saving lives.


What is Active Fire Protection?

Fire protection is considered to be active if external action is required to make it work. The action may be automatic – as in the case of fire sprinkler systems – but active intervention is necessary. Once activated a fire extinguisher will help to suppress a fire that has already started, or an alarm will alert fire services and other people in the building. Active fire protection provides the opportunity to subdue a fire, or call for help.

What is Passive Fire Protection?

Passive fire protection requires no external agency to do its work in managing fire. This is because it is usually integral to the structure of the building. Its presence goes largely unnoticed and it is inert until a fire starts. Its role in fire management is to contain the fire and stop the ingress of smoke and gases into evacuation routes.

The success of passive fire protection is dependent on compartments which hold the fire in one part of the building. These are ‘hard-baked’ into the design of the structure. Fire protection barriers are used on walls, ceilings to stop fire from spreading. Intumescent coatings protect steelwork from overheating. And firestopping materials plug any gaps around cables or ductwork that could allow smoke or fumes to escape.

Why Both Active and Passive Fire Protection are Necessary

There are 3 clear aims for fire protection design. The first is to provide a safe passage for an orderly evacuation of people from the building. Second, it should facilitate access for fire fighters upon their arrival. Third, fire protection aims to protect the integrity of the building, and minimise the damage caused by fire.

Active and passive fire protection perform very different tasks that are, nonetheless equally important in the management of fire. Active components trigger alarms, calls to the fire service and provide the resources to quell the fire in its early stages. Passive fire protection contains an established fire, maintains safe passage from the building, and keeps the fire under control. Together they save lives and livelihoods.


About Wallace Fire Protection

Wallace is a specialist provider of bespoke passive fire protection solutions to the construction industries, the commercial sector, utilities and critical infrastructure. We are proud to be one of just six licensed and approved installers of Promat DURASTEEL® across the UK.

The Wallace team is committed to providing our clients with an unrivalled design and installation service focusing heavily on quality and responsiveness from tender stage right through to contract completion. All our operatives hold industry relevant certificates including Persons, BESC, Substation Entry and Confined Spaces.


Would you like to know more about Wallace passive fire protection? Call our specialist team today on 01908 109045