Fire safety in the workplace, home, or anywhere is everyone’s responsibility. Whether because of the improper use of equipment, misuse or neglect of wiring, accidents, mishandling of materials, or poor structural, operational, and material features – most fire hazards are preventable. Fortunately, protecting lives, assets, and properties through an effective fire protection system has become much easier, more advanced, and more accessible these days.
There are two main forms of fire protection, which includes the more neglected and unfamiliar *but very necessary* one that is passive fire protection. To help you get started, we have compiled all the basic information you must know about fire protecting your next project to success!
Passive vs. active fire protection
The two main forms of fire protection are active and passive. Active fire protection uses fire detection and fire suppression systems that are automatic or programmed to respond once triggered. Some active fire protection systems also require human operation or are manually used and applied. In such cases, building personnel or occupants must receive proper fire safety management training to capacitate and prepare them in case of emergency.
Examples of active fire protection include fire extinguishers, fire hose reels, fire blankets, fire hydrants, water sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, fire fighters/emergency services, thermal detectors, gas suppression, and fire control systems.
Passive fire protection, or simply PFP, is a fire-retardant barrier, material, or solution that stops, contains, or delays the spread of fire, heat, and smoke from one area to another for a certain period of time. Passive fire protection systems are usually favored over active ones because of the safety and convenience it offers without heavy maintenance unlike their active counterparts and without additional manual intervention by a personnel, which is also a potential hazard.
Examples of passive fire protection include fire doors, fire walls, fire floors, emergency exit lights, dampers, flame shields, intumescent paint, mortar, coating, mineral fiber matting, protection of muster/refuge points, and spray fireproofing.
Now, you may ask, should you have both? The answer: It varies based on your business, location, and environment. In majority of the cases, having both systems is necessary for a safer, more balanced approach.
Areas of Passive Fire Protection
Passive fire protection is mainly concerned with the following areas:
- Structural fire protection – The use of concrete materials or thin film coatings to form protection to the structure of the building. Examples are spray-on thin-film intumescents, gypsum-based plasters and cementitious products, mineral wool wraps and insulation, and fireproofing cladding.
- Compartmentation – The use of fire and smoke barriers, fire partitions and fire barriers to contain the spread of fire in an area, secure evacuation routes, and allow people to safely exit. From the term itself, it employs compartmentalized spaces between rooms and corridors. Examples are fire rated walls, floors, and ceilings.
- Opening protection – The use of fire doors and windows to maintain the fire resistance of a barrier. Examples are fire-rated glass or frames.
- Firestopping – The use of materials to limit fire spread through penetrations or hidden holes in a fire barrier. Examples are fire rated mortars, panels, and sealants.
- Cable coating – The use of fire retardants or fire rated cable coatings on wires, sheaths, or cables to stop fire spread and protect the assets. Example is intumescent coating. Examples include fire doors, fire walls, fire floors, emergency exit lights, dampers, flame shields, intumescent paint, mortar coating, mineral fiber matting, protection of muster/refuge points, and spray fireproofing.
Importance of passive fire protection
Passive fire protection is an essential part of every modern building or facility as it provides an extra level of safety and security for the people, your property, and your assets. It reduces the extent of damage, risk to lives, gives people more time to vacate the building’s premises, and provides ample time for emergency services to respond.
Besides the functionalities of passive fire protection systems, providing a safe environment for your employees is already an imperative. And you have the ability to do that through quality fire stopping or fire-retardant materials.
On top of that, protecting your assets away from any fire hazards is the best investment you could make – and this cannot be overemphasized. So, whether it is for employee welfare or assets and property management, having a passive fire protection system only leaves you in a win-win situation.
Quality of passive fire protection solutions
Your building’s fire protection system is only as good as the brand and team you choose to trust. Not all items in the marketplace went through the same production and testing processes or are made with the same materials and intentions. And putting your time, money, and other resources on below standard materials could do you more harm than good.
Choose the passive fire protection products that undergo rigorous testing procedures and carry legitimate certifications issued by international organizations and think tanks in research and quality assessment. This way, you can guarantee that you are getting the best value for your money. Remember that your peace of mind is priceless!
Installation and maintenance
To get started, it is important to check your region’s compliance and industry requirements. Because different passive fire protection products require different installation, application, and environmental conditions, we highly recommend consulting with field experts on which passive fire protection solutions are fit for your next project and how to best execute it.
Let us take cable coating for example. Cable coating forms a protective intumescent char when exposed to fire or to a temperature above 175 degrees Celsius. Before application, the cables should be free of grease and dirt and must be clean and dry. Cable coating should be applied, by brush or spray, in two coats for complete coverage. In case the cable was subjected to fire and intumescence occurs, the char should be removed completely and the cable section should be recoated. As for the cable itself? No need to replace it! Because the cable coating saves it for you.