What is Passive Fire Protection (PFP)?
Passive fire protection never seeks to extinguish the fire, but rather focuses on preventing or minimizing fire spread through strategic compartmentalization and proactive installation of fire-proof systems such as fire-resistant walls.
Contrary to its name, passive fire protection (PFP) systems, if properly installed and regularly maintained, are always at work behind the scenes. While PFP systems may not get the credit they deserve compared to active fire protection (AFP), they are a fundamental and integral part of any fully integrated fire protection system.
Business and building owners that understand the value of implementing passive fire protection for their facility will be better positioned to partner with an experienced fire protection company that is ready to design, install, inspect, repair, and monitor a complete fire protection system tailored to their needs.
How Does Passive Fire Protection Work?
Active fire protection (AFP) focuses on initiating certain actions - like activating fire sprinklers or sounding a fire alarm - to detect or suppress a fire. While passive fire protection (PFP), on the other hand, isn’t designed to extinguish the fire, but rather focuses on preventing or minimizing fire spread through strategic compartmentalization and proactive installation of fireproof systems such as fire-resistant walls.
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS
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Passive fire protection systems work by containing a fire to its point of origin and preventing the flames from spreading further throughout a facility. An effective PFP system divides a facility into contained fire-proof sections with the goal of having the fire burn out within the contained section. Passive fire protection utilizes fireproof systems to eliminate potential fuel that could exacerbate fire spread. A fire restricted to a small area that is surrounded by fire-proof assets provides business and building owners a greater chance of suppressing a fire and building occupants invaluable time to safely exit the facility. This is especially valuable in healthcare facilities as it provides first responders more time to help patients that need assistance evacuating the building.
Examples of Passive Fire Protection (PFP) Systems
A comprehensive passive fire protection system can be broken down into four main areas, all working together to prevent or minimize fire spread. These four areas include structural fire protection, compartmentation, opening protection, and firestop materials. While there are many passive fire protection systems, here are a few of the most commonly used among building owners.
Fire doors, or fire-rated doors, are a type of opening protection system that is specially constructed to slow or completely stop the spread of smoke and fire. During normal circumstances, fire doors are designed to stay open by the use of electromagnetic hardwire that’s connected to the facility’s fire alarm system. In the case of a power failure or fire alarm activation, the magnet will release causing the door to close automatically. Fire doors are heavier than regular doors and are typically constructed from metal or gypsum.
Fire and Smoke Dampers
A type of opening protection system, fire and smoke dampers are devices installed in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units to prevent duct and air transfer openings from spreading flames from one side of a fire-rated separation to the other. Fire and smoke dampers are designed to close automatically with the detection of heat.
An example of a compartmentation PFP system, firewalls are used as a fireproof barrier to help prevent the spread of fire between rooms, buildings, or structures while maintaining structural stability and offering fire resistance.
Firestop Materials and Coatings
Fireproof coatings such as spray-applied epoxy intumescent and subliming coatings are commonly used to limit fire spread. Firestop materials can be used for internal applications like cable coating (applying fire retardants to wires and cables) or external applications like structural fire protection. Effective structural fire protection is achieved when building structures are built from firestop materials like:
- Fireproofing cladding
- Spray-on thin-film intumescents
- Mineral wool wraps and insulation
- Endothermic materials including gypsum-based plasters and cementitious products
Passive Fire Protection and Fire Code Compliance
Like all fire and life safety equipment, passive fire protection systems need to be properly installed and regularly maintained by a certified third party to ensure regulatory compliance. There are several National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulations associated with barrier management systems as well as those set by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Joint Commission, and local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). NFPA passive fire protection regulations include but are not limited to:
While understanding fire code compliance is recommended, it is still never advisable to tackle the complexity of passive fire protection inspections and maintenance alone. Building owners and facility managers that choose to partner with an experienced fire protection company guarantee that PFP system installation will meet all regulatory requirements.
Using an experienced full-service fire protection company also ensures inspections and tests are completed by licensed technicians, and all required documents including audits, company records, photo validation, and a certificate of conformity are provided in a customized report. Having all required documentation in a neatly organized customized report provides building and business owners the confidence they are avoiding fire code violations and continuously meeting regulatory requirements.
Prevent and Stop Fire Spread with Reliable Passive Fire Protection Services
When a passive fire protection system is professionally installed and maintained it provides building occupants invaluable time to safely exit the facility by containing the fire for a longer length of time. While every facility needs to be outfitted with a passive fire protection system, the presence of these systems should not be viewed as an alternative to active fire protection.
Facility managers and building owners should partner with an experienced fire protection company to implement a combined solution that unifies active and passive fire protection to provide building occupants the greatest chance of exiting safely. Partnering with licensed technicians guarantees both types of fire protection systems are consistently inspected, repaired, and monitored to ensure regulatory compliance and peak functionality.