Active & Passive Fire Protection

Fire extinguishers in the warehouse

Fire emergencies can lead to devastating damages, immense economic losses, and more tragically, loss of life. Fire protection measures are systematically designed to stop the spread of fire and reduce its impact.

These measures fall into two broad categories: active fire control measures and passive fire protection. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between active and passive fire protection systems, their types, and functions.

It's essential for building owners and managers to ensure adherence to Australian standards for fire safety systems with timely fire protection services.

Active Fire Protection Systems

At the core of fire safety lies active fire measures. These measures are designed to combat fires once it is detected. They are especially crucial for both commercial and residential buildings given the high density of occupants and valuable assets.

Active fire protection can be divided into three primary types:

  1. Active detection measures that identify the fire outbreak
  2. Active fire suppression systems that work to extinguish or control the fire
  3. Ventilation and evacuation measures to remove smoke and aid in the safe exit of occupants.

Active Fire Protection Systems Examples

Active fire safety systems are essential, especially in a country like Australia, which frequently deals with bushfires and urban fire emergencies. Implementing robust active fire protection measures can timely safeguard lives and properties.

Let's dive into some of the widely used active fire protection systems:

  • Fire Extinguishers: These handheld lifesavers are the first line of defence against unexpected fires. Designed for various fire classes, they contain specific agents that can quickly suppress and neutralise fires. Find out more about Fire Extinguishers Types.
  • Automatic Sprinkler Systems: A common sight in many Australian buildings, these systems spring into action when increasing levels of heat are detected. Their quick water release mechanism dampens the flames, making them a cornerstone in fire safety measures. Find out more about Automatic Fire Sprinklers.
  • Fire Alarm Systems: Playing a crucial role in early detection, fire alarm systems are sound an alert at the slightest hint of a fire, ensuring immediate response and evacuation. Learn more about our Fire Alarm Maintenance service.
  • Fire Hydrants: Stationed outdoors and indoors, they provide water to firefighters to combat larger fires, ensuring public spaces remain safe. Find out more about Fire Hydrants.
  • Fire Hose Reels: Mostly seen in industrial and commercial setups, hose reels provide a consistent and forceful water stream, allowing trained staff and firefighters to combat fires effectively. Learn more about Fire Hose Reel Use.
  • Fire Suppression Systems: Unlike conventional water mechanisms, these advanced systems use chemicals or gases. They suppress fires without the damage water might cause, especially in equipment-heavy places like data centres. Find out more about Automatic Fire Suppression Systems.
  • Fire Blankets: Crafted from fire-resistant materials, these blankets are invaluable in emergencies, especially in kitchens. They smother fires, preventing them from spreading. Find out more about Fire Blankets.
  • Smoke Alarms & Detectors: Smoke detectors continuously monitor the environment and sound an alarm at the earliest detection of smoke, ensuring that residents have adequate time to evacuate.

Building managers and staff must ensure fire safety with the optimal functioning of these systems through regular checks and maintenance.

Active Fire Protection System Standards

Ensuring the efficacy and reliability of these active fire systems requires following specific standards and regulations.

In Australia, a prime example is AS1851, which outlines the requirements for routine servicing of fire protection systems and equipment. Furthermore, the Building Code of Australia offers a comprehensive framework for the construction and design of buildings to accommodate active fire safety measures effectively.

Passive Fire Protection Systems

What is a passive fire protection system? Unlike their active counterparts, passive fire systems primarily focus on fire resistance.

What makes passive fire protection important? Instead of actively suppressing a fire, these systems work by resisting fires to prevent their spread, providing ongoing protection.

They achieve this by incorporating materials and designs that resist the fire's heat and flames, effectively serving as barriers.

Not only does it compartmentalise fires, limiting structural damage, but it also provides precious time for occupants to evacuate safely. The point of passive fire protection is not to eliminate the fire but to hold it at bay, protecting the building and residents.

Many commercial and residential buildings can get exposed to fires, and sometimes evacuation of a building can’t be done in a matter of minutes. To keep the fires controlled while ensuring the safety of occupants, passive protection is needed.

Passive Fire Protection System Examples

Here are some notable passive fire protection methods and systems:

  • Fire-Rated Doors: More than just a barrier, fire doors are specially designed to resist the spread of fire and smoke between rooms and sections, ensuring a safe evacuation path. Their fire resistance is measured by their ability to stand firm against fire for a specified duration. Find out more about Fire Doors.
  • Emergency & Exit Lighting: Critical in guiding occupants to safety, emergency and exit lighting illuminates escape routes and exit points during power outages, ensuring safe evacuation. Find out more about Emergency & Exit Lights.
  • Fire-Rated Walls: These walls are constructed to resist the spread of fire, compartmentalising spaces and limiting fire damage. The fire-rated attribute highlights the duration these walls can withstand fire without failure.
  • Fire-Resistant Glazing & Sealants: Special types of glazing and sealants prevent the spread of fire and smoke. The glazing remains intact even under intense heat, while sealants block gaps, ensuring further fireproofing.
  • Fire-Resistant Ductwork and Fire Dampers: Used in HVAC systems, they prevent the spread of fire and smoke through ventilation systems. Dampers automatically close when subjected to high temperatures, blocking the fire pathway.
  • Fire-Resistant Insulation: Materials designed to resist heat and prevent the spread of flames. These insulations contribute to the overall fireproofing of buildings, ensuring they remain structurally sound during fires.
  • Compartmentation: A crucial strategy where buildings are divided into fire-resistant compartments, limiting the spread of fire and smoke.
  • Fire-Resistant Flooring and Ceilings: These structures are fortified to withstand fires, ensuring that flames don't spread between floors or from the roof.
  • Intumescent Coatings: Unique coatings that expand when exposed to high temperatures. The intumescent expansion creates a protective char layer, shielding underlying materials from fire.

By implementing these passive measures, Australia ensures that its structures offer the highest safety standards, from fire doors to emergency lighting, each component playing a vital role in fire resistance.

Passive Fire Protection System Standards

Passive fire protection methods in Australia adhere to specific standards and building codes. Buildings must comply with passive fire safety regulations such as the National Construction Code and Australian Standards.

Australian Standards for Passive fire protection include:

  • AS 4072.1: Components for the protection of openings in fire-resistant walls – Fire-resistant doorsets
  • AS 1530.8.1: Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures – Fire tests on elements of construction for buildings exposed to simulated bushfire attack
  • AS 1530.4: Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures – Fire-resistance test of elements of construction

These regulations outline the fire rating requirements, which define the duration a structure can resist fire. It's imperative to ensure that buildings comply with these standards to guarantee maximum fire resistance and safety.

Staying Prepared

Now that you know about active and passive fire control measures, staying prepared in the face of fire emergencies is non-negotiable. This means ensuring your fire protection systems are up-to-date, accessible and well-maintained. Fire safety inspections are critical to ensure both passive and active measures function successfully in case of an emergency.

Complying with Australian standards for all fire protection equipment and systems isn't just a statutory obligation—it's a step towards guaranteeing safety. Regular testing, inspection, and maintenance of both active and passive fire systems are vital for safeguarding both buildings and their occupants.