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What Are Active And Passive Fire Control Methods?

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

What Are Active And Passive Fire Control Methods?

Fire prevention and suppression are incredibly important aspects of owning and/or occupying a building. The devastating effects of a fire that gets out of control cannot be overstated.

It is because of this that much research and development has been dedicated to creating systems for preventing and controlling building fires. These developments fall into two categories: active fire protection and passive fire protection. So what are active and passive fire control methods?

Active fire safety systems

Active fire protection systems are designed to come into effect once a fire has started and are designed to extinguish it as quickly and effectively as possible. Some of these systems are also designed to alert personnel in the building and assist in their evacuation while others seek only to directly extinguish the fire.

Types of active fire protection systems

There are many different types of active fire protection systems, with some of the most common in commercial properties being the following.

Fire extinguishers

A well-placed handheld fire extinguisher can help an employee stop a small flame from becoming a serious problem. They are very easy to source and install, and come in different variants to tackle different types of fires.

Sprinkler systems

Sprinkler systems linked to the smoke detectors are very effective against regular fires, but will be ineffective against grease or electrical fires, and can damage sensitive items in a building.

Smoke detectors

Smoke detectors are the first and best method of alerting personnel to the presence of a fire, and can be linked to fire suppression systems to trigger them immediately.

Halon fire suppression systems

Halon systems remove the oxygen necessary for a fire to burn. They are quite dangerous, however. It can be fatal for individuals trapped in a room while a halon system is in effect, due to the lack of oxygen. Therefore these systems are best used for areas with little people and sensitive items in them.

Now, what are passive fire protection elements?

Passive fire safety systems

Passive fire protection systems, meanwhile, are designed to prevent a fire from starting in the first place and then hinder the spread of a fire if it does start. By nature, passive fire safety elements are technically always in effect, but only have a noticeable effect when a fire is present.

Types of passive fire protection systems

There are many different types of passive fire protection systems, with some of the most common in commercial properties being the following.

Exit lighting

Lighting is excellent for directing personnel evacuations in heavy smoke, but it should be noted that they won't work if the power is cut. Thus, a well-rehearsed exit plan should be in place in any workplace.

Smoke curtains

Smoke curtains are devices that work to direct smoke towards ventilation points, to keep it away from personnel and to keep vision clear during the evacuation.

Fire-resistant building materials

Passive fire protection also extends to using fire-resistant building materials in the construction of the building itself. This makes it harder for the fire to start, harder to spread and reduces the chances of it restarting if extinguished. You can read about the best types of fire-resistant building materials here.

Fire doors and fire curtains

Fire doors and fire curtains are systems designed to obstruct the path of the fire and prevent the spread of smoke via a physical barrier. Though they both perform the same function, there are some significant differences to how they operate, which is worth further discussion.

Fire doors vs fire curtains

Fire doors are specially constructed doors made of fire-resistant materials that replace the regular doors in a building. They are self-closing but do not lock on their own, allowing personnel to evacuate through them.

Fire curtains are specially made fire-resistant sheets of fibreglass fabric that sit rolled up on the roof until a fire is detected, upon which they drop down to obstruct the fire and smoke's path.

Both methods are effective, but there are some additional considerations to take into effect when considering whether to have fire curtains or fire doors installed.

  • The emergency retracts button on fire curtains makes it much easier for wheelchair-bound people to evacuate quicker than if they tried to navigate through a door on their own.

  • Fire curtains do, however, require more maintenance and testing and faults are less noticeable as they only act when a fire is detected.

  • A fire door installation is quicker and easier in general.

  • Fire curtains can be installed in large open areas to break them up into sections, and will work where there are no doors.

  • Fire curtains require an external trigger before they deploy. Fire doors are always in effect.

Which method of fire protection is better?

There really isn't a superior method between active and passive fire safety elements, especially as they both cover two very different and important aspects of fire protection. As such it is actually best to have both types of systems working in tandem.

It is also worth noting that the effectiveness of these fire protection measures is not affected by when they were installed in the building. You can rest assured that a property that has been upgraded later in its life will be as protected as one that had the systems built in from the start. It will, of course, be far more convenient to have them built in while the rest of the building is being constructed.

Which method is best for you?

The most optimal method of fire protection for you will change depending on the type of business. An oil platform, for example, will need fire protection that doesn't use water in order to protect the vital computers that regulate the pressure and keep the operation running without incident.

As such, you should always speak with fire protection experts at Australian Fire Control before arranging an installation. You can easily get in touch with us for this, as well as to discuss other aspects of fire safety. We manufacture and install high-quality fire doors, fire curtains, and smoke systems.

When it comes to fire protection, do it once and do it right. Speak with Australian Fire Control today.

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