A Simple Guide to Passive Fire Protection

What is Passive Fire Protection (PFP)?

When referring to PFP, we are talking about the integration of constructed elements in buildings, whose design it is to delay the spread of fire and smoke to other areas in the building. By doing this it is hoped that people and certain areas in the building will be protected in the event of fire. In contrast to PFP, there is Active Fire Protection (AFP). AFP includes the likes of fire sprinklers and alarms. This could be thought of as reactive fire protection. But just what counts as PFP?

This can be broken down into two categories

resistance to fire – this involves the ability of a particular feature, like a ceiling or wall, to restrict the spread of fire by limiting its passage or preventing the collapse of loadbearing columns, for instance.

reaction to fire – PFP in this category is related to the surface burning behaviour of an element – fire retardant doors, for instance and the extent to which elements can restrict rapid flame spread or smoke production. Escape routes can be protected and vitally, extra escape time can be given to occupants.

Passive Fire Protection is crucial in safeguarding people and restricting the level of damage to buildings and contents resulting from fire and smoke.

Asset protection by PFP

The safeguarding of valuable assets, both human and material is achieved via both AFP (sprinkler systems and extinguishers) and PFP. When choosing between PFP, AFP or a combination of both, the decision is made after considering the size and type of any likely fire, the time needed to get people out and the type of equipment inside as well as water availability and the kind of building.

Who is responsible for PFP

In the UK, Building Regulations involves a section on PFP that is designed to ensure safe escape from a building in the event of fire. The legislation puts the emphasis on owners of buildings, managers, occupiers and designers when it comes to regular fire assessments, encompassing evaluation of existing PFP.

Products for PFP

It’s hard to find an area in health and safety that has been placed under more scrutiny in recent years in post-Grenfell UK than PFP. This is also partly owing to pressure to improve thermal insulation and reduce energy costs and carbon footprints.

As a result, the industry is constantly flooded with ever-improved products designed to assist in PFP. Some of these include:

  • Fire-resistant, spray-applicable epoxy coatings
  • PFP sheeting
  • Better fire retardant doors
  • Fire protection for structural beams
  • Fire-resistant storage, walls, ceilings, ducts and floors
  • Protective storage for first-aid boxes and dangerous items like oil or gas tanks to reduce the risk of explosions.
  • Fire and smoke dampers. These are used in ventilation, heating and air conditioning ducts to prevent spread of fire inside the ductwork, by closing automatically if temperature rises.

All PFP-related products must undergo rigorous testing and gain certification from third-party organisations. They also need to undergo regular testing for continued efficacy in case of any deterioration that may have occurred over time.