As a facility manager, when someone asks about your building’s fire protection system, you probably think about its alarm and sprinkler systems when, in reality, it is much more. In fact, there are two types of fire protection systems, Active Fire Protection and Passive Fire Protection. It’s important that both systems are properly working in the event of a fire. Active and passive fire protection systems are meant to work together during a fire, not one in place of the other.
Active Fire Protection (AFP) – Systems which require a certain amount of motion/or action in order to work properly. Some of these actions could be slowing the progress of the fire, putting out the fire, or notifying of the fire and smoke conditions. So, if your facility has a strong active fire protection system in place, why does passive fire protection matter?
- Sprinklers don't always work as designed
- Lack of maintenance
- System malfunctions
- Problems with water supply (frozen pipes)
- Inadequate water pressure
Passive Fire Protection (PFP) – A group of systems that do not require motion/and or action in order to work. Each system is specifically designed to contain and slow the spread of the fire, while allowing for a safe evacuation route for the building occupants. These systems include fire walls/barriers, fire doors, fire and smoke dampers, and lastly photoluminescent egress path markers and exit signs. However, PFP systems do not put the fire out, only contain it to one location.
Active and passive fire protection systems, although different, are important to a building's overall fire safety. AFP uses systems that take action in putting out the fire, while PFP uses systems that help prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Just because one is working doesn’t mean you should ignore the other, or that one is more important than the other. AFP takes action in putting out the fire, but may not always work properly. Especially during winter, sprinklers often fail due to frozen pipes, roads could become icy, and hydrants could freeze, which all delays a firefighter’s job and let's the fire grow. PFP compartmentalizes a building into smaller sections to prevent the spread of fire and smoke throughout the building, while also providing occupants more time for evacuation. However, it doesn’t put out the fire altogether, it just helps contain it to one location. Therefore, to ensure that a building has total fire protection, both AFP and PFP should be working together in unison.