As a facility manager, ensuring the safety of a building and its occupants is a top priority. One of the most critical safety measures you can take is setting up a fire protection system. But with so many different fire protection systems available, it can be challenging to determine which are best suited for your facility’s needs.
Many fire protection options can be divided into one of two groups: active systems and passive systems. Let’s explore the differences between these two systems and how they work together to provide comprehensive fire protection.
Fight fire with active systems
Active fire protection systems are designed to detect and suppress fires using various devices and methods. For example, some buildings have gaseous fire protection systems, which release a specific type of gas into an area to reduce oxygen levels and suppress a fire.
Other types of active fire protection systems include:
- Fire sprinkler systems: Perhaps the most well-known type of active fire protection system, fire sprinkler systems use a network of pipes and sprinkler heads to distribute water in the event of a fire. The heat of the fire activates them, allowing the water to quickly extinguish the flames.
- Fire alarms: Fire alarms are essential in alerting building occupants to a fire. They can be manually activated or triggered by smoke or heat detectors.
- Fire extinguishers: Fire extinguishers are portable devices to extinguish small fires. They typically contain dry chemicals, foam, or carbon dioxide.
- Fire suppression systems: Fire suppression systems use a variety of agents—water mist, carbon dioxide and dry chemicals—to suppress fires. You can install them in specific areas of a building, such as a kitchen or a server room.
The advantages of active fire systems include their ability to:
- Detect and suppress fires, minimizing damage and preventing injuries
- Meet the specific needs of a building or facility through customization
- Integrate with other fire protection systems for comprehensive protection.
However, active fire protection systems have several disadvantages:
- They require a power source, which means they can be affected by power outages or malfunctions
- They are expensive to install and maintain
- They are subject to false alarms, which can be disruptive and costly.
Passive measures can pay off
Passive fire protection (PFP) systems are designed to contain a fire to its point of origin and prevent the flames from spreading further throughout a facility. This is done by dividing a facility into controlled fireproof sections and allowing the fire to burn out within the contained unit.
PFP systems typically comprise fire-resistant walls, fire-resistant glass, and heavy-duty fire doors. You also can passively protect some facility assets through spray-applied fireproofing, such as intumescent paints or cementitious coating.
The benefits of passive systems include their ability to protect a building against fire without requiring any action to operate. Additionally, they can limit damage to a facility and its contents from smoke and fire.
However, passive fire protection systems are less effective than active systems in detecting and responding to a fire. Furthermore, they may not be as effective in safeguarding building residents.
Although passive fire protection systems are important to any fire safety strategy, they should not be used as a substitute for active systems.
Manage a blend of active and passive
When you work in facility management, it’s essential to have a well-thought-out plan for managing both active and passive fire protection systems — as 93% of businesses find their maintenance process inefficient.
Here are some tips to help you manage these systems effectively:
- Conduct regular inspections: Regular inspections of both active and passive fire protection systems are critical to ensuring they function correctly. Inspections can identify any maintenance or repair needs before they become major problems.
- Keep detailed records: Maintaining detailed records of all inspections, maintenance, and repairs performed on your fire protection systems is essential. This information can be useful for identifying patterns that need to be addressed.
- Train employees: All employees will need training on using fire protection systems, such as fire alarms and extinguishers. This ensures everyone knows what to do in a fire and can help minimize damage and injuries.
- Develop emergency response plans: A well-developed emergency response plan is essential in a fire. This plan should include evacuation procedures, emergency contact information, and instructions for using fire protection systems.
- Work with qualified professionals: When it comes to fire protection systems, it’s critical to work with qualified professionals. This includes fire protection engineers, contractors, and inspectors who can provide expert guidance on system design, installation, and maintenance.