Passive Fire Protection: What Is It & How Does It Work?
Posted: 24/11/2023
5 minute read
Passive fire protection
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Passive Fire Protection: What Is It & How Does It Work?

As you walk through any building, you might not realise it, but you’ll almost certainly be surrounded by a range of passive fire protection measures. Sometimes referred to as PFP, they’re a crucial element of keeping people safe that is often understated and overlooked.

That’s why this month at Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we’re dedicating this post as your guide to passive fire protection. We’re going to walk you through exactly what it is, what the regulations are and how it works, as well as how it differs from active fire protection measures.

Passive fire protection

What is passive fire protection?

Passive fire protection is formed through the structure of your building, including additional installations, all to maximise how much time people have to evacuate the premises safely. 

These are passive measures because they are always present but do not require any interaction or activation in order to protect people when a fire breaks out. Predominantly, they are in place to keep people safe and give everyone time to react by preserving evacuation routes and compartmentalising a fire in one area. However, they also give additional time for fire and rescue services to attend, holding back the spread of fire and ultimately limiting the amount of damage done.


Passive fire protection regulations

Passive fire protection can be implemented in a number of ways, but there are stipulations you must follow in the form of The Building Regulations Approved Document B (fire safety). 

The regulations are for any new buildings, modernisation work or extensions, ensuring appropriate measures are taken to inhibit the spread of fire within the building. This includes the creation of sub-divisions in the building using fire-resistant construction techniques. Requirement B3 also specifies that the design of the building should prevent the spread of smoke and fire in unseen areas and voids within the construction.

In addition to this – and this part is crucial for all buildings – any joins or imperfections between walls, floors and ceilings need to be sealed to maintain the integrity of the building’s fire resistance.

As with almost all things fire safety-related, you’re legally bound to uphold safe standards in your building because of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This can include ensuring fire-stopping measures are in place where appropriate.


How does passive fire protection work?

Passive fire protection can come in many forms, but crucially it involves the use of fire-resistant materials that are either incorporated into the design of a building from the beginning or are applied at a later date.

This ranges from the structure and layout of the walls and voids themselves to the sealing off of any gaps and holes that appear. Then, should the worst happen, these materials will stand up to the extreme heat and smoke of a fire, preventing them from spreading rapidly through a building. They can even contain a fire in one area of a building for a certain period.

Without such measures, fire and smoke can easily move through a building in a matter of minutes, proving fatal.


What items are passive fire protection?

There are a whole range of items that can form part of your passive fire protection, some of which you’ll be more familiar with than others. Fire doors, for example, are something you’ll likely encounter every day. Built to be fire-resistant, they are kept closed or on automatic closers to seal off areas in the event of a fire. 

Other common passive fire protection items include fire-resistant and fire-stopping materials:

  • Cavity barriers
  • Fire curtains
  • Fire barriers
  • Penetration seals
  • Fire collars
  • Fire sleeves
  • Intumescent paint
  • Intumescent covers

In addition to these items, fire-stopping surveys and structural fire surveys are also good ideas if you want to assess your building and the measures you have planned or currently have in place.


What is the difference between passive and active fire protection?

By now, the difference between passive fire protection (PFP) and active fire protection (AFP) might seem obvious, but here is a clear way to get your head around the two principles:

  • Active fire protection is anything that is used to detect a fire or suppress the flames – this can be alarms, sprinklers and even fire extinguishers. It requires action or intervention from people or automated systems.
  • Passive fire protection is anything in place to slow the spread of fire – this can be fire doors, fire seals and intumescent coatings. It does not require you to do anything in an emergency.


We hope that this passive fire protection guide has made it clear how important a factor this is for the fire safety strategy of your building. If you’d like to learn more about passive fire protection and fire stopping for your premises, whether you own an office, a retail unit or any other type of commercial structure, simply contact us today. 

Our expert team operates throughout London and the Home Counties – including Maidenhead, Guildford and Slough – giving you access to all the specialist services you need for legal compliance and to ensure the safety of anyone in your building.

    Protect your business premises today

    Call us now on 08081 689 497 to find out more about our fire alarm design, installation and maintenance services.