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November 20, 2019

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Fire protection

Passive fire protection: the essentials

All business owners and employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees and building premises, so it is important they follow the relevant fire safety guidelines in order for their property to be compliant with current regulations and legislation. One example is passive fire protection. It is a UK legal requirement for all buildings (domestic and commercial) to have specific passive fire protection measures in place.

Passive fire protection is not only a necessary safety precaution but is also required by law, as it is designed to provide an effective system built into the structure of a building which restricts the growth and spread of fire.

Here, Cooke and Bern explains some of the essentials of why buildings should have an effective passive protection system in place.

Why do I need it?

As a form of structural fire protection, passive fire protection aims to slow down or prevent the spread of fire, giving people as much time as possible to evacuate the property.

Passive protection is also used to limit the amount of smoke contained in a single area. This helps to improve escape route accessibility and protect a building’s assets. The four main areas include structural fire protection, fireproofing materials, opening protection and compartmentation.

Fire compartmentation involves dividing a building into areas to allow fire risks to be managed more effectively. It is designed to delay the spread of fire and protect escape route access.

In the UK, all building owners, managers, occupiers and designers are required to carry out regular fire risk assessments. This should include a full evaluation of the Passive Fire Protection provided.

Types of Passive Fire Protection

The two most common types include: intumescent fire protection and vermiculite fire protection.

Intumescent coatings are passive fire protection measures which swell up when heated (in a fire) and protect the material (steel, plasterboard or wood) underneath it. It is designed to swell up in order to increase its surface volume and reduce the intensity of the flames in a fire.

Benefits of Intumescent Fire Protection

  • Cheaper fire protection alternative
  • Have a thin layer
  • Maintain the original steel structure appearance

Benefits of Vermiculite Fire Protection

Vermiculite is a relatively new form of passive fire protection. It is a type of insulating material widely used where resistance to high temperatures is needed. Vermiculite is designed to improve fire protection of buildings and ensure that structural elements are able to resist the effects of heat.

It involves the installation of thermal insulation boards often used as a ‘core’ in fire doors. The purpose of this is to create a fire barrier in order to protect the steel building elements from the effects of fire.

  • Lightweight
  • Insulating – 4 times more resistant to heat than sand plasters
  • Fire Retardant
  • Non-combustible/non-toxic

Passive fire protection can also come in the form of fire retardant paints. These can be applied to a variety of materials and surfaces, such as walls, doors, ceilings, flooring and more. It also involves applying intumescent paint for steel, structural steel and cast iron.

Some of the most common products installed in a building to improve fire safety include:

  • Fire doors
  • Fire-resisting walls, floors, ceilings and ducts
  • Fire-resistant spray and coatings applied
  • Protection equipment

When it comes to implementing passive fire protection, it can be part of a building’s structure or added after it is constructed. All passive fire protection elements should be in safe working order and maintained on a regular basis. This involves testing, inspecting and certified by a third-party certification.

Benefits of Passive Fire Protection

The main benefit of passive fire protection is that it contains fires and delays their spread in order to limit damage. It is able to protect structural steelworks from collapsing and allow for safe evacuation of the facility.

  • Reduces the spread of fire
  • Contains smoke
  • Safeguards building structure
  • Protects facility assets
  • Protects escape routes

What about Active Fire Protection?

In addition to passive fire protection, active fire protection is another integral structural fire protection component in a building. Passive fire protection aims to contain fires and slow the spread, such as by fire resistant walls, floors and doors, whereas active fire protection is a group of systems that require an amount of action in order to respond. For example, in the event of a fire, actions might involve things like manually operating a fire extinguisher, or a sprinkler.

Please be advised, this is simply designed to be an introduction to the subject of passive fire protection. Visit Cooke and Bern for more advise from the business.

Free download: Fire Safety Guide

Know your fire safety responsibilities.

Business owners have many responsibilities, but the consequences of neglecting your fire safety responsibilities are potentially unthinkable.

Download this guide to get:

  • A beginner’s guide to the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order
  • Your guide to fire risk assessments
  • Further guides covering fire doors, fire alarm systems, smoke detectors, fire escape signs, sprinklers, water-mist systems and fire safety training

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michael floyd

Vermiculite is not that new. Its properties were found in the 1870’s and it was extensively mined for the fire and construction sectors from the 1920’s.

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