What Does Active Fire Protection Mean?

Aug 15, 2022

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Active fire protection is crucial in preventing the spread of a fire. Unlike passive fire protection, active fire protection systems remain dormant until activated by an individual. Once activated, they can begin to extinguish the threat of an out-of-control blaze. Important to understand, fire protection products such as extinguishers are only useful when tackling smaller fires. This is due to the fact that a larger fire could cause harm to the user and therefore should be tackled by a professional firefighter.

Active fire protection is an important part of any fire safety program. Firstly, the term “active fire protection” refers to the human intervention aspect of this field. This means it takes human involvement in the prevention and suppression of fire. The main goal of active fire protection is to prevent fires from spreading and putting lives at risk.

Secondly, active fire protection includes fire suppression systems, extinguishers and fire alarms. Passive fire protection, unlike active, uses structural fire protection to keep buildings safe.

active fire protection smoke alarm

What is Active Fire Protection?

There are many different types of fire protection systems, the main two are ‘active’ and ‘passive’. Both of these systems are designed to protect people and property from the effects of a fire. Ideally, we would be able to use a combination of the two and stop the flames from spreading through the building thus causing less damage.

As mentioned previously, active fire protection is firefighting and fire prevention with human involvement. In addition, active fire protection involves using a fire protection device that isn’t part of the structure of the premises. Often businesses by law are required to implement active solutions as they are an element of fire safety operations.

Active fire protection systems can include many items: Simple smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire blankets and sophisticated centralised monitoring systems. Anything electronic can be interlinked to an overall fire protection system controlled via the company’s fire alarm panel. Additionally, active protection systems are designed to be actively operated by people for their intended purpose.

This includes:

  • Fire blankets.
  • Smoke alarms.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Sprinkler systems.
  • Centralised monitoring systems.

Unlike active fire protection, passive fire protection is an engineering solution for structural fire prevention. Additionally, fire protection systems are a necessity in any building that’s prone to fire. Passive fire protection systems are designed to be able to operate without human intervention in order to prevent structural damage from fires. Passive fire protection includes fire-rated walls, floors and ceilings.

Cameron House Scotland Fire

Examples of Active Fire Protection

Fire Alarms:

Smoke, heat and other fire alarm systems are a crucial form of active fire protection. Regulations stipulate that all homes must have a smoke alarm installed on each storey of your home. In addition, landlords are required to have CO alarms installed now in areas where fuel is burnt including boilers or wood fires.

What is a Smoke Alarm?

A smoke detector is a device that senses smoke, typically as an indicator of an unwanted fire. In addition, smoke detectors are usually housed in plastic enclosures that are typically fitted on the ceiling or up high on a wall. A smoke alarm is often circular, rectangular or sometimes even oddly shaped.

Fire Alarm Uses

Fire alarm devices are designed to alert occupants of a building when smoke or heat is detected. Smoke alarms do not detect fire by sensing the heat of the flames, they detect smoke, which indicates the presence of combustion or burning. These devices are intended to detect fires before they spread and become deadly.

Some smoke detectors with inbuilt heat sensors are designed to go off when exposed to a certain amount of heat, such as those found in large kitchens.

How Do Fire Alarms Work?

In most cases, smoke can be detected either optically (photoelectric) or by physical process (ionization). Smoke alarms can use one or both sensing methods. Large commercial and industrial buildings typically have smoke detectors connected to a central fire alarm system.

Smoke detectors, which are also referred to as smoke alarms, generally emit an audible or visual alert from the detector itself if there is a fire in your home. If multiple devices are interlinked within a house’s electrical system, this can trigger more than one alarm.

Household smoke detectors, which are battery-powered or wired into the electrical system, range from single units to clusters. In interlinked systems, a cluster of interconnected alarms can go off simultaneously. It only takes one of the devices to detect smoke. Also, if power is interrupted, battery power means the household will still be alerted immediately by their home’s alarm system.

active fire protection smoke alarm

Fire Sprinkler Systems:

A fire sprinkler system is a water supply system connected to a series of sprinklers. Fire sprinklers are usually fitted within ceilings or on the walls of buildings for larger coverage. Ideally, sprinkler systems should be included in the design of new buildings to avoid needing to be retrofitted. However, they can also be installed easily and inexpensively on existing structures if needed.

A fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection method consisting of pipes, pumps and valves that distribute water over fires to douse them. Home and small-building systems, which were once considered out of reach financially, are now available to a wider audience at an affordable price.

A sprinkler system is often an automatic, yet active fire protection method. We would typically install these in buildings with a high risk of fire, such as hotels and schools. Once they sense smoke or heat they are designed to activate automatically.

Fire Sprinkler Cost

Residential fire sprinklers cost about £1 per square foot or around £1500 – 2,000 for a three-bedroom house, a similar price to carpeting. Recovery of the costs associated with having a business continuity plan can be achieved in as little as 10 years through reduced insurance premiums and reduction of disruption to business continuity.

Sprinkler System

Fire Extinguishers:

A fire extinguisher is a handheld active fire protection device that can be filled with either dry or wet chemicals used to smother small fires. It should not be used on an out-of-control blaze such as one which has reached the ceiling and endangers its user. Generally, a fire extinguisher is a hand-held device that is often cylindrical in shape and easy to use. It contains an agent that can help put out fires. Other shapes of vessels are available however they aren’t as common.

Fire extinguishers are designed to be easy to use and handle. They must also be able to effectively put out fires of different sizes.

Fire Extinguisher Ratings

Fire extinguishers are rated according to the type of fire they can fight. For example, a Class A extinguisher will be effective against wood, paper, cloth and plastics. A Class B extinguisher is used on flammable liquids such as gasoline or oil while Class C is applied to flammable gases.

active fire protection fire extinguisher

Fire Blankets:

Fire blankets are made of a durable material that can be used to smother small fires. A fire blanket is a sheet of flame-retardant material and takes up very little space in its compact design. Fire blankets are active fire protection devices that are typically used in conjunction with other fire protection devices such as extinguishers. Essentially, fire blankets are used to protect people and property from the effects of fire.

Where Do We Supply Fire Blankets

Small fire blankets, available in stores and designed for business or home use, are usually made of glass-reinforced plastic or Kevlar fabric. They can be folded into a compact shape with quick-release mechanisms so they’re easy to carry around.

Fire blankets are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some models are designed to cover a small object or area in order to prevent it from spreading while others are large enough to cover an entire person.

Fire Blanket Locations

The fire blanket is a must-have for every home, garage, kitchen, restaurant, caravan or business. It’s an inexpensive item that can help save your life or protect your property from a fire. Fire blankets should be used only on non-combustible surfaces and must be kept away from flammable materials such as gasoline, solvents and grease.

fire blanket wall mounted

Emergency Lighting:

Emergency lighting is another essential item to have on hand in case of a power cut or emergency where the lighting is affected. It can be installed easily and is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure that you have enough light when exiting a building in the dark. Emergency lighting typically includes exit signs and lights on the walls near doors. In the event of a power failure, this should be triggered automatically.

The exit sign should be placed near every exit door and outside of each stairwell. The lights on the walls should be located on either side of every exterior door and in front of each stairway.

Emergency lighting is essential to ensure that you can get out of the building in the event of an emergency. It’s important to have emergency lighting installed on every floor, in every stairwell, and near all exits.

fire exit sign

Working Together

Both active and passive systems can help protect buildings from fire. Active systems rely on moving parts or people, so they’re vulnerable to malfunction or error. Because of this, passive systems should be installed in addition to active ones. However, active fire protection is crucial for immediate extinguishing and allows you to save more of the premises from being impacted.

Passive and active fire protection systems can work together to optimise the safety of a building. For example, passive smoke curtains may help direct smoke toward vents where it can be flushed from the structure. Additionally, passive materials will slow the spread of smoke and fire and will make it easier for firefighters to locate and put out fires.

When constructing newer buildings, passive flame-resistant materials are being utilised to improve the overall building’s safety. For those who own older buildings, all hope is not gone! Your building can be retrofitted with smoke curtains and panels that can significantly improve its fire protection systems. If you own a business then it’s important to use a mixture of both active and passive fire protection systems.

This helps to help prevent the kind of expensive damage, catastrophic injuries, and loss of life that can occur in non-residential buildings each year. The use of passive fire protection systems in non-residential buildings can be a part of an overall strategy to improve the safety and security of these structures.

Important to note, passive protection isn’t a substitute for active fire suppression systems. It’s simply an additional layer of protection that should be used in addition to active systems. The mixture of both these systems is healthy and it will ultimately go towards lowering insurance premiums and increasing overall fire safety measures.

regulatory reform order 2005


Active Fire Protection is an important aspect of firefighting that has been largely overlooked by modern fire departments. It is the most effective way to prevent fires and save lives, but there are many challenges that must be addressed before it can be implemented on a large scale. The most important obstacle is the public perception of fire. People have been conditioned to think that a small fire can be dealt with by simply putting it out, so they don’t see the need for active protection systems. The best way to overcome this problem is by educating the public and showing them how easy it can be to use these devices.

The other major obstacle is the cost of active protection systems. The price has come down significantly over the past few years, but with the cost of living crisis, people often overlook the importance of these devices. This, however, is a major mistake. The cost of an active protection system is only a fraction of the cost of rebuilding after a fire. If people could see the difference between having one and not having one in action, they would be more likely to invest in these devices.

Finally, the third major obstacle to widespread acceptance of active protection systems is the perception that they are only for high-risk environments. Many people do not realise that these devices can be installed in homes and businesses of all types and sizes.

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