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Passive Fire Protection – The Last Line of Defense

Both automatic and passive fire protection technologies make up a comprehensive life safety plan.

Understanding the role of each system combined with a solid testing, inspection and maintenance program can help reduce loss of life and property.

So, what is passive fire protection? In terms of life safety, passive fire protection is the last line of defense or what you rely upon should all else fail.

Effective passive fire protection can compartmentalize a blaze to its point of origin and slow it from spreading to other areas of a facility.

A worst-case scenario might be when the fire alarm and sprinkler systems have been tampered with, neglected or rendered useless for whatever reason. Let’s say there are elderly or wheelchair bound tenants who cannot be easily evacuated from the building. You want to make sure the fire is contained to the point of origin and that people in the building can survive without fire, smoke or toxic gases entering their space at least until first responders can arrive to render aid.

Commercial structures are built with a maze of conduit, electrical wiring, HVAC ductwork, sprinkler piping, doors, windows and vents all of which can penetrate fire walls, floors and ceilings unless proper care is taken to implement passive fire protection.

Some examples of passive fire protection:

  • Smoke and Fire Dampers–Per NFPA 80 and 105 to be inspected before a new building opens, 1 year later and every 4 years thereafter. These devices can delay smoke, fire and toxic gases from spreading through the ductwork. Like accordion doors that are inside of fire barriers and HVAC venting, these devices are normally open and can be activated or closed when a fusible link melts at a certain temperature (165 degrees F) or by a duct smoke detector that trips the fire alarm panel which in turn engages a relay to close the damper.
  • Fire Doors/WindowsPer NFPA 80 to be inspected annually. Another way you can prevent fire from spreading is with doors and windows that are rated to withstand high temperatures for a certain number of hours to help keep a fire from spreading throughout the building.
  • Fire Stopping — Building codes require sealing upon discovery of a penetration in the fire barrier.   Specially formulated materials are tested for use in sealing penetrations in floors, walls and ceilings. They come in many varieties including but not limited to putties, caulking, pillows, bricks and sealants.

In summary, the early warning of a fire alarm loses its effectiveness if the sprinkler system fails or if passive fire protection systems are inadequate. All of these systems need to be tested, inspected per the requirements of your local authority or AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

The experts at Red Hawk Fire & Security are your partners in helping evaluate and understand the systems in your facility and the role each part plays. Combined with a solid testing, inspection and maintenance plan Red Hawk can help you minimize risk and reduce loss of life and property.

Backed by a more than 50-year heritage from some of the most well-respected names in the fire prevention industry, Red Hawk can provide everything from a four-zone panel to a large, networked system for fire, carbon monoxide, smoke and heat detection as well as high sensitivity and special hazard detection.

At Red Hawk, we install, test and inspect, integrate service and monitor a comprehensive range of advanced technologies custom designed for your specific business needs. Our experts bring unmatched breadth of hands on experience to every solution.

More than 50,000 companies and institutions rely on the resources and reach our team delivers.