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What is Passive Fire Protection & Fire Stopping?: A Comprehensive Guide

Passive fire protection (PFP) is an essential component of any fire safety plan. It is an increasingly important element in safeguarding people and minimising damage to buildings from fire and smoke.


Passive fire protection works by preventing the spread of fire and lowering its extremity. The phrase refers to a wide range of products and procedures, although it is usually used to describe materials incorporated into buildings that make them more resistant to fire.


The two main objectives of passive fire protection are to make a building safer for evacuation while also preventing a fire from developing into a threat to life.


Fire typically spreads from one item to the next, which some PFP products attempt to tackle, and then from room to room, which things like intumescent materials try and prevent. Regardless of the approach taken, PFP’s fundamental objective is to limit or stop the spread of fire.

1. What is the Purpose of Passive Fire Protection?


So, what is Passive fire protection? Passive fire protection is a series of measures designed to promote fire safety in various buildings. It aims to help slow the spread of fire or contain flames by installing fire-resistant walls, floors and doors. By cordoning off building sections, the potential damage caused by a fire is limited. It is also a useful way to give occupants more time to evacuate a building if there is a fire safely.

When trying to understand why passive fire protection is important, it helps to know how it works. By using materials that are designed with materials that can withstand high temperatures, the structural integrity of the building is greatly enhanced. Structures will take longer to collapse with passive fire protection measures installed, and other issues like fire or smoke spread are also limited.

2. What is the Difference Between Active and Passive Fire Protection?


There are several types of fire protection systems. The term “active fire protection” refers to equipment installed in buildings that activates when the equipment (or a person) detects a fire: for example, a smoke detector, sprinkler system, or fire extinguisher.


While all of this active fire protection is required, it is far more effective for a fire not to spread in the first place. The fire can be contained by multiple passive fire protection measures before it becomes too large to handle.


That said, you aren’t required to pick just one method. Both active and passive measures will be included in a comprehensive fire protection strategy. The fire protection plan you choose depends on factors such as the building’s design, size, and purpose, as well as other elements like water availability in the region and the allocated time set for evacuation.

3. Why it’s Important to Have a Passive Fire Protection Strategy


Every structure, no matter how big or small, should have an emergency fire plan. The Building Regulations 2019, Fire Safety, Approved Document B – Requirement B3, Internal Fire Spread (structure) states “The building shall be designed and constructed so that, in the event of a fire, its stability will be maintained for a reasonable period”, therefore it is incredibly important to comply with these laws and regulations. Passive fire protection is a key component of any emergency fire strategy because it was created for three fundamental purposes:


  • To decrease the amount of financial damage caused, by ensuring the structure of the building remains intact.


  • To increase the amount of time people have to evacuate buildings, by making it harder for the fire to spread from room to room.


  • To save the lives of people within the buildings, by allowing escape routes to remain protected.


PFP provision is required in every structure, whether it’s residential or non-residential. The Building Regulations 2010, Fire Safety, and Approved Document B are the regulations that must be followed when constructing new buildings, renovating old ones, or extending existing structures in England. It states that “If a fire separating element is to be effective, every joint or imperfection of fit, or opening to allow services to pass through the element, should be adequately protected by sealing or fire stopping so that the fire resistance of the element is not impaired”.

4. How Does Passive Fire Protection Work?

The foundation of passive fire protection is compartmentation. To divide the structure into sections – or compartmentalised – walls, floors, and rooms are separated using various methods (which will be explained below). This ensures safety for people who live or work in buildings by allowing them more time to evacuate before the building burns down. There are plenty of methods and products used in PFP, which include:

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5. Fire Stopping


Fire stopping is the sealing of any aperture to keep fire, smoke, and heat from passing through building compartments. Fire-resistant compartments may be used to compartmentalise a structure both vertically and horizontally, limiting the spread of fire. To limit fire propagation, structures must implement fire stopping.


The typical structures being built today have far more combustible materials or components than those that have been constructed previously. Modern building fires develop and spread at a rate of around 5 to 10 times faster than buildings did in the past, according to CTIF.org. In this modern age, it is critical to safeguard or extinguish a fire if one should break out, as this means the need for priority protection of the structure or prevention of a fire is paramount.


With new structures, building firms invest heavily in pipes, HVAC ducts, and other fixings that pass through compartment parts of the property. “Weak spots” are created in the structure when gases, smoke, and flames are not adequately controlled or protected.


Firestops are used to fill in the holes or strengthen areas where heat, gas, and open flames may pass through to other parts of the structure. They’re intended to prevent hot gases, poisonous smoke, and uncontrolled fires from spreading throughout the area and surrounding structures.

6. Fire Doors

Fire doors are a popular choice for compartmentation in building construction, but they are frequently neglected. Doors with fire seals are one of the most important fire safety equipment in any structure because they provide a crucial delay and can keep a fire confined to one area. This allows building occupants time to safely exit the premises and allows sufficient time for firefighters to enter and combat the blaze.


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers all aspects of fire safety in buildings. Regular inspections of fire doors are essential to maintain building fire safety, as they are defined in BS 8214 (c. 13) and BS 9999 (Annex L).

Fire Doors
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7. Intumescent Coatings


The use of intumescent coatings for structural steels has been proven and successful in protecting buildings from structural failure.


Intumescent coatings, often known as reactive paint, react with the heat from a fire, specifically temperatures above 120°C. The paint will intumesce (swell) 50 times its thickness and form a proactive, carbon layer that thermally insulates the steel for a specified duration when exposed to temperatures above the threshold. Depending on the covering, this can be anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes. This time allows people to be safely removed from the building and protects the building’s structural integrity before firefighters can put out the fire.


There are two main types of intumescent coatings:


  • Soft char – Thin film intumescent coatings are the soft char intumescent coatings for steel. They’re lightweight coverings that, when heated, form a foam-like char layer that is an ineffective heat conductor and thus slows heat transfer. The char is caused by a chemical reaction between ammonium, polyphosphate, pentaerythritol, and melamine; however, other combinations can also be used. To delay the swelling reaction’s activation, a fire retardant topcoat may be applied to the thin film intumescent coating.


  • Hard char – Hard char intumescent paint for steel is also known as thick film intumescent paint because it is applied in thicker layers than soft char solutions. These intumescent coatings were designed to combat hydrocarbon fires, but they may be used for a variety of applications. The char is created from sodium silicate and graphite.

8. External Fire Barriers


External fire barriers are used to stop the spread of flames and smoke throughout a building’s roof and ceiling regions, as well as any hidden voids. Fire barrier systems are recommended for voids of up to 10.5 meters tall. Vertical fire barrier systems keep both insulation and integrity for periods of up to 120 minutes, whereas friction fire slabs only provide up to 60 minutes of protection. External fire barriers limit the spread of fire and smoke within a building, when there is no barrier, fire and smoke may rapidly travel up the structure.

9. Fire Curtains and Ceiling Barriers

The materials that create a fire curtain are critical to its success. A fire curtain, like a roller blind, must be composed of a flexible yet durable substance in order to roll up. The core component of a fire curtain is fire resistant fiberglass. To increase resistance to heat and strengthen the curtain, fiberglass can be woven with metals. Fire curtains are considered fire resistant rather than fireproof, this is because nothing can be completely fireproof – given enough heat for long enough, anything will melt, burn, or evaporate. A flame-resistant material is simply more resilient against thermal energy and direct exposure to flame.


The retractable/falling mechanism is among the more advanced technologies employed. This device may be concealed in ceilings or housed to better match the environment. Because of its small size and robust, exact engineering inside, the curtain should function properly if the need arises.

Fire Curtains
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10. Fire Rated Partitions


Typically, fire resistant walls that are used to separate existing rooms in buildings must provide a barrier to the passage of fire from one side of the room to the other. Building codes and requirements for workplaces and factories typically demand a 30-minute fire resistance rating for any partitioning product.


Fire-rated partitions must meet each of the required protective criteria, depending on the application, such as integrity, insulation, and in some cases, load-bearing capacity.


There are two types of fire rated partitions, vertical and horizontal:


  • vertical – walls, partitions, and vertical membranes.


  • horizontal – floors, ceilings, and horizontal protective membranes.

11. Passive Fire Protection Accreditation(s)


Third-party product certification gives assurance that the item is suitable for its intended use, that it adheres to a defined quality system, and that it is connected with factory production through testing by a fire laboratory. The different methods of third-party product certification vary somewhat from who is offering them, but they all evaluate most or all of the following criteria:


  • Inspection and monitoring visits to ensure that manufacturing processes and facilities are consistent with requirements.


  • The product’s initial type testing.


  • An evaluation of the product test and assessment evidence against a ‘technical schedule’ to ensure that the accreditation covers the most possible applications.


  • Traceability from the start of production, through to factory, to the site.


  • Product labelling to provide consumers with assurance and facilitate tracing.

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12. Who is Responsible for Passive Fire Protection?


In the United Kingdom, passive fire protection must comply with Building Regulations, which ensure that people can safely exit a building that does not collapse as a result of a fire. Fire safety standards are determined by legislation, which places the duty on building owners, managers, occupants, and designers to conduct regular fire risk assessments that should include a review of the PFP.


According to experts, the construction plan should have a clear fire protection strategy that includes certified passive fire components. To protect against compromising fire protection, the number of persons who might modify the specification must be limited. If a significant number of modifications are made, it is recommended that a qualified third party revises the fire protection strategy.


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that “You are responsible (for fire safety) if you are an employer, landlord, owner, occupier, or anyone else in control of the premises such as a facilities manager”. “As the responsible person you must:


  • Carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly


  • Tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified


  • Put in place, and maintain appropriate fire safety measures


  • Plan for an emergency


  • Provide staff information, fire safety instruction, and training.

13. The Importance of Partnering With a Passive Fire Protection Provider


If you’re looking to implement passive fire protection measures, working with an experienced passive fire protection provider such as our team at Ark Fire Protection benefits you. Doing so will ensure that the most suitable measures are installed competently and competently. You’ll benefit from a vast wealth of industry knowledge and expertise, so you can rest assured that the right materials are used in a way that aligns with the latest regulations.


If you’re looking for a tailor-made passive fire protection solution, working with an experienced provider like Ark Fire Protection is strongly advisable. It takes years of industry experience to effectively navigate the latest building regulations while also finding the right solutions – which is precisely what we do. Working with someone with in-depth industry experience will also ensure the project is completed without issues like timeline or budget extensions. The right expertise not only enhances the safety and integrity of a building but also provides peace of mind to building owners and occupants, knowing that the structure is equipped to protect them in the event of a fire.

14. A Passive Fire Protection Plan


Fire Escape Route


People must be able to safely evacuate a building. People are more likely to require extra time to flee than is usually assumed due to external circumstances and confusion. The escape route must be able to resist fire for lengthy periods, regardless of what is going on in the rest of the structure.




It is simpler for the first-response teams to combat a fire if it happens in only one portion of a structure. People are also more likely to be able to evacuate safely as a result of this. The fire may be prevented from spreading throughout the facility by ensuring that walls, ceilings, and floors can withstand it.


Smoke Extraction


During a fire, toxic smoke inhalation kills more people than the fire itself. It hampers visibility, creating panic and potential asphyxiation. Smoke also aids in the spread of a fire. Because of these factors, having an effective duct system for removing smoke is an important element of any passive fire protection strategy.


Structural Protection


A structure of a building can collapse when subjected to fire. However, if the load-bearing structure of the building is protected, it will be more resilient to high temperatures. Fitting a building with structural protection may help to preserve it after a fire. An effective structural protection system will also make the facility more likely to be restored rather than destroyed after a fire.


It’s difficult to ensure the safety of people who may be trapped inside burning structures. It necessitates the proper mix of goods, procedures, and systems. Getting it right depends on the specific building, as each unique structure has its distinct demands depending on size, form, function, and materials used in construction. However, if you take both active and passive precautions, you’ll have a better chance of getting everyone safely out of a burning building.