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What is Passive Fire Protection (PFP)?

Passive fire protection is a term that encompasses a broad spectrum of products and practices. In the most simplistic sense, passive fire protection refers to materials built into the structures that surround us which are intended to slow or prevent the spread of fire.

The purpose of PFP is to maximise the time available to evacuate a property, or prevent a fire from taking hold in the first place.

The concept of passively protecting against fire has applications outside of the building industry though. The term is most often associated with intumescent or fireproof building materials, but also applies to products such as fire retardant sprays which are designed to increase the base fire resistance of fabrics and decorative items. The common factor is that regardless of the application, passive fire protection is universally intended to delay or prohibit the spread of fire whether from item to item, or room to room.

The following distinction may help further define the term. Active fire protection is a term that can be used to describe any systems or products put in place to detect or combat a fire (smoke detection, extinguishers etc). These systems will always need some form of trigger to activate, such as the smoke from a fire setting off detectors, or an extinguisher being discharged by a user.

Passive fire protection requires no activation. For example, a fire door is an effective fire resistant barrier without any need for external stimuli. The same can be said for fire rated glass and plasterboard. Both of these materials are designed to be inherently fire resistant until the point when they eventually give way to the fire, or the fire is extinguished.

An exception to this rule which should be noted is intumescent material. This type of PFP reacts by expanding when exposed to heat in order to seal penetrations (pipes, cabling etc.) through otherwise fire resistant surfaces. Once the intumescent material has fully activated, crushing a pipe or filling a void, the expanded product re-instates the fire barrier and stops flames or smoke from passing through. Further details and information about intumescent materials can be found in the Intumescent material section of this guide.

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