8 Common Active Fire Protection Measures You Need!

Active Fire Protection ‘AFP’ measures can take many forms, but all require a stimulus to allow the component to begin to perform.

This is what makes them active.

For example, a smoke detector. The detector will pick up smoke particles and will then actively sound the alarm loudly for all to hear.

If this is part of a fire system, this will then trigger a variety of other fire protection measures, be they fire doors, a sprinkler system, or even the illumination of emergency lighting, to begin operating.

The AFP category can be split down again into manual or automatic, which describes their deployment method, for example, a sprinkler system which starts automatically, or a foam fire extinguisher that is manually deployed by a human agent.

However, whether automatic or manual, active fire measures begin from the triggering of an alarm or warning, and all work to directly extinguish, suppress, or contain a fire that is already ignited, or restrict fire spreading.

Diagram of Active fire protection methods in orange circles.

Here is an overview of 8 of the most common AFP measures!

1. Fire Blankets

Used most commonly in kitchen spaces to smother small cooking fires, fire blankets starve the fire of oxygen helping to kill it.

Fire blankets can be easily deployed by pulling the black tabs, positioning them over the body in the shield position, and draping the blanket onto the fire source.

The fire blanket should be left in situ until the fire is fully extinguished, otherwise, the fire could restart when exposed to an oxygen source.

Fire blankets are manually operated and can also be used to smother clothing fires.[1]

A poster explaining how to effectively use a fire blanket, with cartoon people and a bright red background!

2. Sprinklers

Sprinkler systems are most likely found in retail, industrial, or commercial properties, but rarely in domestic properties, although they can help to increase the value of a home.

Sprinklers are automatic systems that are triggered by heat, not smoke. When the air is hot enough, around 60-70°F, and spreads across the ceiling, it reaches the sprinkler system and triggers the sprinkler system, allowing them to begin.

They rely on a constant water supply and the sprinkler effect can extinguish small fires with vastly less water damage than a hose, which limits further damage to the building.[2]

A white ceiling with red sprinkler pipes running horizontally and vertically across it.

3. Fire Doors

Fire doors work by providing a physical barrier for fire and smoke and are often paired with door-closers, making them automatic! These door-closers can be stopped if the is door is being held open with a door stop, and as such, they would not provide protection during a fire, so are best avoided.

They are also fitted with intumescent strips that expand when heated and create a physical barrier to smoke ingress.

Fire doors can last anywhere from 60-minutes to 180-minutes and come in a wide range of finishes to suit the décor of the space.

They also provide access to emergency exit routes when opened, so are a very helpful AFP measure![3]

A labelled fire door with a close up image on the intumescent strips used to keep smoke out.

4. Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting comes in three types

  1. escape route lighting, to light the route to an emergency exit,

  2. open area / anti-panic area lighting, to light large waiting areas in the case of mains power loss, and

  3. high-risk task area lighting ensures that people completing dangerous tasks can see well enough to leave a high-risk space without injuring themselves.

All emergency lighting is automatic and is designed to keep people calm, safe, and guide them to safety.

It comes with many guidelines, including the light placement and necessary luminance level, referred to in Lux.[4]

A lit corridor with emergency lighting along the walls. A greenish door sits at the end of the corridor.

5. Smoke Ventilation Systems

Smoke ventilation systems are used to release any smoke or hot air from a building that is on fire.

It can stop building collapse and allows cool air from outside into the burning building, helping to cool the temperature of the building at a faster rate.

It can also save the lives of those who may still be trapped inside and assist those trying to escape the burning building as well as the firefighters entering the scene. The main purposes of a ventilation system are: [5]

  • That they keep all escape routes free from any smoke

  • They delay a flashover of the building

  • To help assist firefighters by making the building smoke free

  • To reduce any smoke or heat damage that could be caused by the fire or the smoke.[6]

Smoke ventilation systems positioned on a rooftop, consisting of very large metal tubes.

6. Fire/ Smoke Alarms

We will all be familiar with smoke alarms, myself especially because I will always manage to set ours off while cooking!

Smoke alarms will either be

  • ionisation

  • Photoelectric, also known as ‘optic,’

  • Or dual detector alarms, which combine ionisation and photoelectric technologies.

Ionisation smoke alarms work best with fast, flaming fires and use americium, a radioactive material that if disrupted by smoke, causes the alarm to sound.

Photoelectric smoke alarms have been demonstrated to pick up on slow, smouldering fires best and perform by using light sensors, that if disrupted and deflected, causing the alarm to begin.

Most recently, companies including Fire Angels, recommend using a dual detector alarm to allow building users extra security, as they utilise both kinds of technology and can therefore detect fast, flaming fires and slow, smouldering fires.[7]

An informational poster explaining in more detail how each type of alarm works.

7. Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are very common, manually operated fire protection measures and are developed to remove one side of the fire tetrahedron, which will cause fires to stop burning.

Due to the removal of one or more of these essential components, heat, oxygen, fuel, and the ensuing exothermic chain reaction, the fire can no longer burn, so it is ceased.

The most common 5 in the UK are

  1. Water

  2. Foam

  3. Dry Powder

  4. CO2

  5. Wet chemical[8]

A CO2 extinguisher

8. Fire Curtains

Fire Curtains are an active fire protection measure designed to ensure compartmentation principles can be upheld in spaces that lack traditional compartmentation features such as walls and fireproof glazing.

The Fire Curtain fabric descends from a headbox that can be hidden from view in a false ceiling, and can be fitted vertically, horizontally, or in a concertina orientation to allow all boundaries to be covered.

They can have smoke seals for added smoke protection and connect to a wider fire alarm system, so the curtain automatically deploys at the sound of the fire or smoke alarm.

The flexibility of orientation, design, and sizing means that Fire Curtains are well suited to most buildings that require active fire protection.

Fire Curtains descending over a bank of lifts in a foyer.

What measures do you use in your buildings? Let us know in the comments!

_____________________________________________________________________________ [1] Image from Seton.co.uk, ‘Fire Blanket Fire Extinguisher Signs,’ <https://www.seton.co.uk/fire-blanket-kitchen-clothing-fire-instruction-signs.html#FR067JARP> 12.05.2022 [2] Image from IFSEC Global, ‘Sprinkler system safety: the critical role of quality cabling,’ published 31.07.2019 by Graham Turner, <https://www.ifsecglobal.com/fire-news/sprinkler-system-safety-the-critical-role-of-quality-cabling/> [3] Image from IFSEC Global.com, ‘Fire doors for beginners,’ published 01.07.2020, <https://www.ifsecglobal.com/global/fire-doors-for-beginners/> [4] Image from Nema.org, ‘Emergency lighting,’ <https://www.nema.org/directory/products/view/emergency-lighting> 12.05.2022 [5] Smoke vent solutions.co.uk, ‘How do smoke ventilation systems work?’ <http://www.smoke-vent-solutions.co.uk/news/67-how-do-smoke-ventilation-systems-work> 16.05.2022 [6] Image from Smoke vent systems.com, ‘Smoke Control – Mechanical & Natural,’ <https://smoke-vent-systems.com/services/mechanical-smoke-control/> 16.05.2022 [7] Smoke alarm posters from National Fire Protection Association, ‘Ionization vs photoelectric’ public education posters, <https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safety-equipment/Smoke-alarms/Ionization-vs-photoelectric> 12.05.2022 [8] Surrey Fire and Safety Limited, ‘Fire Extinguisher Colours explained in a simple up-to-date guide,’ <https://surreyfire.co.uk/fire-extinguisher-colours/> 19/04/2022

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