The key components of fire protection systems include exits, fire alarms, and suppression equipment. Each of these needs to be properly installed and, where necessary, repaired – to minimise harm to people and structures.

In this guide we’ll look at:
>> Passive Fire Protection
>> Active Fire Protection
>> How the two are different

Passive fire protection

Passive protection is about limiting the possibility of a fire or containing it by using key building components like doors, walls, floors and ceilings as fire barriers.


An example of a fire-resistant barrier could be a wall with a 60-minute resistance rating. This would help compartmentalise and, thereby, contain, the flames.

Compartmentation isn’t effective if ceilings or floors contain unprotected openings through which smoke and fire can penetrate. Managers must minimise penetrations and use protective measures where there’s no other choice.

Types of fire-rated walls:

  • Smoke barriers that repel the movement of smoke using special membranes
  • Party walls that sit between buildings or run along an interior lot line
  • Firewalls or partitions that are continuous and which have protected openings


Fire doors are used in conjunction with walls to help contain and slow fires. The rating of a fire door is normally lower than that of a wall. Why is this? It’s because flammable contents aren’t normally placed close to doors – meaning there’s nothing in the flame’s path for it to feed on.

A fire door will be rendered ineffective if (i) there is anything in its path that would make it inoperable; (ii) or the firewall adjacent no longer works efficiently.

Ceilings and floors

Ceilings and floors can also be used as part of a passive fire protection strategy. A range of tactics can be deployed that might include fitting a fire-rated ceiling system or installing special concrete slabs. These two tactics could even be combined, depending on the requirement.

As with walls and doors, it’s important to avoid or limit the use of openings through which fire and smoke could penetrate. However, there are some cases where penetration is unavoidable and, indeed, necessary.

Permissible openings could include:

  • A stairway connecting one part of a building to another, in which case additional fire safety measures should be taken
  • Automatic sprinklers, as long as they are surrounded by a barrier that is non-combustible

Active Fire Protection

How is active fire protection different to passive? These are proactive steps taken to stop a fire from growing or spreading – rather than slowing down its progress or containing it. Such measures typically include smoke-control or fire sprinkler systems that can be operated manually or automatically.

A fire alarm would also fall under the banner of ‘active fire protection.’ Its role is to detect heat or smoke – a feat it performs in one of two ways: (i) to actively warn people there’s a fire; (ii) by sometimes remotely activating an extinguisher system.

A smoke control system, on the other hand, serves to keep escape routes smoke-free for as long as possible – giving occupants of the building more time to exit safely.

A combined effect

Fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and smoke control devices perform different tasks – but work together to achieve a single aim: to minimise harm to people and limit damage to structures.

Sprinklers and extinguishers either put out or control flames. Smoke systems are designed to prevent a fire from spreading – while alarms, by activating detection devices, simultaneously warn people in the building there’s a fire and notify emergency services.

Useful Resources

You may also want to look at the following online resources:

  • Fire Safety In The Workplace – a guide compiled by Gov.UK and which covers everything from risk assessments through to fire safety and evacuation plans.
  • The Fire Safety Advice Centre – an online resource library that provides free fire safety guidance to businesses, organisations, and homeowners too.

JNR Limited, For all Your Fire Protection Needs

As one of the largest independent fire protection companies in the UK, we’re perfectly positioned to help your organisation or business.

For your peace of mind, we’re Chas and Fire Accredited – and count the NHS, Ministry of Defence, and McCarthy & Stone amongst our clients.

We can help if you need:
>> Fire protection in Manchester
>> Fire protection in Birmingham
>> Fire protection in London

…and many other parts of the UK too. Contact us to find out how we can create intelligent and cost-effective fire solutions for your business today.