The mitigation of fire risks is always a top priority when buildings are under construction. Teams use a whole range of different systems to protect a building from encroaching flames. These usually include fire prevention, suppression and protection systems.
We often see terms such as fire protection and fire prevention used almost interchangeably, but there are some fundamental differences between them. We asked our experts to define the terms for us, outlining what we really mean when we talk about fire protection vs. fire prevention, and why each of these systems is so important in ensuring our safety.
What is fire protection?
Fire protection is the name given to systems that minimise the amount of damage a fire could cause. Fires will of course vary in size and intensity, but fire protection systems seek to limit their capability, slowing their spread and reducing their intensity to prevent serious damage being caused.
The primary goal of fire protection is of course to stop the spread of a fire. Fire protection systems are also used to ensure that fires cannot spread so quickly that evacuation efforts are hampered. Systems are designed to give occupants plenty of time to get out of the building if a fire were to ignite within any part of the structure.
The other goal of fire protection systems is to limit the amount of repair work that would be needed if a fire did happen. Fire protection systems are designed to contain a fire within one part of the building, so that repairs would only be required in this area. This is intended to reduce any bills that might result from fire damage, and allow people back into the building safely, as quickly as possible.
There are two types of fire protection systems: active and passive. Active systems are those that fight a fire with certain actions, such as sprinklers and alarm systems. Passive systems are those that are designed within the building, usually at the construction stage. These tend to include fire breaks, fireproof walls, fire barriers, intumescent coatings and air sealing.
What is fire prevention?
Fire prevention systems look to reduce the damage that a fire could potentially cause. They do so in a number of different ways. Large buildings with many occupants, such as apartment complexes or office buildings, will always have a number of fire prevention systems in place for everyone’s protection.
Professionals use the term ‘fire load’ to explain the risk that a fire might pose to a building and its occupants. This term is then used to analyse the degree of risk that is present, and recommend any preventative action that might reduce it.
Fire prevention systems will reduce the fire load in a number of ways. Examples of this include identifying particular hazards in the building, such as flammable products and combustible materials. Points of ignition are usually checked as part of any fire prevention efforts, so any weak points such as heating systems or sockets can be identified and made safer.
Some fire prevention rules are simple common sense, but it’s important that they’re followed vigilantly to reduce the risk of a fire. These include typical rules such as ensuring access to any fire exits in the building and stopping occupants from smoking in or around the building.
The other line of defence: fire suppression
Fire protection and fire prevention measures are never 100% guaranteed, which is why there’s a need for another form of defence: fire suppression. Actions that fall under the term fire suppression have one aim - extinguishing a fire as quickly as possible.
Fire suppression systems don’t usually use water. Instead, they use concentrated substances and dry chemical agents to suppress flames efficiently. The reason for this is simple. Suppressing a fire using water can quickly lead to other, equally costly problems. Water damage can easily occur, causing a whole host of other issues that will need to be fixed before occupants can get back into the building.
If a building houses fragile or valuable items, a fire suppression system is usually used to stop fires quickly without causing any water damage. Such systems are also commonly used in buildings that house electrical equipment which could be vulnerable to water damage.
A fire can cause serious damage in a relatively short space of time, which is why there are so many different systems designed to protect homes and businesses from uncontrolled fires. Ideally, fire protection, fire suppression and fire prevention systems should be used together to give a property the maximum level of protection against fire.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can protect your home from the threat of fire, contact our team. We stock a range of fire retardant sprays that are non-toxic, environmentally friendly and brilliantly effective. Get in touch to find out more.