Types of Fire Protection Systems

Fire safety is a top priority for any home, workplace, or other structure. In addition to regular fire safety checks and evacuation plans, fire protection strategies include using fire-resistant building materials, installing sprinkler systems, and applying intumescent coatings to steel structures. While these fire safety measures help to prevent, detect, and extinguish a fire, they must also be regularly maintained to ensure they function as intended. This includes routine inspections and maintenance of active fire protection systems like fire suppression systems and fire extinguishers.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines a fire protection system as “a system of equipment and devices designed to detect, prevent, extinguish or control a fire.” This can be done either passively with smoke detectors and heat sensors or actively with a series of detection, suppression, alarm, and warning systems.

Depending on the type of materials handled, the amount of flammable inventory, and the local fire fighting capability, some facilities may require an active system for protection. The NFPA lists the most common types of fire suppression systems, which are:

Sprinkler System – The main component of a sprinkler system is a network of pipes that contain water or other liquids. Upon sensing heat, the pipes will rupture or spray a fine mist of a fire retardant onto the area to suppress the flames and smoke. The system is monitored by sensors, which are located throughout the facility and activate a system-wide alarm or extinguishing action when their thresholds are reached. Sprinkler systems are typically installed in larger buildings, but can be used in smaller commercial settings as well.

Fire Suppression System – Some fire suppression systems use gaseous agents rather than water to extinguish a fire. These systems can be installed in many different types of facilities, but are particularly useful in environments where electronics or other high-value contents need to be protected from fire damage. The gases are activated quickly and can fill the space to extinguish the fire, which helps prevent further damage and protects the contents of the facility.

Intumescent Coating – This fire protection method uses either spray or brush applied intumescent paint to create a coating on the surface of structural steel. Upon exposure to the heat of a fire, the paint swells and adds an additional layer of protection to the steel. This can buy vital time to allow occupants to safely evacuate the building before it is compromised by the fire.

Passive System – Smoke curtains, which are placed at the end of ventilation shafts or over doors, serve to contain and channel fires, smoke, and heat into one specific area rather than spreading throughout the building. This allows for a more efficient and effective fire response, as it reduces the number of areas where people are being affected by the fire, and minimizes the potential for damage to equipment or property.

Every household should have a portable fire extinguisher on hand to tackle minor house fires and keep occupants safe. It is also a good idea to make an escape plan and practice it periodically, so everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire emergency.

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