The essential elements of ﬁre protection can be classiﬁed as either passive or active ﬁre protection.
Used in conjunction with one another to provide a balanced ﬁre protection strategy in modern construction, both active and passive ﬁre protection systems are analogous to safety belts and air bags in automobiles.
Active ﬁre protection elements are designed to activate once a ﬁre starts to control growth or extinguish it.
Examples include ﬁre sprinklers or gaseous extinguishing systems, ﬁre alarms also fall into this category as they provide notiﬁcation to building occupants and emergency responders.
Passive ﬁre protection elements are designed to control ﬁre growth and spread through the erection of barriers that minimize the spread of ﬁre, smoke and hot gases. Such systems are said to compartmentalize or contain ﬁre to the point or origin thereby allowing occupants time for safe egress and ﬁreﬁghting personnel time for safe ingress to perform search and rescue.
Passive ﬁre protection systems may also enhance structural integrity.
Examples of passive ﬁre protection include ﬁre-resistive rated ﬂoors and walls, ﬁre prooﬁng materials for structural elements, ﬁre doors and ﬁre dampers.