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The Difference Between Active and Passive Fire Protection

Table of Contents


In building safety, fire protection stands as a paramount concern. At the heart of fire protection strategies lie two fundamental concepts: Active Fire Protection (AFP) and Passive Fire Protection (PFP). While distinct in their operation and function, these systems are complementary and equally vital in establishing a comprehensive fire safety plan.

This article delves into the differences between AFP and PFP, exploring how each contributes to overall fire safety and the critical role they play in emergency response and fire management.


First, the Importance of Fire Protection

Fire prevention and suppression play a pivotal role in minimizing the risks of fire-related hazards to both life, property and neighboring areas. Fires and explosions can occur unexpectedly in our daily lives, and the absence of timely intervention can lead to bad consequences. To mitigate these risks and ensure business continuity, cost-effectiveness, environmental protection, and regulatory compliance, robust fire safety measures are of paramount importance.


Active Fire Protection (AFP)

Definition of Active Fire Protection

Active Fire Protection (AFP) systems are technical measures employed when a fire breaks out. Their primary purpose is the direct and efficient control of the blaze. Active fire protection is taking action to detect and extinguish a fire. This action may be manual, like using a traditional fire extinguisher, or an automatic fire detection and suppression system.

AFP systems encompass a range of technical measures deployed specifically when a fire breaks out. Primary objective is to gain direct and effective control over the flames, preventing the fire from spreading and minimizing its destructive impact.


Examples of Active Fire Protection Systems

Sprinkler System: This is the most common AFP system, using water to extinguish fires. Water is sprayed through nozzles installed on the ceiling or walls, creating a curtain of water that covers the burning area.

Fire extinguishers: This system uses compressed gasses such as CO2 or FM200 to extinguish fires by removing oxygen from the burning area. Compressed gas is stored in cylinders and is released when the fire detection system activates.

Foam and gas suppression systems: This system uses foam extinguishing agents to extinguish fires by creating a thick layer of foam that covers the burning area. Foam extinguishing agents prevent oxygen from reaching the fuel and cool the fire.


Passive Fire Protection (PFP)

Definition of Passive Fire Protection

Passive Fire Protection (PFP) systems are structural and design measures implemented to minimize the potential damage caused by fire. They utilize fire-resistant elements like walls and floors to divide the building into separate compartments, seal off openings and gaps, and provide fire protection for load-bearing components (e.g., columns, partitions, and beams) to extend the critical evacuation time.

PFP systems encompass structural and design measures implemented to minimize the potential damage caused by fire. They utilize fire-resistant elements like walls and floors to divide the building into separate compartments, seal off openings and gaps, and provide fire protection for load-bearing components (e.g., columns, partitions, and beams) to extend the critical evacuation time.


Examples of Passive Fire Protection Measures

Intumescent coatings: Fire resistant coatings offer a vital layer of protection for structural steel elements in buildings. PFP coating limits the temperature of the substrate, helping to maintain structural load bearing capacity by rapidly expanding when exposed to heat to form a stable, carbonaceous, insulative char. To learn more about Vivablast’s Passive Fire Protection (PFP) methods, read our dedicated article.

coating 2 min

Fire and smoke doors: Fire doors are usually reinforced with either intumescent strips or a cold smoke seal. These fire-resistant barriers block flames and smoke, creating safe escape routes (doors) and preventing fire spread (walls).

Fire curtains: A fire curtain may also be used to help prevent a fire from spreading throughout a building. These are triggered by a fire alarm or smoke detector which allows the curtain to fall vertically and obstruct the path of a fire.

Fire and smoke dampers: Fire and smoke dampers respond to the detection of fire and close automatically. The device permits the flow of air where fire rated structures (e.g. walls, floors or other fire barriers) are penetrated.

Fire walls: Fire walls are a fire resisting barrier installed into the building structures to aid compartmentation and prevent the spread of fire between areas.


Comparison Between Active and Passive Fire Protection

Key Differences

  • Active systems take action to extinguish or suppress a fire, while passive systems prevent its spread.
  • Active systems rely on external factors like power or water, while passive systems function independently.
  • Active systems are typically more complex and expensive than passive systems.


Benefits and Limitations

Active Fire Protection Passive Fire Protection
  • Active systems like sprinklers and extinguishers can directly suppress a fire.
  • Smoke detectors and alarms can warn occupants quickly.
  • Fire-resistant walls, doors, and compartments inherently slow fire spread, requiring no activation.
  • Generally require minimal upkeep compared to active systems.
  • Needs power, functioning components, and sometimes manual intervention to work.
  • Mechanical parts can malfunction due to power outages or lack of maintenance.
  • Only delays flames, allowing time for evacuation and intervention.
  • If damaged or improperly installed, they lose effectiveness.


Applications and Case Studies

Real-world Examples of Active Fire Protection

Automatic sprinkler systems: These water-filled pipes have heat-sensitive sprinkler heads. When a fire raises the temperature enough, the sprinkler head bursts, spraying water to extinguish or suppress the flames.

Fire extinguishers:  Portable extinguishers come in various types suitable for different fire types (e.g., water for common combustibles, CO2 for electrical fires).


Real-world Examples of Passive Fire Protection

In 2023, VIVABLAST is excited to announce that we have been awarded for our exceptional work on the PFP application project for one of Vietnam’s largest steel structure suppliers. As experts in PFP, VIVABLAST offers a comprehensive service tailored to meet the unique needs of each structure. Project details at


Passive Fire Protection for Steel Structure from VIVABLAST

VIVABLAST offers Passive Fire Protection application for a wide range of steel structures/ components . We are committed to providing certified materials and services that adhere to our clients’ strict safety regulations. Applicable to diverse settings, our service enhances safety, aids compliance with fire regulations, and safeguards lives and assets.

We provide PFP systems that are trustworthy, reputable, and deliver long-lasting effectiveness. Our services cater to various industries for:

  • Buildings and Factories
  • Industrial Facilities (onshore and offshore platform)



Passive and active fire protection measures play a complementary role in protecting people and property from fire. The choice of which system to use depends on many factors such as the type of building, the fire hazard level, and fire protection regulations.

Passive fire protection systems act as physical barriers, preventing the spread of fire, smoke, and heat, allowing for safe evacuation and effective firefighting. Conversely, active fire protection systems detect and suppress fires directly, helping to minimize loss of life and property.

Therefore, to ensure fire protection in the most effective way, it is necessary to combine both passive and active fire protection systems. The design and installation of the system must be carried out by qualified professionals, in accordance with current fire protection standards.

About Us

VIVABLAST was founded in 1994, as a 100% foreign-owned company with an ambition to become the most preferred and trustful service provider for industrial assets protection in Southeast Asia.

Over the past two decades, Southeast Asia experienced rapid economic growth with significant investments in industrial facilities, equipment, and infrastructures of Oil and Gas, Renewable Energy, Marine, Power Generation & Manufacturing sectors.

Hence, VIVABLAST has succeeded as a reliable subcontractor for many International & Domestic companies by delivering our professional services to such prestigious companies as PIRIOU, JGCS, Technip, KNOC, Metacor, PTSC groups, Vietsovpetro, etc. with great passion.

Our innovative system of mobile blasting & painting workshops can be mobilized anywhere in Southeast Asia for all major projects and infrastructure sites, which has performed very well during Vietnam’s first refinery project – Dung Quat followed by Vung Ang 1.2 Power Plant project and the biggest Oil & Gas complex in Vietnam – Nghi Son Refinery.

In 2014, VIVABLAST landed in the soils of Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia to capture the growing demands of customers at any time and anywhere.

Over 28 years of steady deliberate growth, we feel confident and proud of our team and their capacities to play a vital role in the multi-disciplinary industrial services provider.

Why Choose Us?

Expertise of industrial assets preserving since 1994


VIVABLAST is a company that offers surface preparation and industrial painting solutions for various industries such as oil and gas, marine, construction, and mining. Some of the solutions they offer include abrasive blasting, hydro blasting, tank cleaning, industrial coating, and passive fire protection.

Board of Management

Mr Jacques Vivarès – Chairman
Mr Boris Vivarès – VIVABLAST Group General Director – Commercial & Business Development
Mr Shanthamani Muthukumar – VIVABLAST Vietnam General Manager

VIVABLAST is a global provider of industrial asset protection solutions in Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and surrounding countries. VIVABLAST is a 100% foreign-owned Company accredited ISO 9001:2015 & ISO 45001:2018 by Bureau Veritas with offices and setup over South-East Asia. Since 1994, we have been servicing industry leaders in major projects from construction phase to maintenance programs. Our vertical expertise includes all industry sectors, particularly: oil & gas, power & utilities, shipbuilding, mining and manufacturing. We design and deliver professional services to preserve our Clients’ assets sustainably, through efficient and reliable specialty services and integrated solutions.

VIVABLAST is committed to sustainability and social responsibility. The company aims to reduce its environmental impact through various initiatives, such as implementing environmentally friendly technologies and reducing waste. Additionally, VIVABLAST has programs in place to support its employees, their families, and the communities in which they operate. The company also supports various charitable organizations and encourages its employees to participate in community service activities.