Active fire protection is the process of protecting a building or structure from fire with methods that use the action of moving parts. These systems can be automatic, or operated manually, but they require some sort of action in order to work. A couple of examples of active fire protection would be building sprinkler systems and fire alarm systems. These systems are an extremely important part of protecting property and the lives of the people within.
An important factor that active fire protection systems share is that they involve action of some kind. Some examples of these actions include slowing the progress of fire, putting out the fire, or notifying of fire and smoke conditions. This is in contrast to passive fire protection, which uses things that slow or contain fire, like fire doors, fire walls, or fire retardant materials but do not put out the fire or take any type of action. Together, both active and passive fire protection systems can control fire and protect lives.
One common component of an active fire protection system is an automatic sprinkler system. The most popular type of sprinkler system uses water to put out or slow the progress of a fire. When heat builds up in the fire area, it causes part of the sprinkler head to melt or break, which releases water from the sprinkler head. Usually only the sprinkler head or heads closest to the fire area will activate.
Water is not always the best choice for fighting a fire. For example, some materials burn with so much heat that water turns to steam instead of putting out the fire. Other types of active fire protection systems that can help to extinguish a fire include foam and chemical systems, which use substances other than water to control a fire. These types of systems would be likely to be used in places where water is not the best choice for fighting a fire, such as certain kinds of factories or warehouses that have large amounts of substances that aren't able to be easily extinguished using water when they are burning.
Active fire protection also includes the use of alarm and detection systems. These are vitally important to protect life and to ensure a quick fire department response. In the most basic form, detection systems can consist of devices placed throughout a building that detect the smoke and heat from a fire. These detectors are extremely sensitive and can notify the occupants of a building of danger with plenty of time to get out of the building and call for help. More involved systems can also notify the fire department automatically, which is useful since buildings are not always occupied.
Finally, it is important to remember that active fire protection can also include manual systems that require human operation. One example of this is the use of fire extinguishers to put out a small fire. Another important example is the use of fire hydrants or water standpipes, together with fire hoses operated by trained firefighters to extinguish a fire completely.