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Passive fire protection systems


Jasdeep Singh
Promat initiatives
Technical Services Promat International (Asia Pacific)
New Delhi.

Active measures – involved the control of smoke spread, detection and communication process that informs the occurrence of a fire outbreak and triggers some sort of counteraction towards extinguishing the fire.

Passive measures – more concerned with building structures integrity, compartmentation and the integrity of the building envelope.

Passive Fire Protection is an all encompassing fire safety concept which embraces the passive measures in fire containment design and in addition augment the active measures. It is a proactive approach taken at the building design stage, aimed at addressing a comprehensive solution to the fire problem”.

These systems do not require power or water to operate in case of fire.

Present situation

  1. Passive Fire Protection market in India is in developing stage, concentrated on the Passive Fire Protection for load bearing structures (beam and columns) using concrete mostly in the industrial segment.
  2. In the commercial segment, virtually no passive fire protection concept exist. Except for some paints and sprays. Recent fire tragedies in Delhi and other places, led to awareness. Government authorities need to rehink on laying our strict regulations for Passive Fire Protection.
  3. Although fire regulations followed in Indian market are based on National Building Codes (NBC) which follow the basic guidelines of the British Standards (BS), they are not product of application specific.


The scope of application for Passive Fire Protection is in following areas:

  • Structural fire protection
  • Safe escape routes and sage refuge for occupants.
  • Compartmentation and containment of fire spread
  • Preserving the function of active fire safety measures.
  • Life safety of fire service personnel.

The basic applications for Indian Market will be:

  • Steel Protection : Steel looses its strength in temperature in excess of 5500C during a fire.

Risk of collapse of building structure is increased.

  • Mechanical and electrical enclosures: Electrically operated active system should be well protected so that they are functional during fire.
  • Fire rated partitions: Fire Sage lobby and sate escape passage ways are critical to life safety.
  • Fire rates ceilings : Services passing above the unprotected ceiling – a source for fire propagation.
  • Fire rated ducts (Ventilation, smoke extraction, kitchen extract):When the smoke temperature is so high that sheet metal ducts become distorted, making it unable to extract smoke.
  • Fire stopping penetration seals : Fire barriers to prevent propagation through services penetrations.

Proposed solutions

  1. Specific norms pertaining to each application area in the revised building codes.
  2. Stricter enforcement of the norms, by regulatory authorities as Fire Service.
  3. Acceptance of worldwide test standards, besides BS and American Standard of Testing of Materials (ASTM), by regulatory bodies, like NBC, Fire Service, in India.
  4. reduction in import duty structure, considering these as:
    1. Items for life safety
    2. Items for property safety

    Present duty structure : about 68%

  5. Continuing awareness campaign to increase knowledge on the applications, the problems associated and the solutions.
  6. Educating the future architects by incorporating the concept in syllabi of architectural and civil engineering colleges.
  7. More testing institutes in collaboration with international testing institutes like Loss Prevention Council, UK, Warrington’s Research Laboratory, UK etc.

Promat Worldwide
Since last 35 years, Promat has been serving the Passive Fire Market, with its invaluable technical expertise. Promat systems have been tested t virtually all International Standards, and Promat has more than 700 valid test reports, covering all the applications pertaining to Passive Fire Protection.

Thoughts to ponder
The direct and indirect loses due to fire in India are estimated to be more than Rs 1200 crores annually with nearly 20,000 fatal injuries. In 1997 it is estimated that total deaths due to fire were higher than 25,000. These figures do not include losses do not include losses due to forest fires or fires in rural areas. With rapid rise in industrialization and urbanization, fire accidents and resulting losses are increasing at a much faster rate due to several factors as high rise construction, congestion in squatter and slum pockets, inner city areas, changing life style and other man made material used in construction.

The actual losses due to fire cases are far higher than what are actually reported. The general cause for the fires and more importantly the fire spread, are also often not reported correctly. Short circuit has been quoted as the cause of almost all the fires, which might not be the actual case. Lack of proper installations of Active Fire Protection Systems, lack of regular maintenance, fake fire approval certificates are few of the other probable causes showing loopholes in our system which costs us very heavily.

Despite the provisions available for fire safety in National Building Code, Part IV, a techno-legal regime is yet to be established in most states. Fire safety in India is a state subject. They are controlled in some states by Director of Fire Services, and in others by head of police force, but the regular instruments like building bye-laws regulations, development control rules have not been suitably amended to include mandatory compliance of fire safety measures in planning, design and construction in planning design and construction of the buildings.

Lack of proper buildings codes and more importantly the enforcement of the codes are loopholes in the system. It is important that both Central and State Govt., work together towards establishing a techno-local regime in every state and proper legislative support is set up, to ensure the enforcement of these codes.

With the lack of awareness in the latest fire protection developments, traditional mindset, loopholes in the codes, building experts have experienced fire as an ‘formality subject’. Getting a no objection certificate from the fire authorities is the prime objective, rather than actual fire safety measures being implemented. This is mainly due to lack of proper planning, during the design stage for these applications which if implemented in the final stages projects extra costs. Building experts should play the role of fire safety engineers using risk – based design where costs for fire risk and fire safety are integrated and optimized.

Awareness is the key for a fire safe tomorrow. Lack of awareness among architects specifiers, consultants and building owners adds heavily to the situation. Fire safety management should be made a compulsory syllabi, in all the educational courses related to the construction industry eg: Architectural, Civil Engineering and Fire Engineering Courses.

Latest developments in the field of Passive fire Protection and Advanced fire Detection Systems, in the European and the Asia Pacific region with an ever increasing awareness has been a major factor in managing and reducing fire cases and thereby saving invaluable lives and properties.

Civil bodies must work with Fire Service authorities to ensure their role besides organizing, administering, and running fire fighting units to attack. Control and extinguish fire as soon as occur to :

  1. Examine plans of new buildings proposed to be constructed, and call for changes as considered necessary.
  2. Inspect the building soon after it is completed in details to verify compliance with plans submitted and with building codes and then issue a Fire Certificate.
  3. Inspect the building with and without prior notice to check for any violation and suggest from time to teem for changes or additions in the safety measures, in line with the latest developments.
  4. Inspect the building soon after a fir, to check whether Active and Passive Fire Protection Systems had been functional and if not the reasons for the same.

These aspects needs to be properly covered under regulatory or legislative instruments, which in most case are unfortunately not in position in the country.

Fire case Siddartha Hotel
22nd Jan ’86

  • Electric short circuit from false ceiling.
  • Smoke spread through vertical shafts and ducts.


  • No battery backup for emergency services. All electrical services including emergency fed from same electrical circuit.
  • No smoke extraction system.
  • Wet risers and hose reels, non-operational, due to no electric supply
  • No horizontal or vertical compartmentation.

37 dead (35 smoke, 1 burn, 1 fall)

Fire case-Uphaar Cinema
13th June ’97

  • Fire at the transformer room (parking area)
  • Smoke spread to the auditorium.


  • Stilt floor not cross ventilated
  • Non-segregated staircase
  • Uncompartmented transformer room
  • Failure of sprinkler system
  • Lack of maintenance

59 dead (all smoke)