How Many Types of Fire Protection Systems Are There, and What’s the Difference?

Real protection from fires

Preparing your home or business against the threat of fire is one of the most important things you can do.

With so many types of fire protection systems in the market, it’s challenging to figure out which will work best for you.

Here are some common questions and answers about fire protection systems. Use this guide to decide which is best suited for you.

What Are The Different Types of Fire Protection Systems?

Not all fire protection systems are the same. Different locations and situations need vital components to prevent, detect, and extinguish a fire.

Here is a list of systems and what makes each of them essential for protecting businesses like yours.

Active Systems

Fire sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, smoke and fire alarms are all part of an active fire system. In an “Active system,” some sort of action is required.

Active systems can be manually activated or automatically activated in the event of a fire.

This is accomplished by manually using a fire alarm pull station for example, or by a smoke detector detecting smoke and activating the alarm automatically.

Active systems are designed to alert people of an emergency so they can evacuate.

These systems are most effective when people are aware of how they work and know what to do in case of an emergency.

Fire drills are a great way for people to become familiar with how active fire systems work and learn what to do when they are activated.

Passive Systems

Unlike active systems, which actively attempt to contain, control, and extinguish fires, passive fire protection extends the time period for evacuation by suppressing smoke and fire.

Examples of passive systems more commonly used for commercial installation include fire-resistant walls, fire doors, and fire dampers for air ducts.

The design of these devices enables them to automatically engage when heat or smoke is detected. Their purpose is to contain the fire in the location that it originated in order to slow it from spreading to other areas of the building.

Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems are for areas with unique assets that would be hard or impossible to replace if destroyed, such as a museum or a record-holding facility.

Some common fire suppression solutions used for these applications include:

Clean Agents

Clean agents protect one-of-a-kind assets. This agent avoids damage often associated with traditional water sprinkler systems.

Gas Systems

A gas fire suppression system is another clean agent method. This system uses nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide or INERGEN which is a blend of these gasses to suppress a fire.

Gas systems work by displacing oxygen that is present, effectively extinguishing the fire.

These systems are designed to be safe for use in areas where people are working, although if only carbon dioxide is used for fire suppression it is usually in an area with no people present.

Gas systems leave no toxic or liquid residue that might damage or be a hazard to property or equipment.

Dry Chemical

Pressured dry chemicals, paired with a main detection system, are designed to extinguish a fire that would otherwise be unstoppable by traditional water sprinklers.

The dry chemicals, also known as powders, are typically made of sodium bicarbonate or mono-ammonium phosphate.

The powder type will depend on the type of business the system is being installed in. Common uses for dry chemical fire suppression systems could be restaurants where there is a risk of grease or flammable liquid fires.

Another use would be a paint spray booth where highly flammable chemicals are used regularly.

A professional fire protection company will help you identify the correct dry chemical system to use for your application.

Hybrid Suppression Systems

Hybrid systems use two or more of the mentioned systems to control and combat potential fires.

Hybrid systems are are great example of how a professional fire protection company can look at what you need and advise you on which system is best.

This removes the guess work so you can have peace of mind knowing that your assets, most importantly personnel, are protected in case of a fire.

How Many Types of Fire Sprinkler Systems Are There?


The pre-action system is excellent for areas that could be damaged if sprinklers are set off by false alarms or mechanical failure.

Pre-action fire protection systems contain pressurized air and require two triggers to activate water flow.

Locations like libraries and data centers need sprinklers that will only go off when there is a fire present.

These areas contain high-value goods that could be damaged if the system goes off accidentally.

Dry Sprinkler Systems

Like pre-action systems, dry sprinklers use pressurized air in the pipe, which exits before water escapes. Buildings in cold areas use this method because it prevents water from freezing in the pipes.

Wet Pipe Systems

Wet fire sprinklers are the most commonly used because they are the most inexpensive and low maintenance. These always have water in them and have a quick response to fire detection.

Similar to the other systems wet pipe applications require a trigger before water will flow. Typically this is a temperature-sensitive bulb that is located on each individual sprinkler head.

When the ambient temperature in the area of the sprinkler head exceeds a specified limit the bulb bursts allowing water to flow out immediately.

Contrary to popular belief, most wet pipe sprinkler heads will only activate when the individual bulb bursts on each head.

This limits potential damage from flooding due to heads activating in areas that do not have a fire.

Water Mist Systems

Similar to the traditional water sprinkler system, a water mist system disperses fine water sprays and uses up to 90% less water.

The water mist can control, suppress, or extinguish fires by cooling both the flame and surrounding gases by evaporation while minimizing water damage.

Foam Deluge Systems

Deluge systems are ideal for industrial buildings with hazardous materials where you can use neither water nor gas.

It has open nozzles that can be used to extinguish fires across flat surfaces, in case there is a chemical spill of flammable liquids.

The foam creates a barrier between the fuel (flammable liquid), heat, and oxygen used to sustain combustion effectively smothering the fire.

Which Fire Protection System is Right for Me?

There are a few significant aspects to consider when choosing an active fire protection system:

The Size and Type of Building

When planning which fire protection system to use it is important to take into consideration a number of factors.

These include the size of your local fire department including the number of resources that would be available in case of an emergency.

How easy would it be for emergency services to access your location? Other factors include:

The Kind of Materials Stored In The Property

The property in the building could be valuable, irreplaceable, or flammable. It influences what kind of fire protection you choose.

Operation and Maintenance

You want fire protection services that will notify the proper emergency services immediately so while your employees evacuate, you can know that the professionals are responding to solve the problem.

Check your local codes to find out the best practices to keep your company safe.

Professional fire protection services will help you keep your fire protection systems updated and in good working order.

We send alerts through calls, text messages, or notifications to your email address.

Do you have more questions about which fire suppression system is right for your business?

Give us a call here at B&W Fire Security Systems to talk to one of our qualified fire protection specialists to assess your specific needs. We are happy to help!



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