Data Centre Fire Suppression
There was a fire! We have lost the site…
This is probably the worst kind of call to get at 3 AM.
In this technologically booming day and age, one of the most significant risks to a business is the potential loss of data or losing communication capabilities in your data centre.
Data is what makes the world go around, for all the amazing capabilities of the equipment installed it was never intended to endure high temperatures or damage caused by contaminants contained in smoke and other chemical results of fire.
Equipment may sometimes be replaceable off the shelf, but in many cases, equipment is imported and custom-tailored to the client’s use and may take months to replace if at all possible.
Damage done to buildings and equipment are tangible items but the loss of operational capacity in the data centre or losing data may have much more catastrophic revenue implications.
While good practice building rules and passive fire protection like firewalls and fire doors may prevent a building from burning down completely, it would be no consolation to have the building standing but the site offline or damaged irreparably, only active protection has any efficacy to stop a fire in its tracks.
Active/passive protection may take a form of human intervention, water sprinkler protection or automatic fire suppression.
- Human intervention is having a site that is permanently staffed by personnel that have fire extinguishers at hand and are able to extinguish a fire at its source, the downside is that self-preservation will cause most people to run away from smoke or a fire, also, it may be problematic if the source of the fire is hard to find or the fire is already out of control.
- Water sprinklers are excellent at extinguishing a fire but what is not always taken into account is that for the sprinkler to operate at 68˚ C the fire down on the floor would need to be proportionately larger, when the sprinkler is activated it discharges water onto the fire thereby extinguishing the fire, unfortunately, this is equally effective at extinguishing the life of the electronic equipment it protects.
- Automatic Fire suppression systems work by monitoring the site with smoke detectors connected to a suppression agent and if smoke is detected introducing a gaseous agent into the protected space and thereby either:
- Lowering the oxygen in the room to levels too low for a fire to burn while still being breathable by humans in the case of agents like Inergen.
- Chemically adding a barrier between the combustible material preventing further combustion when agents like FM200 is utilised.
Both the above methods of suppression do not affect electronic equipment and has a fast refill time before the site is protected again.
The primary risks when designing a fire protection system should be considered trifold:
- Protect human life.
- Protect the operation of the data centre.
- Protect the building asset.
Protecting your facility against fire should both be cost-effective and catered to the specific risk of business loss.
There are also legal requirements and enforcements regulating the protection of buildings, assets and human life like SANS10139 for normal detection, SANS246 for data centre smoke detection and alarming as well as the SANS14520 for gas suppression.
Clients also have a legal obligation to service and maintain their systems as per SANS 10139, SANS246 and SANS 14520 regularly to ensure that the system is fully operational at all times.
These standards clearly state which systems need to be serviced quarterly, bi-annually and annually as well as expected lifecycles and replacement times.
There are also very strict rules regulated by the department of labour where pressure vessels are concerned.
We here at Multi-Net systems have a quarter of a century’s experience in fire protection and we have a team of designers that specialise in data centre fire detection and suppression systems.
Our expertise as a market specialist assuages the need for the client to go to unnecessary lengths to get the correctly specified or accredited system.
We pride ourselves in being able to provide the market with the latest effective solutions to ensure that our clients have peace of mind and the confidence that they are covered.