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Data Center Fire Suppression


ABOUT

(From Wikipedia)  A data center (or datacentre) is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices.  The most commonly used metric to determine the energy efficiency of a data center is power usage effectiveness, or PUE. This simple ratio is the total power entering the data center divided by the power used by the IT equipment.


CONSIDERATIONS

With the value of data being extraordinarily high, down time is not an option.  Servers are packed together, the power is always on, they generate heat, and while not widely publicized, they do catch fire.  

A significant amount of power is consumed to keep computing equipment from overheating.  Reducing the amount of power necessary to cool server cabinets will save money, hence, a variety of strategies have emerged for removing heat or channeling cool air where its needed.  

AISLE CONTAINMENT – Data center operations experts employ cooling strategies that position server  equipment to direct heat  into designated aisles between racks.  There are hot aisle containment  and cold aisle containment configurations.   When retrofitted to an existing data center, an aisle containment system may consist of boxing in an aisle between two racks by adding doors to both ends of the aisle and enclosing it with a ceiling.  This captures cool air entering the enclosure.  It also inhibits fire detection and suppression.  Consideration must be given to fire protection when building aisle containment systems that are, in essence, a room within a room.  Contact a fire protection professional to evaluate design and  implementation of aisle containment.

 

PROTECTION

Smoke Detection

  • Spot detectors – Passive detection that activates when the smoke reaches the detector.
  • Air Sampling Smoke Detection – Active detection that continuously draws air from the room to a high sensitivity detector.  Provides very early warning that a fire is starting.  Can be used  to monitor return air grilles where room air flow is high.
  • Both types can be employed at ceiling level or under raised floor.

Heat Detection

  • Spot detectors – Passive detection that activates if heat in the area around the detector exceeds a predefined threshold.

Suppression – Clean Agent

  • A control panel releases clean agent into the room and/or under floor when a designated number of detectors activate.  Widely used in data centers.
  • Clean agent is waterless and does no harm to electronic components.  Data center can remain operational during a discharge.

Suppression - Sprinkler

  • May be a wet system (pipes always full of water) or a pre-action system (pipes remain dry until detection of a fire causes an action that fills them with water).
  • Often times a requirement of the local AHJ even though water suppression would cause considerable damage to computing equipment.

Suppression – Water Mist

  • New  technology that atomizes water droplets  into a non-conductive fog that suppresses fire without water damage.  Presently used in data centers in the United States and Europe.
  • AHJs have begun accepting water mist as an alternative to traditional sprinkler systems.

FIRE CODES & STANDARDS

  • NFPA 75:  Standard for the Protection of Information Technology Equipment
  • NFPA 2001:  Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 12a:  Standard on Halon 1301 Fire Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 72:  National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code
  • NFPA 25:  Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 10:  Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
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