What are you hoping to accomplish?
Clearly define and understand your fire protection goals before you begin selecting a fire protection system. Stephen Covey said it best, “start with the end in mind.” Life safety should always be on the top of our list, but in business, there are a significant number of other considerations we need to contemplate. Are you trying to minimize fire-related injuries and prevent undue loss of life? Is the goal to reduce fire-related damage to the building, its contents and its historical features and attributes? What about protecting against undue loss of operations and business-related revenue due to fire-related damage? Are you trying to limit environmental impact of fire and fire protection measures? If you are working for a client, be aware of any special needs they may have.
What can you afford to lose?
Sometimes discussing fire protection is much like drawing up a will or applying for life insurance. It makes us reflect on worst case scenarios we typically don’t want to think about, let alone discuss out loud. But the fact is, up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen according to ready.gov. So, when you begin to consider a fire protection system you have to be able to identify your tolerable level of loss. You start with potential injuries to people, then damage to facilities, downtime of critical equipment, loss of data and business interruption are critical items to contemplate.
What are your physical limitations?
It is extremely important to understand your site environment. This will directly affect the performance level of the fire protection you choose. Here are a few things to consider. Identify all the potential hazards you need to protect against. Understand the building construction constraints. Become familiar with all of the environmental conditions; for example in a data center there are airflow, temperature and equipment density issues to consider. Location of high value equipment may pose some additional challenges in fire protection, so planning ahead is critical. Also, consider emergency services, availability, and access to your facility and their response times. Give your local fire department a call, they want to help.
Prevention, Detection and Suppression, what do I need?
Once you have answered the previous questions, you can begin to evaluate a fire protection solution that meets you business needs. To accomplish this, you need to consider the various fire protection technologies and how their performance aligns with your protection goals. Like anything else in life, the more protection you want, the higher the cost. So this is when you start evaluating the acceptable level of loss verses the cost of protecting your assets.
Prevention: This should go without saying, but your cheapest insurance against having a loss due to a fire is to first take the necessary steps to prevent a fire. Depending on your facility, this can be as easy as not allowing new computer equipment to be unpacked in the data center, but outside the protected room. Styrofoam, cardboard and paper are all highly flammable, but we see data center rooms every day that have them stacked in a corner and left for days, if not weeks and months.
Detection and Suppression: This is when involving a fire protection professional can save you time and money, not to mention offering the best protection for the money invested. With that said, here is a helpful chart that will provide you some guidance on your fire protection options. In future blogs, we will explore in more detail various fire Detection and Suppression systems.
Click here for a helpful chart from www.orrprotection.com to help you visualize how the different technologies work together, providing proper fire protection in various environments. If you have further questions about how to choose the right fire protection technology for your facility, click here to Ask the Experts at ORR Protection Systems.