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Mission Critical Fire Protection

Education and resources from the industry experts

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems in the South Central US [WEBINAR]

Posted by Lee Kaiser on May 10, 2019 12:52:16 PM

IMG_0799Clean agent systems in THE south central U.S.

As mission critical fire protection experts, we're always looking for ways to educate our audience on all-things mission critical. In our latest webinar series, we teach you about clean agent systems in fire suppression with a special feature on MCFP insights relevant to specific regions across the U.S. Now you can access this webinar on-demand to gain more insights on clean agent systems in fire protection. In this webinar, we focus on mission critical facilities in the South Central region.

What's it about?

This overview of clean agent fire suppression systems by Lee Kaiser—ORR Protection's VP of Engineering—defines clean agents, their applications and when to use them in mission critical facilities. New code changes will also be reviewed. 

What will you get?

In the South Central Clean Agent Systems webinar, Lee will be followed by regional experts discussing the use of clean agents in your area. Hear ORR experts, Kevin Henning, Paul Nelson, and Chris Moore cover topics relevant to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. They will talk about the most popular clean agents, regional certifications needed for install and maintenance, the future of clean agent fire protection in the South Central region and more.

Watch the on-demand webinar now or read the content below to learn more about fire protection in the South Central U.S.!

WATCH IT NOW

 

CLEAN Agent Systems in the South central U.S. [Video Transcript]


Welcome to our Webinar on clean agent fire suppression systems where today we're going to update you on what's new with clean agents and , how to use them in your facility. But first I want to talk a little bit about who or protection is. We are the nation's leading service provider for mission critical fire protection facilities. We do fire alarm systems, detection systems and suppression systems, and special hazards for buildings that really need fire protection to work. We've been a quality fire protection provider since 1971. That's when we started as a company; we're America's largest privately owned fire and safety company. We protect over $30 billion in assets nationwide against fire. We provide nationwide service and, we have a coast to coast coverage to be able to get to your facility and get a technician there if you've got a problem and need a fix. We service over 30,000 systems in the United States, and some of the suppression systems that we are a experts at--FM 200--you'll notice that name Novec 1230, another one that's very recognizable in addition to a number of others.

These are a list of some of our premier providers, partners with us that we install and maintain their systems. The way we structure our business is for service systems and net systems for service systems. We've got experience where it counts. One call for a single point of contact for national accounts effective in service. We're an ISO 9001: a quality company certified to that standard, available 24/7. Our average technicians have over eight years of experience. Our trained technicians have vans that are stocked so we can get out there and fix it the first time. With net systems online reporting, our customers enjoy the benefit of net site. That's an online web portal so they can access records about their fire protection systems through the net site website. We also spend a lot of time providing information to the industry and to consumers of fire protection systems. We blog, and on our blog you'll find expert level advice, answers to current problems and hot topics. So as we get started today talking about clean agent fire suppression systems, I like always to start with the chance to go through a little bit of fire science. There are three commonly recognized levels of fire protection system performance that we like to educate about. And the first one we'll start with is fire control. Fire control is a technique where you limit the size of a fire such that if it's in a compartment or room, it doesn't grow so big that it can cause a flashover condition inside the room. Flashover is a very severe fire event where everything, every surface in the room that's combustible spontaneously starts burning because so much heat is built up into the room. So in fire control, we cool the fire down before it could get to that flashover point. This is really what sprinkler systems do, but now sprinkler systems are listed for fire control, and we don't necessarily expect that they're going to put out the fire.

The fire department may have to show up and extinguish that fire for that final extinguishment via hose lines. The next is fire suppression. This is a performance expectation--and we say that word suppression a lot. So the actual performance expectation of suppression is that when the automatic system discharges, it reduces the rate of combustion down to just glowing combustion. So if you've got class A solid fire materials, and fire suppression acts on it, you expect that the fire department or a responsible person would come in with maybe just a fire extinguisher to finish off that fire and achieve complete extinguishment. And that leads us to the last definition of fire: Extinguishment. Fire extinguishment is where the suppression system or fire extinguishing system, when it discharges the performance expectation is that there's no combustion after that.

The fire goes completely out and, there's no manual firefighting required to extinguish that fire. Those are the performance levels: Fire control, fire suppression, fire extinguishment. And as you go through that, the expectation for what the system does on the fire goes up. With clean agent systems, they are listed for fire extinguishment. This is the quick slide on the basics of clean agent fire suppression systems. Clean agent systems are extinguishment without water. They're gaseous systems usually arranged in a total flooding arrangement. Gaseous systems means they're a gas that goes into space, a compartment or room, with total flooding. We flood the space with gas so that no matter where the fire is, the fire's going to go out.

We flood the space floor to ceiling, wall to wall. They're fast and effective. They're fast in two ways. They're fast because we activate them using smoke detection when the fire is small so they can act on the fire quickly. Then, after discharge, they usually extinguish the fire within 20 to 30 seconds. That's a fast extinguishment. Compared to all the other fire suppression systems out there, clean agent systems are in that very fast-acting category. And they're effective. They put the fires out. They're also safe for equipment and personnel. For equipment, clean agent systems are electrically nonconducting. Unlike water, they won't ruin electrical components or electronics in the space--that's the clean piece.

They leave no residue. There's no cleanup after a fire or a clean agent system discharge. No water to clean up, no powders or anything to clean up. Clean agents are clean, and that's why they're so great for electronics. But there is a five minute exposure limit. In order to be a clean agent listed or allowed as a clean agent system, you can be in the room as a person where the clean agent system is. If it discharges, you can be inside the gas, but then the codes say that there's a five minute exposure limit. The codes want a person to exit the space after five minutes due to the possible presence of products of combustion. That's what the codes say. Most people, when they hear the warning sounds, they know to exit the space.

But what we want to emphasize is to exit that space calmly and orderly because it's safe to be in there in the discharge. Most people want to get out before that system goes off. Some other benefits include early activation while the fire is small, the gaseous nature of the agent penetrates all shielded spaces and into the components, and extinguish fires and minimize damage leaving little to no cleanup after the discharge. So where do we use clean agents? Well, we'd like to teach using this list of important factors. Two or more of this list. And clean agents should be a strong consideration for fire protection in the room. Sensitive electronics, things that could possibly get damaged by water spray, power distribution, if we're bringing power to components inside a room, it's potential for needing clean agents.

If the space is occupied, clean agents are one gas that can be used in occupied spaces. So, that's another consideration. If the space is unoccupied, you maybe have some more options. But if it's occupied, clean agents should be one of your choices. Shielded combustibles, electrical cabinets, raised floors, concealed spaces. Clean agents are often applied in rooms where there's air flows, lots of air conditioning to cool the electrical equipment in a room. It's critical to operations because of the low impact on downtime. Clean agents are important there and a low tolerance for fires. Any two or more of these you should be considering clean agents.

Let's take a chance to talk about how a clean agent system works. We release clean agent systems in most applications with a releasing service fire alarm panel. Sometimes we call those a suppression control panel. In our diagram here, we're going to start to talk about some of those things that are part of this diagram. The big red box in the middle is a suppression control panel, in this case, an intelligent suppression control panel. With that, we use an accounting zone detection technique for confirming detection of a fire. We want to have two detectors go off to confirm that we really have a fire before we release the system. In an addressable or intelligent system, we count the detectors going off before we begin the suppression releasing sequence. Before we start to show some smoke on the slide here, let's add a couple more things to make it suppression system.

We have the big red tank, in this case, a clean agent system tank. Connected to that, we have a releasing circuit. That's the circuit that powers the releasing device to send the gas out into the space. Now on that releasing circuit, we have a disconnect switch that's a safety feature for servicing the system and a feature to help avoid unwanted discharges. Then, we have a pull station, in this case called a manual release station, for a person inside the room. If they see a fire, they can manually release the system by activating that pulse station. Let's have a little smoke start at one of the smoke detectors. When smoke gets to one smoke detector, just like in any fire alarm system where there's smoke detectors, it's going to activate the building fire system.

We will activate the building fire alarm and the Horn strobes or other notification devices in the building will be going off at that time to warn people that there's a fire in the building, but we're not going to release the clean agent gas yet. We're going to wait until the fire grows and we get confirming detection at a second detector. So let's let the fire grow. As a fire grows, we catch a second detector and then a few more things start happening. The first thing, once we have second detection, we're going to begin the releasing sequence. And so we have a programmable time delay, which is the pre-discharge warning time period. And so that's what that stopwatch indicates. That's a 30-second time delay before the gas goes off into the room that gives us time to warn people of that impending discharge.

One way we do that is by adding the second notification device. It's a pre-discharge warning alarm. It's a distinctive sound inside the space warning people that the system is going to go off. If you hear that distinctive sound, then you know it's time to exit space. Also, during that time we're preparing the room for discharge. We're going to be activating relay outputs to shut down the HVAC in the room so that the air handling shuts off shutdown dampers so we don't dilute the gas in the space by bringing fresh air into the room or exhausting out of the room. Then shut down any power relays through shut trip breakers. Oftentimes we call that EPO or the emergency power off system. During that pre-discharge time period, we've got time to get those things shut down before the system releases.

During that 30 seconds, if we're an occupant of that protected room, if we notice there's no fire or we don't see smoke, we don't smell smoke, we can't see flames, that gives us an opportunity to go to the abort button. And if one is installed in the system, often located by the doors coming out of that protected room, you can go to the abort button, press it down and stop the system from discharging. Then you can pick up your phone and call someone, have them come into the room while you're standing by the abort button, and they can do the investigation. If no fire is found, you can go to the releasing service fire alarm panel and reset the system, and that will prevent the system from discharging. Let's say though that you don't press the abort button, then after that 30 seconds expires, the releasing circuit will activate gas will out of the tank through the piping and out and the nozzles to flood the room with gas.

The last thing that will happen is a discharge alarm, which is a usually a visual device strobe on the outside of the room that's labeled, "fire suppression discharge." It warrants people coming to the room to check out what's going on that the suppression system has discharged inside the space. That's the usual arrangement of a sequence for a clean agent fire suppression system.

Now, I do want to highlight that there's a little change in the industry where we're using a single detector to release that. In that case we're using Vesda air sampling smoke detection. Vesda is often applied in the same spaces that we use clean agent fire extinguishing systems. Because it's asset protection, we're worried about the processes and the equipment that's in those highly valuable rooms.

Vesda gives us very early warning fire detection. It's a technology that's really immune to false alarms. In our experience across all the different sites that we service, we get very few false alarm calls for Vesda detectors. There's other reasons we go out for a service on Vesda detectors, but very infrequently is that a false alarm condition. It's a very stable, resistant to false alarm technology that can be cost effective. You want to get the benefits of very early warning fire detection while still releasing with your clean agent systems. One technique is to use the multiple levels of alarm that a Vesda detector gives you. A Vesda detector usually gives you four levels alarm, two of them are pre-warning signals and then two of them are actual alarm signals.

For pre-warning, we use the threshold settings of alert in action, and we bring those into our fire alarm system as supervisory warnings that you need to go check this out. There is smoke present, but it's not at that life safety level that you need to be worried about. Then, as a smoke builds, we get to that life safety warning level at fire one. That's where we would send a signal to the fire alarm panel or to our suppression panel to activate the fire alarm system throughout the building. We would wait for confirming detection until the fire builds more to a less sensitive threshold setting, meaning more smoke has to be in the space of fire two. That's that force setting. When we get to fire two, that's confirming an indication that we really have a fire in our room, and we can use fire two to be our second input to release the clean agent fire suppression system.
That's becoming more common out there. To step through that sequence, we have our intelligent panel again in the middle, our releasing circuit with our gas tank connected, the disconnect switch, and the manual pull station. Now, instead of two photo electric smoke detectors, we have a single Vesda detector. We'll get just a little bit of smoke in a space. It registers as an alert in our system. That's a pre-warning. We get that supervisory signal at the panel, and it warns us. We've got a chance to go in there and investigate. Understand that those low levels of smoke that a Vesda detector can pick up can be present for hours or even days inside of some of our electronic spaces, data centers or telecommunications facilities. And we can go out there and investigate why that smoke is present.

And one of the best techniques we're investigating is thermal imaging. Let's say that the smoke continues to build, it goes to fire one level on the Vesda detector, the building fire alarm system in the building activates, smoke continues to build, and we hit fire two. We get our confirming detection that we really have a fire. Then all those things happen in our pre-discharge warning time period. The 30-second countdown, the pre-discharge warning signal, a relay output for controlling is shutdown of HVAC and power. After that 30 seconds expires, the gas releases into the space and, the discharge warning alarm outside the room goes off. That's how we can use a single Vesda detector to release a clean agent system. This is a technique we're seeing more and more frequently, and designers are becoming aware of it. It's one way to have better smoke detection and less cost for your installation.

Clean agents are often coupled with sprinkler systems, usually dry or pre-action sprinkler systems inside of data centers or telecommunications facilities. There are some standalone installations. In Europe, it's very popular to have standalone clean agent systems and no sprinklers. In the United States, we're not there yet. Our codes often require sprinklers. If you're a clean agent user, you may have both inside of some of your facilities. That detection approach is key and should be considered as you're specifying and selecting a clean agent system to make sure you get solid detection for your clean agent system.

Another thing you need to be aware of when you're a clean agent user is procedures must be in place. One thing we like to highlight again is an agent disconnect switch, sometimes called a maintenance switch, but the way the code calls out is for any releasing circuit for any suppression system, whether it's water-based or clean agents, you have to have an agent disconnect switch to physically disconnect that circuit so you are able to service that system or do maintenance in that room and not cause an accidental discharge of the system. Along with that, is access control. The codes NFPA 2001 for clean agent fire extinguishing systems calls out that we need to control the people that go into that protected space. Access control systems are often used for clean agent protected spaces.

We should have written maintenance procedures so that when the system owner or their contractor comes in to do work in that protected space, they have a way to safety-off that system and avoid an accidental discharge. Finally, training of the occupants. That includes both the employees working in the room and contractors coming into the room. How does the system work? How do we use the abort button? How do we put it in a safety? What do we do if there is a fire in the room? Then where do we go? Do we evacuate and wait for the authorized people like the fire department to tell us that it's safe to reenter the room?

We like to teach clean agents in buckets. There are two buckets of clean agents. There's the halo carbon agent bucket, which is manufactured gases--gases that are made in a plant--and then nerve gases--gases that we extract from the atmosphere and blend to use in clean agent systems. Halo carbons have some common names that we know quite well in the United States. FM 200 is a very common name for clean agent systems. In fact, some people don't even know the phrase "clean agent system," they just know they have an FM 200 system. Ecaro 25 is another common one. Then one that's relatively new in the arena of clean agents is 3M's Novec 1230 gas. It's known as Novec or sometimes it's also known as a trade named, Sapphire. The halo carbon gases work to extinguish the flames by absorbing so much heat from the flames that the flames become chemically unstable and go out.

So if you want to remember how Halo Carbon agents work, it's by heat absorption of the flames. Then these systems discharge into the room within 10 seconds. Very quickly after that ten-second discharge, the concentration in the room is reached and the fire's going to go out. Then we hold that gas in that room for a period of time so the ignition sources have a chance to cool down and the fire is extinguished.

For the other bucket of clean agent systems, inert gases, go by the names of Inergen, Argonite, prolnert and nitrogen. These are different blends of Argon, nitrogen, and sometimes carbon dioxide. We lower the oxygen concentration primarily to extinguish flames. There is some heat absorption measure and lowering the oxygen concentration in the room.

Now we don't lower oxygen so low that you can't breathe. We never go below 12% oxygen inside of the room. We usually just lower it to around 15% oxygen enough to be able to exit the space and keep humans safe inside the room if they are there during a discharge. Inert gas systems have a longer discharge time period, so around 60 to 120 seconds, they're allowed to have a longer period so they don't over pressurize the room and cause a problem with room integrity. Practically if you're wanting to apply them, one thing to know, , historically in the United States, halo carbon gases have been more popular here. And then in Europe, it's been more popular to install inert gas clean agent systems. Halo carbon gases have a lower installed footprint, so it takes up less floor space in a room if you have a halo carbon system.

Lower discharge pressure. The peak pressures that are generated in the room are generally lower, that is a head nod to room integrity issues.

Lower first costs. One of the reasons they're popular in the United States is they just don't cost as much to install them in the first place. On the other hand, if the system discharges and needs recharged, there is a higher recharge costs because you have to buy that manufactured gas again for your system and put it into the tanks and that leads to a higher cost. Now, inert gases comparatively have longer retention time. If you have a leaky space, you should be considering an inert gas system because the density of the gas that gets discharged into the room is closer to that of the normal air that we breathe, and those gases tend to hold in a room better.

Another advantage of inert gases is no fogging during discharge. When a halo carbon gas discharge them into a space, it becomes foggy for a short period of time, usually clears up within 10 seconds, but that doesn't happen with inert. If fogging is a concern to visually exit the space, then inert gaseous should be used. Inert gases have higher first cost and they take up more floor space. There's more physical steel in the system than an halo carbon system. Because of more tanks and more valves and all those types of things in an inert gas system, they just cost more when we purchase them the first time. But they have less expensive recharges. You still have to cover the costs of labor and the refill, but the gas that we're putting back into those cylinders is just simply cheaper than halo carbon gases. The recharge costs are usually less.

Room integrity. A room construction is where a lot of questions always come up for clean agents. Now. Understand, we discharge the gasses into the room, the fire goes out, then we hold the gas in the room for a period of time. We measure the amount of time that a gas is predicted to hold through a door fan test. With door fan testing, there's a lot of unknowns unless you're a trained tester. To achieve a good predicted hold time, you have to have a relatively tight room. Clean agents brings us to 0.1. Clean agents require a tight room but not too tight because today's testing that we do for clean agent systems, we need to measure that there's not so many leaks that the gas runs out of the space too quickly, but there's just enough leaks that the space doesn't over pressurize during the peak pressure wave of the gas discharging into the room. It has to be tight but not too tight.

One of the places that we choose to focus for sealing that we like to recommend to wall building contractors is focus of sealing the wall to floor joints. Clean agents leak worst out of leaks below the ceiling. One of the big leaks that we find is the wall to floor joint. We want to focus on sealing that up tight at the wall. Also at the sealing joint, that can be a big leak that can really affect our door fan testing. Focus on sealing those two joints. Then some areas where we can have big leaks are doors and windows. Provide weatherstripping on doors going into the protective space and door sweeps on the bottom. Those can reduce the amount of leakage inside of the room.

Another little tip from the field is garage doors in a space are a problem. The garages are pretty leaky, so if that's part of your room, you really need to be conscious that the door fan testing is done well and that the space will hold for long enough.

The last pointer is protect as high as possible for the best results. The longer the gas has to float down in the room, meaning that the, the higher the distance, the longer the gas is going to stay inside the room. We try to emphasize that if you have a high ceiling room, that's a good thing. If you have a low ceiling room but a plenum space above, you may want to flood the plenum too.

That will extend your hold time inside the room. Closure integrity testing or door fan testing, are one of the things that we do to measure that. We have a calibrated test rig with a door fan to measure the leakage in a space. That's an initial test for a new system, but it can be an ongoing test. In fact, ORR's recommendation (this is not part of the code, but our recommendation) is that you run a door fan test every five years in your protected space to determine the predicted hold time inside that space.

Safety concerns with clean agent systems. One is over-concentration. If we have an existing room with a clean agent system or even Halon system, the predecessor to clean agents, if that room gets smaller and we don't reduce the amount of gas in the tanks, then we can run the risk of over-concentration. For Halo carbon agents, ,we can have some health concerns. For inert gas agents, we can lower the oxygen concentration too low to take it below 12% oxygen.

Under-concentrated systems are also a safety concern. Clean agent systems are volume-metrically designed. We put in a specific amount of agent for the volume of we're protecting. If the room gets bigger during a construction project, and we don't put more gas in that, we may not achieve that extinguishing concentration and if the fire doesn't go out, that's a big safety problem. It can also be an issue for Halo carbons systems. If we don't put the fire out and the halo carbon gases are present, those gases can burn and cause hydrogen fluoride to be in the room. That can be corrosive to the components there and bad for a human safety.

Environmental friendliness is also a concern. The most environmentally friendly Halo Carbon agent is Novec 1230, and inert gases are also considered to be the most environmentally friendly clean agent system you can purchase.

Noisy discharges and brief fogging. These are just things that happen during the discharge. Those discharges are loud, and that could be a safety concern. Then they cause fogging. In some cases, the halo carbons cause some fogging and for a brief period of time, a handful of seconds, it's hard to see in the room. Then that quickly clears up and you can exit the space.

Some of the components of a clean agent system begin with the agent storage container. That's the big red tank in the room, usually red tank where the gas is inside. There's a valve connector to that tank and out of the valve there'll be piping connected.

Piping runs to nozzles, usually at the ceiling of a space to distribute gas into this space and a total flooding arrangement. Then there's the electrical half of everything, the releasing fire alarm system, which includes the Suppression Control Panel, detectors, notification devices, and then the disconnect switch and any abort buttons that are part of the system. A typical design approach that we like to push people towards to achieve the lowest cost installation for their system is to try and locate the agent cylinders inside the protected space. If you've got some extra floor space, try to put those cylinders inside the room. It reduces the piping costs for that system, which ultimately lowers the final install costs. If you have a system big enough that needs multiple cylinders to hold all the gas, we often recommend that you split those cylinders up and force the pipe runs to be shorter in the system. We try to limit the size of pipes needed. General practice is to never have pipes larger than four inches in diameter in your clean agent system. There's certainly installations that require bigger than that, but we try to limit it to four inches. An inch and a half pipe is usually the smallest pipe with two inches being very common for size a piping in a clean agent system. Clean agents nozzles are limited to 16 feet in height. If your room is higher than that, there will be multiple tiers of nozzles to protect that higher heightened space. A lot of the common clean agent systems that are out there have a height limitation of 30 feet from which they can push gas from the cylinder out to the nozzle. That's changing a little bit with higher pressure systems and inert gas systems that operate at higher pressure. Usually 30 feet in vertical distance is about all a system can handle.


If you have to put all the tanks in one place, another approach is a zone clean agent system. As long as the rooms are the same volume, then you can have one bank of tanks with zone valves or selector valves that directionally route that gas to whichever zone has the fire and requires the gas. That's another way to lower the cost of an installation when you have multiple zones of protection needed in a space. ,

Code updates. In 2012, NFPA 2001, which is a standard on clean agent fire extinguishing systems increased the safety factor required for Class C fires. A class C fire is an electrical fire. Because of the changes in the data center industry where there's a new reluctance to shut down power to the equipment during a fire, there was an expectation that there would be more class C fires and persistent electrical arcing during the discharge of the clean agent system. Because of that, the code changed to increase the concentration factors. Today there's a slight increase in gas for some of the clean agents you have to provide because of that code change. Now, one thing that's important to notice that the code is not retroactive in this case. You don't need to go back and increase the amount of gas in your system if you have an existing system installed before this code was issued. Even without the increased concentration, there's no definable history of clean agent systems not putting out fires in our spaces where they're used.

Another new requirement is for position monitoring switches. These are new devices on electric control heads that activate our systems that can get placed in there to monitor if the control head is in place. There's really a problem in the industry where these are not provided, and sometimes the system owners remove the control heads to safety off the system so they can do maintenance, but sometimes they forget to put the control head back on. A control head position monitoring switch tries to see if that control head is in place. If it's in place, then the panel would be fine and normal. If it's removed then it will generate a supervisory signal at the panel.

You'll get a little beeping sound at the panel and be warned that something's wrong. Once you read the display, it'll say that the control head monitor is removed or the control head is removed. You'll know to go put it back on there. It's an additional level of safety for these systems to make sure that they don't ever not go off because the control head is removed. Now that's something that is not retroactive again in the code, but we would recommend in this case, you'd go back and put it on existing systems. It's such a good safety upgrade to make sure your system is functional. We recommend if you have existing clean agent systems, halon systems, even carbon dioxide systems, in some cases you go back and put those position monitoring switches on to make sure the control heads are in place as they need to be.

The last thing I want to talk about is a shift that we are aware of that sometimes total flooding fire protection isn't enough and you want to have clean agent gases in certain data cabinets that are really important. That's the technique of in-cabinet clean agent systems. It is a local application fire extinguishing technique. It's not total flooding, it's local application, concentrating on a defined volume, usually a cabinet inside the larger volume. We can use in-cabinet clean agent systems to target critical cabinets including ones in data centers, individual IT cabinets, electrical cabinets in certain installations, process logic control cabinets in some important places, audio visual cabinets that are part of a larger space (we want to have a suppression system to make sure that expensive AV equipment is protected) and telecommunications applications for specific cabinets that need extra suppression. Finally, some lab equipment that gets mounted in cabinets inside of a high-tech lab that may require suppression and you may choose to use an in-cabinet system.

Now there are two products we want to highlight. There's rack mounted suppression equipment available from two manufacturers. The first is SEVO systems. SEVO systems manufacturers the SEVO systems cube. The cube is an in-rack clean agent fire suppression detection and control system all in one, and it mounts in the rack. It fits in a standard 19 inch data rack. It's 2U tall or two units of that rack tall. It includes the detection and control system, cross-zone photoelectric detectors, and three pounds of Novec 1230 clean agent inside that space. It's got a display on board. It can tell you what's going on. It can connect to the building fire alarm system, and it's powered from the IT equipment.

From the same power that's being brought to the IT servers, the cord and plug connections of the cube can be plugged into that, then onboard their backup batteries if the power goes down inside the cube. This is one way to do in-rack suppression. There's also this other product that's very similar. It's the Minimax OneU. They call it OneU because it's just one unit tall, gives you back some of that valuable height inside of your data rack. They fit in an air sampling or aspirating smoke detector inside of it, the controller to discharge the system, then seven pounds of Novec, 1230 gas as part of this unit. An advantage of a rack mounted or in-cabinet units is that you can target critical cabinets to protect them.

This is a very simple operation, usually plug and play is a term often used for these, pre-engineered design--no engineering really needs to be done. They can be purchased and installed inside of them. They give a power shunt to signal to shut down the air handling or shut down the power of that rack. With this local application approach, you have to shut down the air handling for that rack. Air shouldn't be moving through it to keep the gas in that rack to put out the fire. With the detection approach, it can help you locate the fire in your data center. That's often a problem with the higher flow rates and data centers: smoke moves around. It's hard to target where that smoke came from. With the smoke detection right there in the rack, we can locate that fire.

Some disadvantages are that it isn't necessarily considered standalone suppression. Usually, whole room systems should be there, whether that's prediction sprinkler or a total flood clean agent system, that really should be there so that you're in-rack suppression is just supplemental protection inside of your space.Some of the equipment today is not UL and FM listed. It's going to be there at some point, but today, the product type is so new that all the testing hasn't been done yet. That also leads to the authority having jurisdiction or AHJ, the fire marshal, fire inspector, they may not be familiar with the clean agent local application approach, so they may not accept it at first. You'll have to work to educate them on your approach and your intent for the performance of that system. Then, it's limited only to the installed cabinets, so we have to provide one unit per cabinet. In a large application, if everything's super critical, maybe a total flood system is going to be more practical to that room.


If you ever have any questions about clean agent systems, check out more information on our website or reach out to some of our local experts, and talk to them about clean agent fire suppression or any of your other fire suppression or specialty detection needs. We look forward to talking to you more in the future about other important topics in mission critical fire protection.

 

South Central Regional Experts


Most people would probably say FM200 is the most prevalent.  FM200 was the first clean agent to replace Halon 1301 and that's kind of become the go-to name, so to speak for clean agents.  But we're seeing a huge uptake in Novec 1230 as an alternative to the old Halons or to FM200 as well.  We're also seeing the use of Inert agents increased greatly such as Pro Inert and Intergen and Argonite are some of the other trade names that are out there for those types of agents.

Right now FM200 is still the standard.  We have been trying to push towards the Novec 1230 just for its ozone-friendly process and we're definitely behind the times by 6 to 10 years, it takes a long time for Fire Marshalls, for engineers, for everybody to learn the new gases and cost is obviously a big thing right now where environmentally friendly is very not cost friendly and that's where a big problem comes in. 

You know years ago there was a product called Halon.  Halon's cost has gone through the roof.  It went from just probably 3 years ago $15.00 a pound to over $50.00 a pound today to install that product.  So I'm just going to make a comment.  Anybody that's got Halon system today, you thought think about replacing that system as soon as you can because the cost or the trade-in value of the Halon will offset a significant portion of your new system going in.  So you can sell the old Halon, get some money for it, a good price for it and then you have the opportunity to put in a new system for significantly reduce price than you have in the past.  Now the new products out there, traditionally FM200, Caro 25, those two products, really kind of the mainstay of it.  In the past there have also been some, what we call, Inert gases that are all natural.  You know, we haven't seen Inert gases take off to the extent that maybe we thought they would.  I do think that they will continue to pick up steam.  They're very popular here in Europe.  But the product that I really think that's probably going to become what I would say is the Kleenex of the industry is a product called Novec 1230 from 3M.  That product is going to continue to grow.  If I was going to put in a system, gas based system today, I'd put in Novec 1230.  It's very environmentally friendly.  It's very competitive, just slight increase over FM200 or Caro 25, those products.  To me it just makes sense to put that in and then you never have to worry about any related environmental issues down the road.

None that I'm aware of.  I'm not aware of any local or state municipalities that dictate what types of agents that you could use for a particular hazard.  They may adopt certain modifications to the national or international codes or they may require certain aspects of the installation to meet those requirements.  But to my knowledge, I haven't heard of any local or state municipalities requiring the type of agent to use. 

We get the question a lot.  Can a company that really specializes in putting fire suppression systems in also do work on fire alarm?  And the answer is yes.  Every fire suppression system is controlled and driven by a fire alarm system.  So you've got your clean agent gas but the detection and the releasing of that gas is a fire alarm system.  Now on the reverse question, we get a lot of questions.  People say, people whoa re fire alarm companies, can they work on suppression systems?  And the answer is probably not.  Okay, because fire alarms are on suppression systems but the problem is they don't have the knowledge or expertise to work on releasing agents and all the things that happen with suppression systems.  How you install those, they're under high pressure, is something that takes training.  You need to know what you're doing, how you're doing it, how you install it against the wall, how you run the piping, how you place the nozzles for the best discharge of the agent throughout the room.  There's just so many things that happen there.  So if you're going to have a suppression system, you need to work with a company that does that on a regular basis.  The other thing is you make a mistake and you're talking about tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars of gas that's going to be released in the room, could be a real issue.  So can suppression companies work on fire alarms?  Absolutely.  Can fire alarm companies work on suppression?  Not a good mix, normally.

In Arizona, every technician has to be certified by the State of Arizona and each technician has to carry a card, otherwise they can't final a smoke system, fire sampling, suppression system.  You can't do anything with it unless you have a card and that involves installation.  You have to have a second level which is actually anything involved with the testing for the Fire Marshall to come out there and actually do the final inspections and then also your company has to be certified through the State of Arizona.  And they do have cross where if you have certain level certifications, they do accept those in Arizona but we do have our own standards.

Actually yes.  Most municipalities, especially at the state level, do require that companies even down to the technicians themselves are licensed and / or certified for the work that they do on fire systems.

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Topics: Clean Agent, MCFP, South Central, Fire Suppression

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