Are Fire Suppression Clean Agents Safe for People?

Posted by Zach Nelson on Oct 27, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Watch Lee Kaiser speak about trending technology in clean agent fire suppression. In the video excerpt below, you can watch as he explains some misconceptions about the safety of fire suppression clean agents. 

Want Access to the Full Video?

There is much more information available in the full video than we will be releasing in our blog series. Don't miss out! If you'd like to watch the entire Trending Technology Clean Agent Systems portion of the seminar, click here to receive the full video. 


Lee: They're safe for personnel. There is a 5 minute exposure limit, and so the code says that after 5 minutes, due to the products of combustion that may be still in the atmosphere within that room, you need to exit the space and not reenter until it's been fully ventilated–typically by the fire department. So...

Seminar Participant: What's the reason for that, loss of oxygen or more the danger of the suppression agent?

Lee: Well, that's a great question, and that's one that a lot of people get confused on. There's a myth that clean agent systems eat all the oxygen within the room, okay, and that's not true. There are two ways that we use clean agent systems. Let's, let's talk about those.

There are halocarbon agents–and that style of clean agents works to rapidly cool a room, such the heat leg of the fire triangle is removed and the fire can't exist.

Inert gas agents are another category, with multiple agents within them. Inert gases work to lower the oxygen concentration within the room, such that combustion cannot exist. So the air that we're breathing right now, is about 21 percent oxygen, okay? Fires go out at around 19 percent oxygen, okay? Inert gas agents lower the oxygen within the room down to about 15 percent oxygen, and then we can breathe all the way down to about 12 percent. So at 15 percent, we're not gonna be able to stand there and do jumping jacks all day, but we will be able to calmly exit the space. And so, there have been people that have been hurt by when the pre-discharge warning goes off–they scramble out and trip and fall and get hurt in spaces that are protected by clean agents–and there's really no reason for that.

And then additionally, all the chemical agents–the halocarbon agents, you know–they've all been tested to show that they're safe for human exposure. And there's different levels of concentration. As the concentration goes up, they are more of a risk, but the codes require us to design and install those systems such that they're in the safe zone, okay?

Seminar Participant: CO2 is the most dangerous, though. You don't wanna be in the room very long.

Lee: Yeah, CO2 systems, the extinguishing concentrations are so high that there's not enough oxygen and then can die there.

This is part 2 of the Trending Technology Clean Agent Systems series. Watch the other parts at the links below:

You can also watch our previous series on Dialer and Communicator Technology Changes at the links below:

Topics: Clean Agent, Communicator, Technology Changes, Nationwide

Featured Download

Subscribe to the Fire Protection Blog