Data Centre Fire Detection & Suppression

Early warning detection and active automatic fire extinguishing systems are essential uptime considerations.

A data centre fire prevention policy requires early detection, a visual and audible warning including location of hazard and possible fire suppression if required.

Fire Detection

Conventional fire detection systems include optical, ionisation and rate of rise detectors located around all points of the data centre building. These when coupled with break glass units at emergency exit locations and sounder / beacon units placed throughout the data centre provide a basic fire detection system to B.S.5839.
(BS5839 2002 Part 1 - Fire detection & Alarm Systems for Buildings)

VESDA

Very early smoke detection apparatus, is employed with in the data hall and technical switchgear areas.
The VESDA system uses air sampling pipework routed around the data centre to monitor the condition of the air passing back to the air handling units. The system is able to detect minute levels of smoke within the sampled air stream and as the name suggests provide early warning of an impending fire.
The VESDA system is mapped back to a central monitoring station where the location of the hazard is displayed.

Data Center Fire Suppression

Two types of gaseous fixed Fire Suppression systems are available.

  • Oxygen reduction systems that use inert gases such as Argon, CO2, Nitrogen or a combination or all three.

  • Gaseous clean agent systems that cool and breakdown the chemical reactions in fire.

Oxygen reduction systems aim to prevent a fire occurring in a protected area. The oxygen level would usually be reduced to below 15Vol % content (normal air contains 20.9Vol %) but different oxygen levels are used for different applications. These systems are normally used in archive storage areas, warehouse or cold stores, and laboratories.
CO2 systems are used for areas where, electrical hazards, flammable or combustible materials may be present but which are not normally occupied.

Clean agent systems include gases such as FM200, Novec 1230, FE13 & Pro-Inert. 
Due to environmental issues, these gaseous clean agent systems have replaced Halon 1301 as an extinguishing agent. Gaseous extinguishing systems have to be installed by companies that have F-Gas Certified certification schemes, to the following criteria:-

BS5839 2002 Part 1 - Fire detection & Alarm Systems For Buildings

BS6266: 2002 - Code of Practice for Fire Protection for Electronic Equipment Installations

BS 7273-1:2006 - Code of Practice for the operation of fire protection measures

ISO 14520-1/14 - Gaseous Fire Extinguishing Systems

BS EN 15004-1 2008 - Fixed Fire Fighting Systems – Gas Extinguishing Systems

NFPA 2001 - Gaseous Fire Extinguishing Systems

Requirements of the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)

Design, Installation, and Maintenance Manual – P/N 06-295

ITE have installed FM200 at our data centre projects for Iomart, Mothercare / ELC, Coretx (C4L), Cemex, Orange Business Services, TGS, Regus & Docklands Data Centres.
Novec was installed at the Viasat / MTG data centre in Chiswick.
Pro-Inert at Iomart in Maidenhead.

Older projects include HiFog water mist fire suppression for Equinix at Heathrow and west London.

Gaseous clean agent fire extinguishing systems are used for computer rooms and EDP; indoor transformers and switchgear; telecommunications, generators, other applications include turbines, machinery, silos switchgear and similar electrical hazards. Generally gaseous fire protection systems are operated by specific automatic fire detection systems in which detector provision and spacing is configured to give very early detection. Usually a “double knock” activation of two detector heads is necessary to discharge the gas. A warning is normally given in the protected area before the gas discharges to allow personnel to leave the area.

The fire detection and Fire Suppression systems will normally be operated in an air conditioned and heated environment; however they shall be capable of operating within the temperature range of –10oC to +40oC in order to cater for an environmental control system failure.

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