Everything You Need to Know About Data Center Fire Suppression

November 10, 2021

When you store your information in a data center, you need to protect it from danger to ensure you always have the data you need. One of the major threats to data centers is fire. When hardware catches on fire due to a buildup of dust particles or an electrical issue, you need a way to stop the fire from spreading. To protect against this risk, many companies invest in data center fire suppression systems and devices.

What Is Data Center Fire Suppression and Why Is It Important?

Data center fire suppression refers to various systems and solutions designed to stop a fire from spreading in a data center. You can typically find fire suppression systems aimed at different sections of a data center, such as those for the entire building, individual rooms and racks.

Effective fire suppression for data centers is critical because these centers contain the servers necessary to store your data in a secure environment. If a fire occurs within your data center and you don’t contain it fast, you could end up losing all your data. Even when you have your data stored in other cloud locations, replacing damaged hardware and other infrastructure at a data center affected by a fire can be very expensive, putting financial strain on your business.

When you’re trying to decide if you should invest in data center fire suppression systems, it’s important to remember data centers have many inherent fire risks. Some of the major risks include failing or damaged wires, cables, hardware and HVAC equipment. A data center’s suspended ceilings and raised floors can also lead to greater chances of a fire occurring. Fire suppression systems are essential to your data center and your employees’ safety, as they’re designed to stop fires as soon as they start.

While you’ll likely turn to fire suppression systems to guard your hardware and servers against damage, they’re also critical for protecting your employees. When a fire occurs, handheld extinguishers and fire sprinklers can help employees get to safety or put out fires as soon as they’re aware of them. Passive fire protection, such as fire-rated floor assemblies and firewalls, can also slow the spread, giving employees the time they need to exit the building safely.

Another one of the benefits of data center fire suppression is the ability to keep your equipment safe. When a sprinkler goes off over your equipment, it could damage it. However, you can use rack-based fire suppression systems designed to detect fire and stop it before any sprinklers or other water-based equipment goes off. Since your equipment can cost more than anything else in your data center and contains critical information, rack-level fire suppression is necessary.

Data Center Fire Suppression Types

When you want to suppress fire at your facility, you need to do it without harming your staff or damaging your data center’s equipment. The best fire suppression methods won’t spray lots of water or leave a messy residue behind. Learn more about the main data center fire suppression types below:

Clean Agent Fire Suppression

Clean agents refer to gaseous, electrically nonconducting or volatile fire extinguishants that won’t leave any residue after they evaporate. Clean agent fire suppression systems are designed to discharge clean agents to stop a fire before it hits a heat or flame level that causes the building’s sprinkler system to go off. After the clean agent suppresses the fire, a building’s ventilation system easily removes the agent.

Due to their lack of residue, clean agents don’t cause equipment damage, and you won’t need to spend money or time cleaning them up. Two of the primary clean agents are fluorinated ketones and halocarbons. These agents don’t impact the available oxygen and combine physical and chemical mechanisms to suppress fires.

If you want the most environmentally friendly clean agent available, you can utilize inert gases. In contrast to fluorinated ketone or halocarbon-based clean agents, inert gases suppress fire by lowering a room’s oxygen content. Once the oxygen content is low enough, the fire won’t continue to burn. This method is greener than others, as inert gases are already naturally a part of the atmosphere and do not contribute to ozone layer depletion.

Water Mist Fire Suppression

Most fire suppression systems are water-based, as most state and local fire codes require buildings to have water sprinklers. While these sprinkler systems help protect a building in the case of a fire, they don’t do a very good job of protecting hardware. Instead of dumping gallons of water onto hardware, many data centers have turned to water mist systems.

A high-pressure water mist system uses atomized water droplets, with these droplets no larger than 100 microns. These tiny water droplets make it possible for more of the water to turn into steam, and they excel at extinguishing fires due to their cooling and radiant heat block effect. Since these water droplets are much smaller than those used in traditional sprinkler or low-pressure water mist systems, they evaporate faster, resulting in a building needing much less water to extinguish a fire.

The greater the vaporization of water droplets used in a high-pressure water mist system makes it much less likely your hardware and other property get damaged during fire suppression. Besides reducing the risk of water damage to your equipment, they can also save costs by lowering water usage. High-pressure water mist systems significantly lower the amount of water a traditional water sprinkler releases, resulting in lower water bills and expenses related to cleaning up the water after a fire.

Select DataSpan for Your Data Center Fire Suppression Needs

At DataSpan, we know how important fire suppression best practices and equipment are to your data center. We regularly inspect and analyze our client’s data centers to help them further optimize and secure their data storage facilities. Since fire suppression is key to data security, we’re ready to provide custom solutions designed to maximize your data’s safety. Alongside fire suppression support, we offer various data center services and products you can use to improve your data center and safeguard your data from danger.

Request more information today to find out how we can help you improve your data center’s fire suppression system.

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