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Fire Protection for Server Rooms & Data Centres

The server room and data centre in a building are the heart of that company. It houses all the information needed to run day-to-day operations. It stores confidential client information. Without those rooms, the company would lose all of their stored data which could be devastating to the business.

A fire can break out in a server at any moment. Tons of hot computers are continuously running throughout those rooms. Think about how much damage even the smallest fire could do in an overcrowded server room.

If you do not have proper fire protection for server rooms and data centres, all the equipment inside is at high-risk of severe damage. All the stored data is gone. Not only that, if an employee is working within a server room and the fire ignited there, that employee is in grave danger if there is no fire protection available.

Setting up fire protection for server and data centres goes beyond merely placing smoke detectors. Instead, those rooms need to have a sprinkler system, alarm system, fire extinguishers and emergency lighting put in place. The more you can put in place in the form of protection, the less likely you will incur damage from a fire.

Fire Sprinkler Systems for Server Rooms

Automatic fires sprinkler systems are an excellent tool for putting out fires unless there is electronic equipment around. The damage to a server room from a fire sprinkler system could be more catastrophic than the fire itself. Water and electronics do not mix well together.
Instead, what companies are leaning towards for fire protection in their server and data centres are clean agent fire sprinkler systems. Instead of spraying water when triggered by a fire, they disperse gases that are colourless and odourless to snuff out the fire.

Previous fire suppression systems were known to be harmful to the environment by depleting the ozone. Since that revelation, companies are now looking towards cleaner agents that are environmentally friendly. The clean agent in newer fire sprinkler systems not only are more ecologically friendly, but they also are not toxic, corrosive or conductive. This means that fluids used will not harm anyone or anything which comes in contact with it. There is also no cleanup required if the system discharges.

However, it may still be a good idea to have a water fire sprinkler system in place as a backup plan. If the clean agent system cannot fully extinguish the fire, the water sprinklers would be the next option.
Your system should do one of three things to ensure the fire goes out:

  • Eliminate the fuel source;
  • Remove the oxygen which the fire feeds off of; and
  • Cool the fire to below combustion temperature.

    If your sprinkler system can do any of these steps, the fire should go out. The best system should be able to do all three.

    Fire Alarm Systems for Server Rooms

    Every building should have a fire alarm. So too should your data centres and server rooms. But it shouldn’t be just an ordinary smoke detector you would install in your kitchen. You need to have a fire alarm system that not only warns the building that a fire broke out, but it should also notify emergency services as well.

    The alarm system should also trigger room sealing efforts as well. Sealing off a room includes an automatic shutdown of any ventilation, air condition and heating to the server room. Ideally, you want to seal off the room to prevent the fire from spreading anywhere else.

    Part of the fire alarm system should include an emergency power off (EPO) function. When a fire triggers it, it automatically turns off the power in the area. So if the fire is a result of something electrical within the server room, it might stop it. Or if anything, it may prevent it from spreading further.

    The downside to this though, electrical equipment, especially computers like in a data centre, do not respond well to sudden power loss. There is a chance the data stored could be damaged. But it may be worth the risk if it stops the fire from spreading. Also, if the sprinkler system filled with water has to kick in, there will be less damage done to de-powered equipment.

    From the simplest to the most advanced fire alarm system, you should always have them checked. You want to ensure it is working correctly. The last thing you need is to find out it doesn’t work when a fire already broke out.

    Fire Extinguishers for Server Rooms

    Having a fire extinguisher on hand is critical in your fire protection plan. This is your first line of defence to putting out a fire. If you can catch the fire right when it starts, you might be able to use the extinguisher before it triggers the alarm and sprinklers. The sooner you can get to the first to stop it, the more likely you are to prevent the fire protection from going off and causing less damage.

    If you have an automatic fire sprinkler system for your rooms, you are required by law to have a fire extinguisher nearby. You should also have proper signage of what type of extinguisher you have, what type of fire they are for and where they are all located.
    A fire extinguisher for a server room or data centre should be a halogenated agent or carbon dioxide. They should be a Class C extinguisher which is specifically meant for electrical fires. The agent within the extinguisher is non-conductive.

    It would be a good idea to have a Class C fire extinguisher located right outside the server room and data centre. You should also have an extra one inside the room if you have employees working in there regularly.

    Have the employees be trained in how to use the fire extinguisher. They are meant to put out small fires and prevent them from spreading into bigger ones. If you cannot contain the fire, or the flames are already too big by the time you arrive, more than likely your fire protection system will kick in.

    Exit & Emergency Lighting for Server Rooms

    Having some form of exit and emergency lighting in a server room is an essential part of your fire protection. If a fire broke out and caused a power outage, not only will your staff be in danger, but so too will the emergency response team coming to help. Without adequate lighting, the inside of a building is relatively dark, especially in a closed off server room.

    Emergency lighting should kick in if the emergency power off system is triggered. That means if all the power in the area of the fire is shut down, the emergency lights will come on. The emergency lighting helps to keep the area well-lit for anyone that needs to get in, or out.

    Exit lighting and signage should be well light if the power shuts down. The purpose behind them is to direct people towards a way out of the building in case of an emergency. They should not only be well lit to see in the dark, but they should also be visible through the smoke.

    Your fire safety plan put in place for your company should state where all the emergency exits are. They should lead to the stairwells that will take employees outside of the building. The emergency lighting should also direct the traffic to the most nearby exit for a quick escape. In the case of an emergency, you will want everyone out of the rooms and away from the situation as quickly as possible.

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