Maximum availability of an electronic data processing system is crucial. It is therefore recommended that the data center has the highest level of fire and security protection in the building.  Very early fire detection plays an integral part in data center fire protection. With the help of very fast detection, operators can quickly be informed about an event and all required technical and organizational measures can be started immediately. Fire prevention is ideally based on the interaction of different elements, amongst others: fire detection, evacuation, extinguishing and building management systems to prevent the development of the fire. The following things are critical: very fast and reliable detection, avoiding false alarms and providing the exact location in order to assure appropriate response, like reliable extinguishing of the fire.

Objective  

  • Detecting an unusual aerosol concentration and informing a technician so that the situation can be tackled with most appropriate measures (e.g. controlled shut down of the device).
  • In the event of a significant aerosol development pointing to an incipient fire, damage has to be minimized, e.g. by shutting down the systems and extinguishing the fire with an automated extinguishing system.
  • If there is a fire in the server room, the spreading of the fire to other areas must be prevented.
  • Timely alarming and evacuating of all people at risk.
  • Safe extinguishing to protect delicate electronic equipment, people and irreplaceable data.

Typical fire hazards

  • Overload or short circuit of electrical components (e.g. switch or inverter power supply).
  • Failure of the cooling system so that electronic components overheat considerably (e.g. power supplies and power electronics).

Typical development of a fire

In a server room which exclusively contains electrical and electronic components and devices, there is a very typical development of a fire.

  • If electrical or electronic components overheat, small quantities of aerosol are generated. If the power supply is disconnected in this phase, no fire will develop and damage can be kept to a minimum.
  • If the power supply is not disconnected, a smoldering fire will develop during which visible smoke is generated increasingly. If such a fire is detected in an early stage, it can be extinguished without problems and damage is can be kept to a minimum.
  • If no appropriate measures are taken, the smoldering fire will develop into an open fire which will cause significant damage.

Critical points

  • During a smoldering fire, only a little amount of heat is generated, meaning the aerosols do not spread throughout the whole room.
  • If the systems are cooled with increased ventilation, the aerosol concentration is diluted significantly by high air flows.
  • The extinguishing process must not cause additional damage (e.g. water damage, destruction of electronic appliances, harming of hard disks due to a high noise level during a discharge).
  • The fire has to be contained in the server room.

Solution

The fire safety concept with the corresponding response procedures must always be defined in cooperation with the experts responsible for the data center. National fire safety guidelines and recommendations have priority over the SCSP guidelines

As the lowest aerosol concentrations have to be detected in such an area, an ASD (aspirating smoke detection) with very high sensitivity is recommended for fire detection. If local regulations stipulate a multiple zone dependency (simultaneous alarm signals across two zones in the same area), in addition to the ASD a sensitive smoke detector has to be used as a minimum. An ASD can cover several hundred square meters. In this way, the server room can be monitored with one system. If additional point type detectors are required, their number and position will depend on the size of the room and the ventilation conditions.

In addition to the automatic fire detectors, a manual release button is installed so that the extinguishing system can also be triggered manually.

Automated dry extinguishing systems (i.e. systems using inert gases or clean agents) provide best protection for delicate and expensive electrical and electronic equipment in IT rooms.  But as a hard disk drive is noise sensitive and can be disrupted by the release of the extinguishing agent into the flooding zone, Siemens recommends using Silent Extinguishing for reducing the noise level during a discharge in order to ensure data integrity. For more information on Silent Extinguishing, please contact us via info@safetysolutionsng.com

The system design of automated extinguishing systems depends strongly on the size of the room and the structural conditions.

Article by Nnaemeka Nweke – IT Administrator at Safety Consultants and Solutions Provider Limited

Nnaemeka Nweke

Nnaemeka Nweke

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