Server rooms are one of the most expensive and valuable areas of any business. With our ever-increasing dependence on technology, your company’s IT infrastructure is indispensable. If something were to damage the equipment in your server room, there’s a good chance you would suffer a serious loss of business continuity.
That’s why a server room fire is one of the most catastrophic things that can happen to any business. Taking steps to protect your server room from fire does more than protect your computer equipment—it helps to safeguard your entire business.
Common Causes of Server Room Fires
- Electrical failure in IT equipment: Overloading or short circuiting of electrical components such as switches or power inverters is the most common cause of server room fires.
- Overheated electronics: This becomes a risk when the cooling system fails and the electronic components overheat considerably.
- Subfloor wiring malfunctions: Fires can ignite due to faulty or malfunctioning wiring in the subfloor.
- Fires that originate in other areas of the building: Server rooms are more vulnerable to fires that originate elsewhere because of their many wall and ceiling cable penetrations.
Most companies can’t afford the loss of data and business downtime that results from a server room fire. Here are 6 computer and server room fire prevention tips that you can’t ignore.
1. Start with a professional fire risk assessment
The very first step in server room fire prevention is having a fire risk assessment completed by fire protection professionals. Fire prevention professionals are well-versed in local and national fire and life safety codes relating to technology centers. Specifically, NFPA 75 provides standards for automatic fire protection systems, automatic detection systems, portable fire extinguishers, and all of the other safety features to consider.
If you’re building a new server room or IT center, a fire risk assessment should be an integral part of the design process. A thorough assessment conducted in advance can help to minimize delays and decrease expenses. It will help you avoid shelling out extra money later to correct non-compliant designs or abate risks.
2. Employ the right clean agent fire suppression system
Water can potentially do as much damage to your equipment as fire itself. Clean agent fire suppression systems limit damage to computer equipment and require little or no clean up after deploying. These systems are gas-based instead of fluid-based. They respond and suppress fire quickly and cleanly. Clean agent fire suppression systems can also extinguish fires inside enclosed equipment, making them ideal for technology applications.
A fire protection company can help you determine the type of clean agent application that is right for your business. Depending on your server room’s size and configuration, you may need a specific type of fire suppression system or detection technology to best protect your investment.
3. Keep server rooms clean and well-maintained
Cleaning and maintaining your server room is not just a matter of organization—it can also help prevent fires from starting. Never use your computer or server room as a storage closet, especially for combustibles.
In addition to keeping the room clear of extraneous items, be sure to clean and maintain your IT equipment. Allowing dust and debris to settle on your equipment only adds to flammable materials and increased heat load. When fire's spark, dust and debris become kindling.
4. Cool the room according to system requirements
Keeping the IT room cool is vital to preventing overheating of equipment, which can damage sensitive electronics and create a fire hazard. Install the proper cooling equipment, and be sure to maintain it correctly to prevent any failures. Many server room designs include monitoring and alarm systems that notify you of a problem before it becomes dangerous.
5. Schedule regular inspections, both internally and externally
Inspections are critical for server room equipment upkeep and fire prevention. You should schedule periodic third-party inspections to verify that your room is safe and compliant.
If you have currently installed fire protection equipment make sure it is properly tested and maintained by a fire protection professional.
Your employees can also perform regular checks that give you the opportunity to correct any potential hazards. One big area to look for is wires and power cords. Frayed or damaged cords increase the risk of fire, as a spark could easily ignite the room. Check for damage, and make repairs quickly.
6. Provide hands-on training for IT area personnel
Your employees need to be properly trained on using portable fire extinguishers or installed fire suppression systems. Make sure you have the proper portable fire extinguishers in your IT area. Commonly used dry chemical fire extinguishers can damage sensitive electronic equipment. Only a clean agent portable fire extinguisher should be used in IT areas. When fires start, human behavior is one of the biggest factors that determines whether it will be a minor setback, or a catastrophic disaster.
Even if the fire doesn’t originate in the server room, it can easily spread there. Provide hands-on fire extinguisher training to your employees and empower them to act quickly in the face of a fire.