What are the Different Types of Special Hazard Suppression Systems?

November 23 2021

What are the Different Types of Special Hazard Suppression Systems?

The use of traditional water-based fire sprinkler systems may be impractical or hazardous in specific business environments. A water-based fire sprinkler may cause more damage and lead to costly downtime in facilities that house costly equipment, irreplaceable assets, or hazardous materials.

On the other hand, special hazard suppression systems enable building owners and facility managers to quickly detect and suppress fires without jeopardizing business continuity or incurring catastrophic damage to crucial business assets.

Whether you operate a data center or manage a healthcare facility, building owners and facility managers should know the various types of special hazard fire suppression systems available to accurately identify the system that is best suited for their building's unique special hazard areas.

5 Types of Special Hazard Suppression Systems

There are numerous types of special hazard suppressions systems, each using a unique suppression agent. Special hazard suppression systems are optimized for different business environments and certain types of fire.

Special hazard suppression systems are organized into five main categories: dry chemical, clean agent, commercial kitchen, foam, and CO2.

Dry Chemical Suppression Systems

Instead of inert gas or chemical agents, dry chemical suppression systems release dry chemical powder - typically sodium bicarbonate or mono-ammonium phosphate - into a designated space to extinguish a fire. Since dry chemical suppression systems dump large quantities of powder to suppress a fire, they require extensive cleanup and must be recharged after each activation. Each dry powder extinguishing agent is used for different types of fire classifications. 

  • Sodium Bicarbonate - Used for Class B and some Class C fires.
  • Mono-Ammonium Phosphate - Used for Class A, B, or C fires.

To maintain regulatory compliance, dry chemical suppression systems must adhere to NFPA 17 and NFPA 33.

Common special hazard areas protected by dry chemical suppression systems include:

  • Dip tanks
  • Auto paint booths
  • Total flood applications in non-occupied area
  • Storage rooms that contain hazardous materials or flammable liquids

Clean Agent Suppression Systems

Clean agent suppression systems use chemical agents or inert gas that does not leave a residue upon evaporation to quickly extinguish Class A, B, and C fires in their incipient stage. Common types of clean agent suppression systems include:

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One of the benefits of using clean agent suppression systems is their extinguishing agents are safe for humans and the environment. These special hazard systems are safe to use in regularly occupied spaces, have a low Global Warming Potential (GWP), and have a short to no atmospheric lifetime.

To maintain regulatory compliance, clean agent suppression systems must adhere to NFPA 2001.

Common special hazard areas protected by clean agent suppression systems include:

  • Museums
  • Electrical cabinets
  • CNC and EDM industrial machines
  • Record/file repositories and libraries

Commercial Kitchen Suppression Systems

Water cannot extinguish kitchen fires. Installing a traditional water-based fire sprinkler in a commercial kitchen will cause burning grease to splash, significantly increasing fire spread speed. Kitchen fires must be diffused at their fuel source with a UL-300 compliant automatic fire suppression system installed and inspected by experienced licensed technicians.

When a commercial kitchen suppression system activates, gas or electric supply shuts off automatically, and chemical extinguishing agents discharge to help smother flames and interrupt oxygen flow. Chemical agents react with cooking oils and fats to produce cooling foam to prevent reignition. Once a kitchen fire is safely suppressed, the foam compound produced can be cleaned using a cloth.

To maintain regulatory compliance, commercial kitchen suppression systems must be UL 300-compliant and adhere to NFPA 17A and NFPA 96.

Common special hazard areas protected by commercial kitchen suppression systems include:

  • Restaurants
  • Cafeterias
  • Food trucks
  • Sports stadiums and arenas

Foam Suppression Systems

Foam suppression systems use an aerated foaming agent that suppresses fires by isolating the ignition source from oxygen. When the system detects a fire, large quantities of high-expansion foam are quickly discharged throughout the designated area. These special hazard fire suppression systems are typically installed in spacious areas and areas where there are large quantities of flammable or combustible liquids. While foam suppression systems are less likely to cause structural damage, the cleanup can be extensive and result in lengthy downtime.

To maintain regulatory compliance, foam suppression systems must adhere to NFPA 11, NFPA 409, and NFPA 1150.

Common special hazard areas protected by foam suppression systems include:

  • Refineries
  • Warehouses
  • Aircraft hangars
  • Refueling stations

CO2 Suppression Systems

CO2 suppression systems use carbon dioxide (CO2) to quickly suppress various Class A, B, and C fires. High pressure and low-pressure CO2 suppressions systems range in size from 50 pounds to 60 tons and protect anything from large rooms to a singular piece of equipment. CO2 is a colorless, odorless, and electrically non-conductive gas, so there is little to no clean-up after activation and no extinguishing agent residue that could damage sensitive equipment. CO2 special hazard systems are only installed in areas that are typically unoccupied and generally inaccessible to employees and customers.

To maintain regulatory compliance, CO2 suppression systems must adhere to NFPA 12.

Common special hazard areas protected by CO2 suppression systems include:

  • Vaults
  • Server farms
  • Engine rooms
  • Power plants

Choosing the Right Special Hazard Fire Suppression System for Your Facility’s Needs

Special hazard fire suppression systems neutralize and extinguish fires without compromising business continuity, endangering building occupants, or destroying the critical assets they were designed to protect.

However, the process for selecting a suitable special hazard suppression system for your unique application is complex and depends on many individual factors. Building owners and facility managers should partner with an experienced fire protection company to design, install, and maintain a special hazard fire suppression system tailored to the special hazard areas present in their facility.

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Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems: A Guide For All Business Environments
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