Which Fire Protection System is Best for Server Rooms and Data Centers?

February 4 2021

Which Fire Protection System is Best for Server Rooms and Data Centers?

Server rooms are a valuable resource to any company. Not only is the hardware an expensive part of the company's infrastructure, but the data stored on those servers is often irreplaceable and incredibly necessary for business.

Protecting the technology in a server room from cyber threats and unauthorized access is top of mind of any company, but often business owners and managers forget a much more tangible threat to those servers. Fire is a danger to an entire business, but server rooms need special considerations in order to protect the sophisticated technology contained in them and ensure that in the case of a fire, your business will not be dealt a serious blow with damaged servers.

The Unique Risks of Server Rooms

Servers are valuable and often essential for business, but that's not the only reason to be diligent in regard to these rooms while designing a fire protection system for your office space or building. These rooms offer unique risks that warrant extra care to prevent fire from not only damaging your valuable servers, but also from spreading elsewhere and threatening more assets and lives.

Wiring malfunctions, overheating, overloading, or short-circuiting can all quickly cause a fire in electric-heavy rooms such as a server room. Businesses need a solution that acts quickly to extinguish fires correctly without damaging the servers. A trained fire safety technician will be able to help design a system that alleviates this risk, and limits any risk of damage that may arise.

Why Can’t A “Normal” Fire Extinguisher Be Used in a Server Room?

Fire extinguishers come in many types, so it's always important to know the type needed for any given environment or application. While many common fires can be extinguished with water or foam agent fire extinguishers, these agents can actually be a serious hazard if used in the wrong situation.

Traditional foam fire extinguishers will cause irreparable damage to your servers and the use of fire sprinklers over expensive computer equipment is a sure way to have a room full of scrap. Water and foam based fire extinguishers can also conduct electricity, so when dealing with a Class C fire (energized electrical equipment), you could be hurting the situation more than helping it if using the wrong fire extinguisher or fire suppression system.

Protecting a server room doesn't mean destroying the technology to extinguish a fire. A solution that reinforces the fire and life safety system inside the server room without risking damage to the servers themselves is the best option.

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems in Server Rooms

Clean agent fire suppression systems use non-conductive gas that's designed to extinguish fires shortly after they've started. As the name suggests, these systems are “clean,” so they leave no residue behind making them ideal for valuable electronics and other delicate environments. There are several types of common clean agent fire safety systems that can be implemented based on the environment and assets being protected.

Inert Gas Fire Suppression

Inert gas is a type of fire suppressant that safely extinguishes IT-related fires, while being safe for humans in the area and the environment. It is commonly used to protect smaller server rooms, particularly those where people are frequently.
After the fire and life safety system deploys the gas, anybody caught in the server room should be safe from the extinguishing gas, while also kept safe from the fire.

Synthetic Gas Fire Suppression

Synthetic gas fire suppression is a type of clean agent fire suppression that uses manufactured chemicals to extinguish a fire. Unlike inert systems, the gas contained is in liquid form until deployed. This means that these systems can help a fire safety system cover a much larger at-risk area than inert agents, with much lower storage and footprint.
These agents can commonly cause problems for rooms that regularly contain people however, as they extinguish the fire by lowering the oxygen level in the room. Synthetic fire suppression systems are much more highly environmentally regulated, and are often more costly than their inert counterparts.

Protecting Your Server Room

Your servers are an expensive and vital part of the functioning of your business. Their value, plus their risk of electrical fire, makes server rooms a key point that should be addressed in the development of any fire and life safety system.

Fire protection isn't just about meeting regulations; it's about protecting your business and the people, as well as the work they do, to ensure that you can avert potential risks and be successful in the future. Working with a fire protection specialist who is experienced in the specific hazards you face is essential to being prepared. Don't regret leaving your servers vulnerable. Evaluate your preparedness for fire now and take steps to keep your business safe and secure.

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