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Successful – And Not So Successful – Suppressions

Here are some instances in which special hazards fire suppression systems made, or could have made, a significant difference in the outcome of events.

Successful Suppressions
Not So Successful Suppressions

Successful Suppressions

New England Gas Company

Protected Space: Corporate computer room staffed 24 hours a day. The company needed protection that was safe for both its employees and equipment.

Suppression Event: At 10:54 p.m. a power interruption was detected. By 11:09 p.m. the suppression system had discharged, triggering a call to the fire department.

Recovery: Damage was limited to the UPS device that failed. Operation was restored within an hour.

Source: Kidde Fenwal, Inc.

New York City Hospital

Protected Space: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit at a New York City Hospital

Suppression Event: While in use on a patient, a circuit board caught fire inside the MRI console. Before the technicians could reach the machine to free the patient, the suppression system discharged, eliminating the hazard.

Recovery: The fire was detected and suppressed so quickly that the damage was confined to a single circuit board. The MRI unit was repaired and tested, and began operation again in less than 24 hours.

Source: Great Lakes Chemical Company

New England Distribution Center

Protected Space: A New England-based distribution center's UPS system.

Suppression Event: The UPS system began to smolder and, upon visual inspection, burst into flames. The suppression system discharged immediately, extinguishing the flames. Power the UPS unit was automatically shut down by the suppression system.

Recovery: The local fire department responded and found no fire damage to the building, only damage to the UPS unit. The system was recharged and the owner was back in business within 24 hours.

Source: Advanced Safety Systems, Inc.

Little Flower Manor

Protected Space: Power room containing high-voltage switching panels and transfer coils.

Suppression Event: A smoke detector in the power room tripped an alarm. A fire started in the 500 KVA transfer coils and spread to a 13,200-volt switch. After holding the alarm for the required time period, the suppression system flooded the room and extinguished the fire.

Recovery: The fire was suppressed within five minutes of the initial alarm. There was no damage to any other area of the facility. Little Flower Manor installed temporary electrical equipment and resumed normal operations within hours of the fire.

Source: Great Lakes Chemical Company

Carnival Cruise Ship

Protected Space: Auxiliary generator on a cruise ship.

Suppression Event: The ship's auxiliary generator caught fire around midnight and was extinguished within minutes by the suppression system.

Recovery: Power was restored within six hours and the ship was able to return to port.

Source: Associated Press

Red Cross Data Processing Facility

Protected Space: Red Cross Data Processing Facility in South Melbourne, Australia.

Suppression Event: A fire was detected in its incipient stage by smoke detectors. The clean agent suppression system discharged and extinguished the fire in seconds. If left unchecked, this fire could have spread through the facility causing catastrophic damage. The protection of the data was a major priority because it held all donor records, donor test results as well as financial and personnel records for all Victorian branches including mobile blood banks.

Recovery: The computer was undamaged and continued to operate normally with no loss of data. The suppression system was recharged and back in operation within 12 hours.

Source: Great Lakes Chemical Corporation


Not So Successful Suppressions

Here are a few examples of organizations that probably wish they had visited this site before disaster struck.

Portland Art Gallery

Protected Space: Arson in a Portland art gallery.

Result: Damage was estimated at $200,000. Damaged artwork accounted for $190,000 of that loss. Three automatic sprinklers quickly extinguished the fire, but also soaked irreplaceable works of art and antique furniture.

Source: The Oregonian

Piano Experts

Event: A sprinkler pipe burst in the studio of a Toronto-area piano builder.

Result: Many one-of-a-kind pianos were drenched and completely destroyed. Damages to the building and pianos were estimated at up to $1 million. The full amount of the damage won't be known for some time because a small amount of contact with water, or even excessive humidity, can harm a piano.

Source: Toronto Star

National Weather Service

Event: An electrical fire inside a Cray C90 supercomputer in Suitland, Md.

Result: Firefighters sprayed the buring computer with dry chemicals that corroded its insides and destroyed the $45 million computer. The nation's most advanced weather models collapsed and the center was forced to turn to two back-up computers with only 40 percent of the capacity of the Cray. At the height of hurricane season, the NWS' capabilities were severly impacted for more than two months.

Source: Washington Post

National Archives

Event: Fire at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Md.

Result: Sprinklers activated in a 3,000-cubic-foot area of the 3.7 million-cubic-foot facility. Damage was limited to a 300 cubic foot area which contained approximately 700,000 pages of government documents. Arhivists used hot air and blotting paper in an attempt to salvage these irreplacable documents.

Source: Washington Post

Bell Canada

Event: Electrician dropped a copper rod while working on an electrical panel in a Bell Canada office.

Result: Phone lines went dead. Service was knocked out at thousands of instant teller machines. High-speed Internet connections were reduced to a crawl. Traffic lights went out at more than 500 intersections. Even some cell phones didn't work in certain parts of the city during the five-hour system crash, which Bell officials said affected 113,000 phone lines. One travel agency owner estimated that his business lost $150,000 in sales because of the disruption. At the Toronto Stock Exchange, trading volume was down 81.3 million shares as many brokers were without phone and stock-trading services. This is not a fire-related event, but it demonstrates the impact of a critical piece of equipment going down for even a short period of time.

Source: Toronto Star

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