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Data Center Fire Protection

Friday, August 12, 2016  
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Although there is a low probability of fire in data centers, a small fire in a single piece of electronic equipment can result in huge damage and costly interruption of IT operations and services.

Lost revenue is a direct result of unplanned downtime. The Aberdeen Group estimates the average loss at $138,000 per hour. Indirect costs — such as lost employee productivity, the cost of time to recreate lost work, damage to a firm’s reputation or brand, and losing customers — are more difficult to quantify but perhaps just as significant. Therefore, very early warning fire detection, which can be provided by aspiration systems, is critical for identifying such small fire events like precursor smoldering or overheating equipment.

As data center criteria evolve, fire protection technologies and strategies continue to acclimate to provide integrated solutions.


Although spot detectors are sometimes considered for these contained applications, their performance is often impaired by the high airflow needed in a data center and the limitations of detecting smoke at a spot location subject to high airflows. Air sampling detection can overcome these limitations and offer advantages over spot detectors. These systems operate over a wide range of airflows, from 0 to 4000 fpm, and can be programmed for sensitivities ranging from early warning to very early warning type detection.

Data center fire protection strategies often integrate numerous facets into one solution, such as a combination of suppression and smoke detection systems.

When suppression systems are installed as part of a data center’s fire protection strategy, there is a need to identify and investigate an alert or alarm condition prior to an extinguishing suppression system’s operation. Depending on the suppression system used, there could be a need for a fire detection system interface to initiate sprinkler pre-action valve operations or damper-closing operations prior to clean agent release or to shut down HVAC systems and other equipment.

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