Fire suppression systems for data centres

August 2019 Fire & Safety

Safe data centres, the indispensable backbone of today’s highly engineered society, are key for connectivity and need to be designed, implemented and operated in such a way that a high level of availability can be guaranteed. For maximum protection, a comprehensive fire safety system is needed to ensure business continuity, personal safety and damage mitigation in case of fire.

The face of fire suppression has changed substantially over the last couple of decades and managers must consider a range of different factors when it comes to their data centre fire suppression systems.

The primary fire protection systems used within data centres typically include wet-pipe sprinklers, pre-action sprinklers, and special suppression (i.e., clean agent, inert gas, or mist). Suppression systems need to consider higher-challenge areas such as automated information storage systems units and tape libraries.

“In a data centre environment where valuable data integrity and expensive equipment damage is an important factor, inert gas and halocarbons are a highly effective and viable fire suppression system,” says Andrew Worthington, general manager, Fidelity Fire Solutions, a division of Fidelity Services Group.

He says these have largely replaced halon and HFCs which previously were the agent of choice for many suppliers. “While halons are excellent fire suppressants, they unfortunately contribute significantly to stratospheric ozone depletion and have subsequently been phased out of production in most developed countries due to an international consensus to regulate the use of ozone-depleting substances through the Montreal Protocol and global regulatory authorities.”

Worthington says in order to satisfy the need of finding suitable fire suppression systems to replace halon, several fire suppression systems have been developed recently or gained renewed interest. “The bulk of the attention has fallen on inert and halocarbon gaseous agents, water mist systems, compressed-air-foam systems, and solid gas and aerosol generators.”

He says these alternative suppression systems or clean agents are now the most common non water-based protection systems in data centres today. “These gaseous agents actuate early in a fire scenario to protect the data and IT equipment.”

Gas extinguishing systems

Worthington says inert gas agents such as nitrogen, argon and helium extinguish the fire by oxygen depletion and are clean and naturally occurring gases that have no global warming potential. “Also, inert gases are not subject to thermal decomposition when used in extinguishing fires, and hence form no combustion by-products. Many of these gases also induce a higher breathing rate, which enables people to continue to function unimpaired by effects of oxygen depletion for short periods, allowing for a safer evacuation.”

Halocarbon agents, which are chemicals similar to halon with molecular structures modified to reduce or eliminate the chlorine and bromine atoms (which are responsible for ozone depletion) are also utilised. Worthington says halocarbon agents extinguish fires primarily by cooling; however, many halocarbons can have toxicological effects on humans and animals, and therefore should be a consideration when investigating the purpose and location of these systems as they are often highly pressurised and may impact the size and weight as well as layout and construction of the data centre.

“There are a wide variety of approaches to addressing issues of capacity, resiliency, cost, and schedule in data centres. Careful design that accounts for the range of possible fire scenarios allows the fire detection and suppression systems to meet reliability and business continuity goals and objectives. Commissioning is important, as designs can work well on paper but need to be properly implemented to meet the protection goals,” notes Worthington.

Fidelity Fire Solutions has experience designing, installing and maintaining these systems and will be able to provide customers with a comprehensive risk analysis and fit-for-purpose solutions to suit the exact specifications of the customer’s data centre. “Fire safety is a long-term investment that must be carefully planned to minimise any operational interruptions, to ensure the business continuity and ultimately to properly protect both people and property,” concludes Worthington.

For more information contact Fidelity-ADT, +27 11 697 7271, [email protected],

Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

How to prevent and survive fires
Fire & Safety Security Services & Risk Management
Since its launch in August 2023, Fidelity SecureFire, a division of the Fidelity Services Group, has been making significant strides in revolutionising fire response services in South Africa.

Spate of Joburg fires calls for proactive fire-safety planning
Fire & Safety
The incident of fire that occurred recently in Johannesburg's Central Business District (CBD) has brought to light the criticality of performance-based fire safety systems. It is imperative to design safety systems that are efficient and effective in managing such unforeseen events.

Beagle Watch adds fire to its portfolio
Editor's Choice Fire & Safety News & Events
Beagle Watch Armed Response and FIRE OPS SA announced the enhancement of the two companies' combined service offerings to provide professional fire safety services to Beagle Watch clients and Johannesburg residents.

Different types of fires
Fire & Safety
Fire is a powerful force of nature; according to SafeQuip, a distributor of fire-related equipment; understanding the different types of fires and how to combat them is essential for safety and protection.

SafeQuip introduces lithium fire extinguishers
Fire & Safety Products & Solutions
With the use of Lithium batteries increasing in many types of portable devices and battery storage solutions, SafeQuip, in partnership with AVD Lithex, is introducing a fire extinguisher aimed at suppressing and extinguishing, and also preventing re-ignition of lithium fires.

Modern warehouses come with added fire risk
Fire & Safety Transport (Industry)
Along with increased investments in modern warehousing in Africa, there is also a need to focus on protecting warehouses from crime, however, fire can arguably be a greater danger to business continuity.

How to prevent solar inverter short-circuits and fires
Fire & Safety
With many South Africans installing inverters as part of solar power systems to mitigate the impact of load shedding in homes and at businesses, users need to be aware of the potential fire risks.

Fidelity SecureFire steps into critical fire response space
News & Events Fire & Safety
With the majority of fire stations around the country being crippled by a lack of resources to offer effective responses, Fidelity Fire Solutions has launched its own ‘first responder’ model, Fidelity SecureFire.

Long-distance connectivity with Simplex ES Net Life Safety
Johnson Controls Global Products Fire & Safety Products & Solutions
ES Net Network Bridge allows fire alarm system data to be transmitted across distant buildings via a customer’s existing network infrastructure, improving system-wide monitoring and control in facilities and campuses where life safety networks are often widely dispersed.

Elvey Group and Technoswitch part ways
Elvey Security Technologies Fire & Safety News & Events
The Elvey Group (a division of the Hudaco Group of Companies) is relinquishing its distributorship of the Technoswitch brand, following Hudaco’s acquisition of Brigit Fire.