Fires in data centres are rare, but when they happen, they can cause extensive damage to your business. A good fire protection system gives you peace of mind. There are four elements to good data centre fire protection: mitigation, detection, suppression, and recovery. You should have measures to prevent fires, alert staff in the event of a fire, extinguish or control fires, and repair facilities after a fire has occurred. If you live in England and plan to install fire protection in your office/home, just Google it, for example, fire alarms Manchester, and find the best company.

What Are Various Aspects That Can Cause a Data Center Fire?

A data centre is prone to fire for many reasons. In addition, there are digital equipment, cables, raised floors, wires, HVAC systems, and suspended ceilings.

Fire Protection Benefits for Data Centers

Here are some fire protection benefits and ways to prevent fires with alarms:

Fire mitigation

Despite being the easiest, least expensive, and most overlooked aspect of fire safety, mitigation is often overlooked. Do not store flammable materials, such as cardboard boxes and plastic packaging, in the data centre. Such materials contain particles that should not be brought into the data centre. A yearly infrared scan of your main electrical connections is recommended. Changing IT loads may cause wires to expand and contract. Electrical fires are frequently caused by loose connections, and thermal imaging can detect these before they become dangerous.

Fire detection

Code requirements include smoke detection. If you don’t want to shut down your data centre, you can use dual-interlocked systems with ionization and infrared sensors. Both must be activated before the alarm goes off.

A better option is early detection aspirating systems, which can detect smoke earlier than standard heads. The Xtralis VESDA, which stands for very early smoke detection apparatus, and Honeywell FAAST, for fire alarm aspiration sensing technology, are the most common systems used in data centres. Smoke detectors collect air samples through small pipes and distinguish between smoke and dust. Fire threats can be identified and extinguished quickly with portable extinguishers when they are detected with early smoke detection. A fire suppression system featuring an aspirating system is one of the least expensive components.

Fire suppression with water

Fires can be suppressed through various methods, although gas and sprinklers are the most common. Codes require sprinklers, which activate when fires melt fusible links in the heads and flood the building with water. As a result, many data centres use dry-pipe, preaction, and dual-interlocked systems to avoid damage and malfunctions. The system can alert you to leaks before water escapes by applying nitrogen or compressed air to keep pipes rust-free. 

During a fire, the fusible links in the heads melt, and then water enters the system. Such systems have the drawback that they often accumulate more smoke and fire damage than traditional wet-pipe sprinkler systems before they flood the room with water. Fog mists disperse water in tiny droplets that evaporate to remove heat from fires, but not enough to harm equipment. Mist also penetrates cabinets where sprinklers might not and suppresses smoke, which can be as harmful as the actual fire. Fog mist works as a sprinkler substitute depending on local codes.

Fire suppression with gas

Inert gas and clean agent are two types of gas-based systems. A clean agent system removes heat from the fire triangle. People can still breathe, and fire cannot burn in inert gas systems. By combining atmospheric gasses in a closed space, inert gas systems reduce the oxygen percentage to below 15% so that fire cannot burn, but people can still breathe.

A very high-pressure tank requires a significant amount of storage space. A fire can also smolder and emit smoke even when suppressed with only inert gas. It is possible for gas-based systems to create high levels of noise when discharging that can damage high-density disk drives. For mitigation of this damage, most manufacturers will provide lower-velocity heads. 

Additionally, gas-based systems must have rooms sealed and ceiling tiles clipped into place, which is an additional cost compared to water-based systems.

Hybrid systems, such as Victaulic’s Vortex system, can suppress fires with water and reduced oxygen.

Recovery from a data centre fire

It is expensive to recover a data centre. In a hard shutdown of IT hardware, a full recovery could take several days. Some cases, replacement equipment must be obtained and configured. In addition to being messy and potentially harmful, water can also be difficult to clean up if it enters your hardware. It is always better to minimise your chances of a fire from the beginning, implement an early warning system, and ensure that someone can respond quickly if an alert occurs during the night.