If you have or are considering a clean agent system, you probably know the basics: an inert gas or chemical agent suppresses fires in spaces that house delicate equipment or objects, like electronics. As you might imagine, there’s quite a lot more to building a system that actually functions like it’s supposed to in order to extinguish a fire.
We study the ins and outs of these systems constantly and train our associates to ensure that they’re ready to install, maintain, and troubleshoot clean agent systems to keep them working effectively. As a consumer, however, you need to keep a few things in mind so that you can avoid trouble with a clean agent system.
1. How’s your enclosure?
Installing a clean agent system isn’t just a matter of bringing in the right devices and a fire suppression agent. You need to ensure that you have determined the retention time—that is, how long the gas needs to remain in the enclosure after it discharges. Retention time depends on the agent you’re using and on the enclosure that the agent is discharged into.
In other words, it’s fine to keep your servers in a closet, but doing so affects how your system needs to function.
“In some cases, the room just isn’t constructed for what it’s being used for, and we can work with that,” said Clean Agent Corporate Instructor Chris White. “We use a door fan test to determine the retention time for the system, and match it to the agent. If those elements aren’t aligned, you risk a fire reigniting.”
2. Is your system specifically designed for its use?
When you’re working with delicate equipment, potentially noxious gases, and other dangerous scenarios, every detail matters. Parts and systems are not at all interchangeable, and failing to have a complete system designed for your exact situation can be disastrous.
“If you’re using a CO2 system to protect a flammables storage room, for example, you have to ensure that you’re designing to the correct concentration—that the chemical that requires more agent than the rest is the one you’re addressing,” White said.
Such a system also requires proper life-safety devices within the space being protected.
“What you need depends on how you use the space,” White said. “But if it’s an occupiable space, for example, you need a lot of safety equipment, including pneumatic sirens, pneumatic time delays, supervised lockout valves, maintenance switches, proper signs and proper training for personnel.
“Carbon dioxide is a fantastic suppression agent, but it can kill you. And we run into a lot of scenarios where these systems just don’t have the proper life-safety devices.”
3. Is your system outdated?
Big changes within the industry throughout the years haven’t always been addressed in the systems we see in the field. For example, Halon 1301 was identified as an ozone-depleter and legislated out of the market. Those systems haven’t yet been eradicated, however.
“A lot of people are doing everything they can to hold on to these old systems,” White said. “The unfortunate thing is that there’s not a lot of product out there to maintain them. So we’re really between a rock and a hard place when it comes to servicing these systems.”
Nobody wants to spend money on a potentiality, of course, but there’s good reason to consider changing over to a modern system. White sums it up pretty succinctly: “How important is that data room to you? What’s the cost of losing it?”
Koorsen Fire & Security was founded in 1946 and is a third-generation, family owned business. Over the years, Koorsen has become one of the largest and most respected fire and security companies in the United States with more than 25 locations and over 700 associates. Koorsen Fire & Security is well-known for having the best training in the industry, and is insured and certified to design, install, program, service and repair virtually all fire and security products for any size business. Contact us to schedule your free on-site hazard analysis.