The European Data Centre Association (EUDCA) has announced the publication of a new white paper, “Fire Protection Options in Data Centres.” The new report provides a description of active fire protection systems providing automatic extinguishing of fires in white spaces, together with their advantages and potential risks associated with their use.
Fire is one of the key operational disruption risks due to fire load of infrastructures (electricity, electronics components,) which represents the latent energy produced by the combustion. Therefore, fire safety solutions are a significant consideration for the design and operation of data centres and critical facilities.
The new white paper is co-authored by EUDCA Technical Committee member, Bruno Fery, Head of Datacentre Services, EBRC, and James Perou, Senior Fire Engineer, ARUP. The authors say that data centres present more complex challenges for fire suppression than conventional office buildings due to four main features they possess: open areas, sensitive equipment, climate control and standby power.
In addition, the diverse nature of data centres – which can be anything from an entire building to a single floor, a room or even specific assets – means a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is not appropriate. An emerging challenge is increasing power density as greater numbers of high-power servers are introduced into technical space.
“As critical facilities become larger and more complex with a significant growth in power concentration, the risk of fires will increase. It’s therefore imperative the correct approach to fire safety is identified and automatic fire safety systems are designed-in from the earliest stages,” says author, Bruno Fery of EBRC.
“Fire Protection Options in Data Centres” provides a description of technology solutions for white spaces - noting that primary fire protection systems typically use two main extinguishing agents, water and gas (synthetic and inert) - as well as their deployment. Less common systems are also listed, and standards concerning the design, installation and maintenance of various solutions are detailed.
The new paper highlights that full fire protection consists of a series of active and passive measures, including, e.g., compartmentalization with fire-resistant construction elements to limit spread, technical measures including fire and extinguishing systems, and organisational and staff-related measures such as Maintenance Operating Procedures and Emergency Operating Procedures.
Author, James Perou of ARUP says; “Most fires in mission critical facilities can be prevented if common mistakes are avoided. Human error plays a large role in increasing fire risk and this must be mitigated through training and procedures that are enforced. At the same time, all data centre stakeholders should be aware of the pros and cons of available fire systems.”
In addition to the white space, says the new white paper, when designing or retrofitting a data centre, it’s important to take into consideration early smoke detection systems, as well as protecting the critical infrastructures such as electrical rooms, UPS rooms, diesel engines, carrier rooms on the principle of a risk-based analysis. Areas of particular risk such as fuel storage, loading bays, waste facilities and general goods stores must also be taken into consideration.
“Fire Protection Options in Data Centres” is available for free download from the EUDCA website, please visit www.eudca.org for further details.