If you’re familiar with fire sprinkler systems, then you’re familiar with the most common form of fire suppression. Rather than water, which can cause major damage to property and especially electronics, deploying more advanced fire suppression systems mean using gas, chemicals and/or foam agents to suppress the fire with no residue left behind (leaving no damage). Hear from our resident expert, Shane Gober, on the ins and outs of this life- and equipment-saving process!
Fire Suppression 101
The goal of fire suppression may seem obvious but it’s not the same as our typical fire safety spiel. If the building cannot be saved for any reason, fire suppression allows you to save the priceless people and your expensive equipment inside. If Business A owns 50 transformers at a price of $400/each, that’s $20,000 saved so all is not lost even if the building itself doesn’t survive the fire. Add up all of the other electronics and valuable assets, it’s easily in the six figures for most companies and millions for many.
How Does Fire Suppression Work?
The key to a good fire suppression system is detecting the fire straight away via heat, smoke and other warning signs. By applying a substance (gas, chemicals, foam), the fire is extinguished (smothered) before it can do catastrophic damage to your equipment, not to mention major downtime trying to replace it.
Which Industries Need Fire Suppression?
Since water doesn’t work when oil, gas and other highly combustible substances are present, fire suppression systems are necessary for any facilities where those chemicals are present. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are a great example along with power companies, oil rigs, data centers, paint booths and turbines just to name a few.
What Is Used to Suppress Chemical Fires?
Though they don’t receive a lot of press, there are numerous advanced options that have been developed and deployed since the 1980s.
3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid
This electrically non-conductive vapor rapidly removes heat in mere seconds to extinguish a fire before it starts. Stored as a liquid in cylinders pressurized with nitrogen and discharged as a gas, it evaporates 50 times faster than water which is how it's able to leave no residue behind.
This compound of carbon, fluorine and hydrogen, ECARO-25 is stored as a liquid and discharged as a colorless, electrically non-conductive vapor. This gas does not obscure vision and no residue is left behind. It is sometimes used as an alternative to Novec™ 1230 .
A bladder tank and proportioner work together with a foam concentrate to produce a foam less dense than the liquid it’s built to protect when mixed with water and air. At the surface level, it separates the fuel from oxygen while working to smother (or cool) the fire while simultaneously creating a vapor barrier to prevent reignition.
INERGEN Gas (150-BAR & 200-BAR)
When smoke is detected, INERGEN gas is deployed. It mixes with air to quickly fill the room and rapidly suppress the smoke or fire. Made of nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide, it has nearly the same density as normal atmospheric air and, therefore, is safe for people and the environment.. The carbon dioxide component allows for adaptation to the reduced-oxygen environment caused once INERGEN is discharged. Oxygen is reduced just enough to suppress combustion while stimulating breathing efficiency (forcing deeper breaths and more efficient use of the oxygen that is available). People and property damage are completely avoided when this gas is deployed!
Designed just like any gas suppression system, the nozzle turns liquid water into vapors as its being discharged. Water mist takes the heat out of the fire and does not damage your electrical equipment as fire sprinkler systems do. We “total flood” the room with vapor (30 seconds or less), then seal the room so that the vapors don’t leak out. In order to be effective, we let the water mist vapors work for 10 minutes so reignition is not possible. Water mist fire suppression systems are non-toxic and safe for people, too.
What is the Fan Integrity Test ?
The fan test is used in hazards to verify that the leakage in the room is not greater than the gas being put into it. The gas needs “sealed” inside the room for a minimum of 10 minutes to extinguish the fire and prevent reignition.
A fan integrity test can be used in multiple ways. First, it can be used on a new hazard when you want to verify that there isn't leakage in the room preventing extinguishment and reignition. Second, it can be used if any modifications have been made to the hazard. A fan test needs to be run for verification of leakage.
At Midwest Alarm Services, we are expanding our fire suppression team. Contact us for your design, installation, inspection and repair of our game-changing fire suppression systems.