Use of Gaseous Suppression Systems in High-Airflow Spaces: Capabilities and Knowledge Gaps

Information‐technology and telecommunications (IT/telecom) facilities provide critical services in today’s world. From a risk standpoint, the indirect impact of fire loss due to business interruption and loss of critical operations, sometimes geographically very distant from the IT/telecom facility itself, can far outweigh the direct property loss.

In the past few years, there have been dramatic changes in the equipment housed in these facilities, which have placed increased demands on HVAC systems. As a result, engineered‐airflow containment solutions are being introduced to enhance heat extraction and increase energy efficiency. From the perspective of fire‐suppression system design, the use of airflow containment systems creates areas of high‐air velocities within an increasingly obstructed equipment space, which could affect the effectiveness of transport of suppression agents throughout the protected volume.

Requirements related to use of gaseous‐agent fire extinguishing systems in IT/telecom facilities are directly addressed by NFPA 75, Protection of Information Technology Equipment, and NFPA 76, Fire Protection of Telecommunications Facilities. NFPA 75, 2013 edition, addresses these issues related to gaseous agent systems in several places.

Research Goal: Develop (a) an understanding of the operational features of datacenters, especially those employing “engineered‐aisle‐designs,” and associated elevated air flow velocities, that may pose challenges to effective transport of gaseous fire extinguishing agents discharged from clean agent systems in accordance with current minimum design requirements, and current field design and installation practices, and (b) perform a gap analysis on the topic, and (c) develop a research plan. 

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