When fire strikes your building, you have to be prepared. To stop the flames at its source, many buildings have adopted an automatic sprinkler system in an effort to reduce the amount of damage done to the building, but what about damage to expensive IT equipment? As businesses move to a more technology-based environment, traditional sprinkler systems prove problematic to protecting IT equipment. Luckily, more effective options exist courtesy of the innovation of fire protection engineering specialists.
Today, the installation of information technology (IT) protection is an essential part of the construction design, including the IT disaster recovery plan. The recovery strategies are based on standards for buildings, hardware and data protection. The procedures are incorporated into the building design, construction planning and impact analysis. Without the proper systems, the impact of damage or loss to IT equipment can be very significant. By selecting the right sprinkler system the damage can be prevented and controlled.
Traditional vs. Modern Sprinkler Systems in Fire Protection Engineering Tactics
Traditional sprinkler systems work by sending signals to the alarm control panels. The panel receives the alert from the zone area in the event of fire, water or smoke detection. The actions taken include notifying the offsite monitoring service, shutting down the gas supply and activating smoke exhaust fans. The advanced sprinkler systems are capable of providing the exact location of the alert. The newer addressable systems allow the installation of more devices to provide a wider range or area of coverage.
The programmable features allow door releases, controlled overrides to assist evacuation and delayed sprinkler discharges. The evacuation feature for multi-level buildings is part of the building code for some designs.
With the right sprinkler system, you can not only protect your building from fire, but also your IT equipment from both fire and water damage. If you need to protect your IT equipment, these 5 tips will help you learn more about your options, and enable you to choose the right sprinkler system for your building.
1.) Sprinkler System Types
Depending on the location, building codes and the level of protection needed the features and benefits will vary. The differences between the systems are time delays, costs of installation and maintenance.
- Deluge systems are designed to discharge water instantly over a wide area. This design consists of multiple sensors sending an alert before activating the sprinkler systems. The delay is an added protection for IT equipment against false alarms.
- Dry pipe systems work best where freezing temperatures occur. Any exposure to fire opens the value releasing a low pressure air allowing the water to flow through the system. This air release delays the water discharge.
- Pre-action system is a special dry pipe design. This system is used in water sensitive environments housing valuable contents. The pre-action system uses a multiple sensor function to prevent against accidental tripping of the fire detection system that engages the sprinklers.
- Wet pipe systems have been the most common. The sprinkler head is heat sensitive. It uses a check value to send a signal to release water into the system.
Regular maintenance and inspection of water systems are essential to protecting IT equipment. The biggest problem may be a slow water leak. Left undetected, the build-up can cause serious damage. A few drops of water near equipment can cause a short circuit to the electrical systems. The best method for reduced damage is a system that triggers the alert before water discharge. Scheduled servicing reveals small problems that can be repaired and ensure the sprinkler heads and alarm systems are functioning properly. The routine inspection points should include:
- Interior and exterior gauges
- Proper air and water pressure levels
- Visual examination of sprinklers and pipes for wear and tear
- Accurate transmissions to emergency points of contact
3.) Programmable Sensors
Once again, fire protection engineering paired with advanced technology comes to the rescue. Installing the right sprinkler system with programmable features helps to distinguish between real and false alarms. Not all IT equipment is built to sustain high levels of heat or water damage. In the event the sprinkler systems cause a short circuit, the heat will quickly intensify, creating higher levels of potential damage. The system program ensures the right actions are taken to safeguard the equipment.
As fire sprinkler systems alert the water sensors, the systems are programmed to automatically cut off the power to the IT equipment. The power disconnect command triggers an equipment backup function to secure the system’s data. This programmable feature is a benefit if the condition occurs outside of the normal work hours. In case of complete power dysfunction, a battery backup should be in place.
4.) Data Center Construction
The advancements of sprinkler system designs offer a better choice for IT equipment protection. The sprinkler systems can be customized and retrofitted to the environment. The objective is to prevent IT equipment damage, secure the building content and the essential data. These water systems offer higher levels of safety for occupants and they are less expensive to maintain. Clean agents or inert gases are alternatives as fire suppressions.
Both clean agent and inert gas systems require training on handling, maintenance and refills after each discharge. The concept of having a sprinkler system is to suppress the fire. The systems can be programmed to release water only when necessary. The process helps to reduce the potential damage to equipment. Today, the pre-action or dry sprinkler system is more commonly installed.
5.) Building Codes
Building codes and system ordinances are regulated and approved by the local authorities. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and the local authority have the jurisdiction. Non-compliance will lead to insufficient protection, loss of business and hefty fines. In July 1990, the U.S. Congress created the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Its purpose is to provide equal access to facilities and services for all Americans with physical challenges.
Building codes and standards are applicable depending on where the system is installed and the type of site occupancy. Insurance companies also encourage the right selection of sprinkler systems. The system’s reliability affects the insurance premium. Working with an experience installer and engineering company will ensure the systems comply.
The biggest factor in preventing IT sprinkler damage is recognizing how the system’s responsiveness works. Current industry news has proven sprinklers to be extremely protective and cost-effective for design, installation, permits and additional equipment.
Sprinkler systems were designed to protect the building. The multi-sensor systems were added to protect the equipment.
- Inspection schedules keep the sprinkler system working consistently and reduce the cost of repairs.
- Besides property protection benefits, sprinklers reduce the infrastructure costs and provides environmental benefits.
If you want more information on automatic sprinkler systems or how to protect your building against fire, our advanced sprinkler system engineering is equipped with all the features to protect your building in case of a fire. Learn more about our sprinkler system engineering service here, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about fire protection engineering.