Fighting fire without water


View the full story, including all images and figures, in our monthly digital edition

On the evening of April 3, 2009, a financial institution in downtown Chicago was protected from the possibility of a large fire. Earlier that evening, an electrical component in the self-contained air conditioning unit had overheated and set ablaze. The air conditioning unit was located in close proximity to highly sensitive equipment in a computer room.

Fortunately, the computer room was protected with a clean agent suppression system from Fike Corp ., Blue Springs, Mo. The system uses gaseous chemical suppressant DuPont FM-200 , which is designed to extinguish fire without the use of water. This is vital to the protection of computer rooms and data centers where the effects of water on critical electronic equipment can be as devastating as the actual flame. Fike's fast-reacting clean agent suppression system quickly extinguished the fire, limiting damage to the air conditioning unit and preventing computer room downtime. Fike distributor Reliable Fire Equipment in Alsip, Ill., which originally recommended and installed the FM-200 system, was called to assess the situation and service the fire suppression system.

"We sent technicians out that same night to download the history of the fire and reset power to the equipment," said Robert Pikula, vice president of Reliable Fire Equipment. "Approximately four surrounding detectors had detected the smoke and discharged the FM-200. The Fike clean agent system worked exactly as it should and there was no damage to the computer room."

The clean agent suppression system discharged the FM-200, minimizing the damage made to the air conditioning unit and protecting the data center from further damage. To suppress fire, FM-200 absorbs heat energy from the combustion reaction at the molecular level. The ability to absorb heat faster than the amount of heat generated by the combustion reaction essentially ceases the reaction because it cannot sustain itself.

Fike projects that the 12,000 sq ft data center, which is based on a lower floor of a high-rise building and houses client financial information, would have lost nearly $1 million/hr if there had been downtime due to the fire. The only repairs the financial institution had to make following the fire was to the center's HVAC system.

"Fike's clean agent cylinders are designed to be refilled, recharged and reused in order to reduce costs to the customer," Pikula said about the Fike system. "We knew we had to retrieve and replace the discharged cylinders quickly, so that the fire suppression system was up and running as quickly as possible."

The Chicago rescue highlights the features of a clean agent suppression system equipped with FM-200. The system requires minimal container storage space, has low ozone-depleting and global-warming potential, is safe for occupied areas, and has a short atmospheric lifetime. It also has been certified by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 9001, which ensures that the system keeps adequate records and regularly reviews itself for effectiveness.

Information provided by Fike

At A Glance

A financial institution in Chicago chose a water-free system to use in their 12,000 sq ft data center. Due to the computer equipment's sensitivity to water, the company needed a system that could extinguish the fire without the use of water.

When the center's air conditioning unit overheated and caught fire in April 2009, it was their water-free fire suppression system that saved the client info housed in the center's computers.

The financial institution had selected Fike Corp., which installed the FM-200 from DuPont to protect the company's computer room and data center equipment from fires.

The FM-200 works by absorbing heat energy from faster than it is being generated. This essentially ceases the reaction because the fire cannot sustain itself.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
2015 Mid-Year Report: Manufacturing's newest tool: In a digital age, digits will play a key role in the plant of the future; Ethernet certification; Mitigate harmonics; World class maintenance
2015 Lubrication Guide: Green and gold in lubrication: Environmentally friendly fluids and sealing systems offer a new perspective
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Cyber security attack: The threat is real; Hacking O&G control systems: Understanding the cyber risk; The active cyber defense cycle
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths
New industrial buildings: Greener, cleaner, leaner; New building designs for industry; Take a new look at absorption cooling; Offshored jobs start to come back

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.