Fighting fire without water


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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.

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