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Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher to Protect Electronic Equipment

Fire extinguishers are everywhere. You’ll find them in homes, businesses, boats, cars and just about anywhere there is a risk of fire. In addition, if you look closely, you’ll notice that are many different types of fire extinguishers and extinguishing agents.

It is important to choose the right type of fire extinguisher agent for the type of fire you want to extinguish. Some extinguishing agents are designed to put out fires caused by wood or paper. Others are designed for protecting your home or business from fires caused by grease or paints. Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher agent can result in an ineffective effort to suppress the fire and cause unintended damage to sensitive equipment.

Our focus today is on what you need to do to protect your sensitive electronic equipment from a devastating fire that could cause lasting damage to your business. For example, using an ABC multi purpose class fire extinguisher on a fire in your computer room would likely cause extensive damage to your equipment and data.

It’s important to remember that there are five major classes of fire based on the fuel source and each requires a different extinguishing agent to suppress the fire.

  • Class A: Fire with combustible materials as its fuel source, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and many plastics
  • Class B: Fire in flammable liquids, oils, greases, tars, oil-based paints, lacquers and flammable gases
  • Class C: Fire that involves electrical equipment
  • Class D: Fire with ignitable metals as its fuel source
  • Class K: Fire with cooking materials such as oil and fat at its fuel source

There are two primary types of fire extinguisher systems used in server rooms: portable handheld fire extinguisher and piped fire suppression systems that disperse gaseous and chemical agents to suppress the fire. The extinguishing agents used in both systems are designed to minimize the damage to sensitive electronic equipment.

Modern fire suppression systems make increasing use of ‘clean agent’ chemicals to fight the fire. Clean agents are non-toxic, non-conductive gaseous materials. Clean agent systems have proved to be just as effective as water based systems and have the advantage of minimizing damage and providing for a quick cleanup of the fire area.

There are four key types of extinguishing agents used to protect electronic equipment:

Halon: One of the oldest and most effective clean agents is halon. It leaves no residue when used and has proved very efficient at controlling electrical and electronic fires. The production of halon (bromochlorodifluoromethane) has been banned for years, but the EPA permits the recycling of halon, and it continues to be in use. The inhalation of halon can be toxic and should be used with a breathing apparatus.

Halotron: Halatron has been developed as an alternative to halon. It has less ozone depleting qualities than halon and has proved to be an effective alternative.

Cleanguard: Cleanguard is specifically designed clean agent to protect commercial and industrial facilities that contain sensitive equipment that could be harmed or destroyed by water, foam, or dry chemical agents.

CO2: Another clean agent is CO2 based fire extinguishers. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is widely available, and its versatility in fighting different kinds of fires makes it worth considering. CO2 puts out the fire by robbing it of oxygen and smothering the fire. It leaves no residue and is non-corrosive. CO2 gas is very cold, and care should be taken not to expose the skin to CO2 during discharge.

In many companies, the data center operates 24 hours a day and personnel are not always present in the server room. The surest protection is to install an automated fire suppression system that utilizes one of the recommended clean agents. All Florida Fire Equipment can develop an automated detection and suppression system sized for your server room that will operate independently of the building sprinkler system, which is likely to be water based.

Office settings should also have portable clean agent fire extinguishers available on the premise to deal with any small and localized fire that may not be hot enough to trigger the automated system.

All Florida Fire Equipment has been servicing the fire protection needs of businesses in the greater Tampa area since 1999. We can quickly evaluate your server room needs and advise you of the best and most cost effective options to protect your sensitive electronic equipment.

If you are anywhere in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Lakeland, Largo, Sarasota, or Bradenton areas, we are just a phone call or email away. Call us at 727-525-5950, or email us at [email protected] If you prefer, fill out our easy Contact Us form, and we’ll reach out to you.

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