Fire Protection: Three-Levels of Fire Safety that Data Centers Must Address

Enterprise Security Magazine | Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Rack level fire protection is the final level of data center fire safety and critical for preventing damage to specialized equipment.

FREMONT, CA: Fire is a point-of-failure that affects all tier levels and can cause significant downtime. Because there are multiple fire threats in data centers, both large and small, we will focus on fire prevention in this post. In data centers, fires can start in digital equipment, cables, wiring, HVAC equipment, raised floors, suspended ceilings, and other combustibles. Because of these fire threats, data centers must address fire safety on three levels: the structure, the room, and the rack (in-cabinet).

Building Level Fire Protection

The building is the first line of defense against fire. The primary purpose is to keep the building and its occupants safe from fire. Fire sprinklers and portable extinguishers are the most prevalent types of fire defense. If there are class A combustible materials (cloth, wood, rubber, paper, and plastics) in the workplace, the building code requires one handheld fire extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet. Passive fire protection, which involves the construction of firewalls and fire-rated floor assemblies that significantly slow the spread of fire into other portions of the structure, is also an option.

Room Level Fire Protection

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) establishes room-level protection standards. The NFPA 75-Standard for the Fire Safety of Information Technology Equipment and, in some situations, the NFPA 76-Standard for the Fire Protection of Telecommunications Facilities -are standards for data center fire protection at the room level. The NFPA 75 fire code is the bare minimum that data centers must meet to pass building code and avoid penalties. Fire sprinkler systems, either wet-pipe sprinklers or pre-action fire sprinklers, are required by the standard. Water is already present in the piping with a wet pipe sprinkler system, so it can disperse quickly after the alarm goes off.

Rack Level Fire Protection

The rack level is the final level of data center fire protection. This fire protection is critical for preventing damage to specialized equipment. Fire sprinklers are required to protect the structure and the room from fire, but the equipment, which accounts for 57 percent of the room's cost, is not unprotected. The equipment must be protected from a fire at the rack level to protect the investment.

Weekly Brief