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special hazard fire protection system

Special Hazard Fire Protection System Service and Repair

When it comes to fire protection in your facility, there can be so much information to wade through. One important fire protection system that many industrial facilities, data centers, and hospitals should be familiar with is a special hazard fire protection system.

In this article, we’ll discuss what a special hazard fire protection system is, what types of facilities need them, and some of the agents and special hazard solutions your facility might employ.

Types of Special Hazard Fire Protection Systems

A special hazard fire protection system is any fire protection system that is designed to protect a particularly sensitive or valuable asset, or that is used in an application where fire sprinklers are not appropriate.

When compared with a traditional fire sprinkler system, special hazard fire protection systems have a few specific differences:

  • They have better fire detection capabilities, and can actuate faster
  • They make use of suppression agents that are safe for people and that do little damage to the assets or products in a building.
  • They require trained, qualified personnel for system design, service, and repair.

Special Hazard Fire Protection System: When do you need one?

While not every building or industry requires special hazard fire protection systems, there are a few instances when they are necessary. In general, you need a special hazard fire protection system when:

  • Your building or facility contains a valuable or sensitive asset. Data centers and art galleries are a great example of situations when a special hazard fire protection system might be required.
  • Your fire protection system needs to protect people. While fire sprinklers are okay for most residential buildings like apartment complexes, buildings like hospitals require special hazard fire protection to ensure that people are kept safe, especially when additional hazards, like oxygen tanks, are present.
  • Your facility has a higher risk of fire hazard. Some facilities and buildings, especially manufacturing and industrial facilities, carry a greater fire risk. In these situations, having a special hazard fire protection system in the building or within machines that can actuate and suppress fires quickly can prevent greater damage from occurring.

Special hazard fire systems actuate quickly, employ suppression agents that don’t damage materials and assets in your building, and work to prevent serious fires from happening in your facility.

Special Hazard Systems Fire Suppression Agents 

Special hazard systems are known for using fire suppression agents that mitigate damage to your facility and the assets in them. In general, most special hazard systems use clean agents to suppress fires without causing water damage or leaving behind a residue that can also damage sensitive equipment and assets.

Some of the fire suppression agents commonly used in special hazard fire protection systems include:

  • FM-200 — A non-toxic gas that works to remove the heat element of a fire. FM-200 uses heat adsorption to suppress fires without leaving a residue.
  • 3M Novec 1230 — Often used for data center and other electronic facility fire protection, Novec 1230 is colorless and non-toxic, suppressing fires without disrupting sensitive electronic components.
  • Ansul INERGEN — Another popular clean agent, Ansul INERGEN combines nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide to lower the oxygen content in a room. This disrupts the combustion process, while still leaving enough oxygen in the room for a person to breathe. As a result, INERGEN is one of the best special hazard fire suppression agents for applications where people are present.
  • CO2 — Carbon dioxide is another chemically inert gas that is particularly useful for safe fire suppression. Because it’s non-conductive, it’s also great for electronic applications. CO2 comes in both high and low pressure tanks to suit a variety of special hazards, but is best employed in unoccupied facilities.
  • Water Mist Systems — Water mist systems are also commonly used in special hazard fire protection, as they provide the same, safe-for-people fire suppression qualities while mitigating the level of water damage done to assets and objects within a building.

There are a number of fire suppression agents designed to support critical asset protection. Choosing the right agent will depend on your assets, your location, and your special hazard fire protection system, which is why it’s always best to consult with a special hazard fire protection expert before making a decision.

Features of Special Hazard Fire Protection Systems

While fire suppression agents are important, another key feature of many special hazard fire protection systems is advanced detection and control. For applications that require high-level fire suppression, it’s important to suppress fires as they start. The more quickly a fire is suppressed, the less damage that occurs. For that reason, many special hazard fire protection systems also employ fire prevention technologies that detect fires in early stages. A few of the detection components available for special hazard fire protection systems include:

  • Visual Flame Detectors — Explosion-proof visual flame detectors process live video images to sense the characteristic properties of flames. When a flame is detected, the special hazard fire protection system is automatically actuated.
  • Fire Detection Tubing — Fire detection tubing is typically installed in small enclosures where there is a high risk of fire, or where there are mission-critical assets, like in machine enclosures. When a fire is detected, the tubing can immediately suppress the fire with a clean suppression agent.
  • Air Sampling Smoke Detectors — Air sampling smoke detectors actively draw in and monitor air quality to sense smoke. Because they are drawing in air, rather than waiting for smoke to pass by their sensors, they are able to detect fires at their earliest stages, where they can be quickly suppressed before any serious damage occurs.
  • Digital Linear Heat Detection — Similar to fire detection tubing, linear heat detection can detect heat anywhere along the length of the system. When heat above normal operating temperatures is sensed, the system actuates to protect your building, your people, and your assets.

The Fortis family of brands is proud to supply industry-leading specialized fire detection systems, from the Micropack Visual Flame Detection system to Firetrace fire detection tubing, Protectowire linear heat detection, and the VESDA Air Sampling Smoke Detection system. View our page on specialized fire detection for more information.

Whether you’re looking for fire protection for a data center, a manufacturing facility, or a piece of heavy machinery, it’s important to know that special hazard solutions are available to keep your people and your products safe.

If you have more questions about special hazard fire protection systems, the Fortis family of brands is your go-to resource. We design, install, service, and repair special hazard fire protection systems of every kind, and our experts would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. For more information about what special hazard fire protection systems are and how they work, or for help servicing your system, get in touch with our team!

special hazards require special solutions

Special Hazards Require Special Solutions

Fortis highly recommends implementing special solutions into your fire safety plan to tackle special hazards.

To determine what type of special solution your building requires, it helps to understand the meaning of a special hazard. Let’s dive in!

What is a Special Hazard? 

A special hazard can be defined as areas that require special hazard fire equipment and fire alarms. 

Building owners should note that special hazards are not specific fire hazards that occur as a result of certain situations or triggers, such as a flammable liquid being too close to a heat source. 

In fact, a special hazard can be a building, area, room, or a piece of equipment. NFPA Code 470 highlights hazardous materials standards for responders. A special hazard is anything from a building, material, or piece of equipment that can cause a fire in an abnormal way.  

From a fire protection perspective, certain industries bring about additional challenges in the fire safety realm. 

Where Are Special Hazards Common?

Special hazards are generally found in places like data centers, telecommunications, power generation, manufacturing and testing facilities, machinery spaces, and healthcare facilities.

 A typical fire alarm and sprinkler system simply won’t cut it for these types of buildings. 

Special Hazard Solutions

Special hazard solutions include smoke, fire and heat detection and control supported with a fire suppression system. This system will typically use a dry suppressant agent.

These solutions are designed to rapidly detect fire or heat, produce a quick warning and utilize the appropriate agent to control the fire.

Types of Special Hazards

Let’s review some of the types of special hazards so you know what to expect and if you’re protected. 

Oil Fire

An oil fire is an example of a special hazard that requires a special solution. UCLA Health lists an oil fire as “Class B.” This includes, “flammable liquids such as alcohol, ether, oil, gasoline, and grease, which are best extinguished by smothering.” 

Oil fires often start in commercial kitchens, areas where spontaneous combustion can occur, or areas where high-temperature work is done. Learn more about the hazards of kitchens in our blog, “Kitchens: More than a place to steal your coworker’s lunch.” 

Because kitchens are such a hot spot for hazards, the NFPA requires many inspections and equipment guidelines to help prevent oil fires from occurring. NFPA Code 31 is listed as the Standard for the Installation of Oil-Burning Equipment, which provides the starting point for special solutions.  

How to Extinguish An Oil Fire

In the event of an oil fire, DO NOT use water. We repeat, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE WATER. Adding water to an oil fire will make the fire grow and become a greater danger. This is where the difference between fire suppression vs. fire sprinklers is important to understand. 

Special Solutions: Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems are part of the magical formula for dealing with special hazards. Let’s review some of the systems that Fortis specializes in.

Clean Agents

Clean agent fire suppression is a term used to describe the use of inert gasses to extinguish a fire. These systems have three main components: 

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

When a smoke detector is triggered, it sends a signal to the control panel which alerts the notification devices, activating the release devices to suppress the fire. 

How Do Clean Agents Work?

Clean agent fire suppression systems are fast-acting and most effective at protecting sensitive equipment and environments because they are designed to suppress the fire in its incipient stage. They are electronically nonconducting and unlike water, they won’t ruin electronics or electrical components. 

They are most often found in server rooms, record and file repositories, and data centers that require an increased level of protection to prevent unnecessary and accidental discharge of systems.

Extra Information on Clean Agents

Inert gasses: Nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide work together by lowering oxygen content in a room below the level that supports combustion, while still allowing a person to breathe keeping your environment and your personnel safe. 

Fluorocarbon-based extinguishers are described as “clean agents” as they do not leave any oily residues, particulates, or water damage and rapidly extinguish fires with a superb weight to effectiveness ratio.

These extinguishing agents are also safe to use in occupied spaces and offer unique advantages in speed, performance, and safety. 

CO2 Systems

C02 is an effective method of extinguishing a wide range of flammable and combustible materials in both surface and deep-seated fires. Carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless three-dimensional clean agent. It is typically harmless to equipment, materials, and property preventing excessive damage to equipment and your facility in the event of a discharge. 

How Do CO2 Systems Work?

There are high and low-pressure CO2 systems. High-pressure systems use individual storage cylinders ranging from 35 lbs to 120 lbs. Low-pressure C02 systems are ideal for non-occupied fire hazards requiring large amounts of extinguishing agents in a limited space. 

Wet Chemicals

Extinguishing methods of wet chemical suppression systems are specific to the type of cooking fire that may occur in a commercial kitchen. When triggered, the system immediately discharges a liquid that, when sprayed onto the fire, cools the flames almost instantaneously.

When this liquid comes into contact with oils and fats, it creates a foam that cools the affected area and prevents the spread and the potential of reignition. 

Dry Chemical

Dry chemical is a type of fire protection system that makes use of a dry chemical powder to extinguish a fire. Most dry chemical fire suppression systems use a large tank that is filled with dry chemical powder, which is then pressurized. 

A Final Note

If your business functions in one of the environments discussed above, ensuring that you have special solutions to protect against special hazards is imperative. 
For more information, check out our fire protection solutions, here.