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Is halon fire suppression safe in server/telcom rooms?

Posted on 2008-10-08
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-05-18
It looks like I'll be going to a clients server room where they are using a halon fire suppression system (California).  I believe halon systems are illegal to purchase now, but it seems to be a existing system that predates such laws.  But is the legality of halon due to the hazard to the ozone layer or the hazard to the occupants? (sucking the oxygen from your lungs)
Question by:Marketing_Insists
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LVL 17

Accepted Solution

Anthony Russo earned 800 total points
ID: 22672837
I used to be in a Fire Protection Business. The legality came to be due to the hazard to occupants. Halon systems do remove the oxygen from the air to extinguish a fire, and if a person is trapped in a small room with an excessive amount of halon, there is the chance of asphyxiation.



Assisted Solution

Patrick49er earned 400 total points
ID: 22672942
From what I have been told by inspectors, you will not be able to purchase Halon.  They use Inergen now, which is what we have in our server room.  It does not "suck" out the oxygen, but rather lowers it to below the level that a fire requires but still at a level where humans can breath.
LVL 17

Assisted Solution

by:Anthony Russo
Anthony Russo earned 800 total points
ID: 22673038
Inergen is safer for just such a reason. Can the halon system kill someone? Yes. Is the halon system likely to kill someone? No, but the chance is there. As long as your server room doesn't have a huge oversized halon system for it's size, then there should be no reason to replace it if it is functioning, but the Inergen system would be safer.
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Expert Comment

ID: 22673255
Agreed with AnthonyRusso.  I am not sure about your ability to recharge them if they ever discharge, though.

Assisted Solution

JWSmythe earned 400 total points
ID: 22673327

  Check the Montreal Protocol.  Halon will be very much a thing of the past soon.

  In general, if Halon is released, RUN.  The maximum safe level is 7% not to be exposed for more than 15 minutes.  Fire suppression provides more.  Lots more.  You may (may) be safe around a little leak, but that's about it.

  I was told that oxygen masks were required and any occupants were required to be trained in it's use before entering a halon equipped space.  If it's a requirement, there are many places that are not in compliance.  I've been pointed towards server rooms that not only don't have masks and I wasn't informed about the halon fire suppression system, and I did not have a safe fast way to exit.  That is, I would have to pop two security doors that required badge access and a hand scan.  If the systems were not interconnected properly, I could be trying to open the first door as I passed out.  But, I'd leave an unburnt corpse, so I guess that's ok.

  Going to the client site, you run the risk of it going off while you're there.  You also run the risk of getting cancer by breathing the air in California. :)  I lived there for 5 years, I probably cut 10 years off my life expectancy, which means I have .... ajjigoij;owega ack.
LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:Anthony Russo
ID: 22673598
Stay away from the light JW!!!!!
LVL 19

Expert Comment

ID: 22677054
Well, according to a reliable source (Deus Ex, the computer game) if you run into a room with it's halon system is full swing, you suffocate and die. Even though you're a nano technology-enhanced super soldier...

So I think, as mere humans, they're probably not too safe... ;)
LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 22679775
In my server room, our system is supposed to trigger at 180 degrees as I recall. I simply will not be in that room when the temp even gets close to that temperature... Whether it's Halon or Inergen!

So I guess I am not worried about dying from it.... unless God forbid it fires for no reason! Arghhh!



Expert Comment

ID: 22680805


  That 180 would be at the sensor, not the actual ambient temperature in the room.  And ya, worry about it firing for no reason.  Would a dead short or open circuit trigger the system as an unrealistic high temperature?  

  Do a google search on the flame temperature of a disposable lighter.  :)
LVL 23

Assisted Solution

Mysidia earned 400 total points
ID: 22686302
Just ask the BOFH.  He was legendary and loved his Halon, dangerous stuff.
I think it's both...  use of Halon banned due to danger to the environment.
Use of Halon fire suppression banned because it's a bit dangerous to occopants.

The environmental concerns may be the reason cited for banning it; but
if it made people safer,  it would be allowed anyways.
But Halon doesn't make people safer, it makes expensive equipment safer.


""Halon!" I cry.
The PFY dashes over and switches the fire alarm on.
"What the hell are you doing?!" the boss cries in terror.
Nothing happens.
"There's a wiring 'fault'," the PFY says. "The fire alarm switch holds off the Halon, while the Halon-hold-off switch turns it on."
"What did you give him that crap for?" the PFY asks. "It's horrible to use and always gives off tons of smo..."

His question is answered as the computer room fire alarm triggers.
We watch through the viewing window for a while as the engineer fumbles with the Halon Hold-Off switch, which some Bastard appears to have epoxy glued open.

Of course, we let him out before he passes out. Just...
Call me Mr Kind-hearted.

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