Server room fire supression - occupied space

Here is the situation: a small business with one single 42U rack in a room for "IT purposes". The room is about 14' long X 7' wide with 10' ceiling. There is a semi partition wall (with a door) that separates the room into inner 1/3 and outer 2/3. The rack is in the inner 1/3. The outer 2/3 is used as office space with an employee sitting there normal business hours. The partitioning wall is open at the top and bottom because the two spaces share the same AC - it is currently not possible to completely seal off the partition wall because of the AC. The only egress is the door in the outer space - the door leads to the hallway in the building. No window.

There is no fire suppression in the room - there is a smoke detector in the room that is hooked to the building central fire/security panel. The building has smoke detectors many places for fire alarm but not really any other suppression.

One of the business' clients that has data on the servers requested a gaseous fire suppression device installed in the server room. A local fire contractor surveyed the room and made a proposal. The proposal uses a Novec 1230 tank sized for both spaces, with auto actuation by heat detection (4 photoelectric detectors) and piping/fitting/nozzles. Also a control panel, electronics for manual triggering, manual abort of triggering, horn and bell in that room for warning of triggering, connection to the central panel to set off the build alarm before the tank triggers, and backup battery etc. The proposal considered the area as normally occupied because the top and bottom of the partitioning wall are open. The proposal cost is $14K.

The management balks at the cost.

Is the proposal necessary and reasonable? Somebody in the company has seen some devices like a single tank hanging on the ceiling without any piping or electrical stuff, triggered by heat, would be only a couple of hundreds dollar. Will that be a feasible alternative?
Who is Participating?
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
This is not an unreasonable price for a system that (a) meets code and (b) will qualify for a discount on insurance covering the servers, the building or both.

CO2 cannot be used in an area occupied by people.  Recycled Halon costs $20 to $30 per pound and Novec 1230 is in the same range.  You didn't specify the tank size but assuming tanks totaling 200 pounds, there is $4000 to $6000 in the Novec 1230 chemical alone.  It takes a fairly large amount of Halon or Novec to fill a space to the point where fire will be extinguished.

If the section that the server is in can be sealed off, then CO2 becomes a possibility and the tank can be smaller.  The hardware is much the same but industrial grade CO2 is cheap.
There exist self contained fire suppression units that fit inside the datarack for about 1/10 of the cost:

This is from a European company, here these are popular for protecting electronic racks in ancient buildings that are not allowed to be modified. I suppose similar units can be found elsewhere in the world.

The neat thing is that it will only protect the rack itself, so it doesn't need a large tank to fill the entire room with gas.
Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
You may also want to consider VESDA early smoke detection systems, but these are VERY sensitive, and care needs to be taken.  False alarms due to nearby building work are not unheard of.  However, you would get very early warning even in advance of flames breaking out.

But, either of the gas systems proposed will work with a small fire IN the room, but a significant blaze affecting the building will soon destroy the room integrity, and no suppression system would work.  

The only thing that will save you here is offsite backups, and if you have complete confidence that these are set up and TESTED to be working, you can then feel happier about smaller-scale suppression systems.

Page 3 of the document here:
states that only 3% of office fires are started by Electronic, Office or Entertainment equipment.  It's the guy outside with his toaster you've got to watch for...!

Oh, and make sure the room DOESN'T have sprinklers.  Wet servers are not happy servers.
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.