Water sprinklers in the server room

Tiras25
Tiras25 used Ask the Experts™
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So I walked into this newly built server room and see a water sprinklers hanging right on the top of the racks.

I never seen sprinklers in the server rooms before in my career.  Is it acceptable for the server rooms or absolutely no no?   Wonder other's opinions before I push back hard.  I understand this is not a data center but a server room for 100 users office floor.
Thanks in advance.
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Lucas BishopMarketing Technologist
Commented:
A "fire suppression system" is  generally the appropriate application for a server room. But some building codes require that sprinklers be present, in the event that the suppression system fails. Basically as a backup.

Author

Commented:
OK so that means there should be some other fire suppression system inside the server room.  If that fails then the sprinklers should go off?
AlanConsultant
Commented:
I have also seen sprinklers in server rooms - made me shudder.

You should ask the building management people to remove them, and if they say they can't due to regs, ask them which ones.  I suspect if you actually read them, there might be other options.

But maybe not :-(

Alan.
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Lucas BishopMarketing Technologist

Commented:
@Tiras25 Correct.

Author

Commented:
Got it.  Thanks guys.
What would be other options nowadays? I know halon is an older technology.  Is there other inert gas etc?
AlanConsultant
Commented:
Hi Tiras25,

(Halon 1211) should be used in confined chambers only after the evacuation of all personnel.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1675103

I believe that means it has to be triggered manually - no auto sensors, so it would not come on in the middle of the night when nobody is around (for example), meaning that, if sprinklers were the backup, then they would, presumably, come on regardless.

Simplistically, if there is a fire in your server room, for it to go out, you have to deprive it of at least one of:

Oxygen - Also potentially fatal to humans
Heat - Generally, that means using water, also potentially fatal to all the servers and equipment
Fuel - Also potentially means that everything that can burn, has burnt, including all flammable components in or around your servers

Having said that, I am certainly no expert.

Probably best not to rely on advice from EE on this one - check with your building managers as they are (supposed to be) the experts.



Alan.
Lucas BishopMarketing Technologist
Commented:
There are many newer options out there than Halon. For example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1,1,1,2,3,3,3-Heptafluoropropane
IT Consultant, Network Engineer, Windows Network Administrator, VMware Administrator
Commented:
I have seen it too, but a proper datacenter will have non water fire suppression. It used to be Halon, but this has given way to systems like the FM-200 systems.

Here is a nice blog post on it.  http://blog.instor.com/data-center-fire-suppression-solutions

Lots of times when companies build a data center, their understanding is just a separate room and the call it a data center. Generally they don't consult with IT.

A true data center will have a large amount of redundant power. Many times they will have raised flooring to cabling and redundant, independent air conditioning systems. They will also have their own security to enter. Finally they should have an approved and recommended dry fire suppression system. This might consist of banks of suppressant connected to an auto dispenser with sensors and an emergency switch.  A proper system will be capable of shutting off the ventilation, giving some type of alarm and warning and then after a predetermined amount of time, dumping the suppressant.

A Sprinkler system in a data center is usually there because people were cheap or did not know any better.
you should really check with local and state emergency services regulations regarding fire suppression in server room
John TsioumprisSoftware & Systems Engineer
Commented:
Maybe to add...there was never the intention of hosting a server room...so it was left when the servers were installed ....and it was forgotten...sometimes the eye/brain gets used to daily situations and conditions and considers them normal...that's why the 2nd look on everything just reveals too many things...

Author

Commented:
So regarding >> A Sprinkler system in a data center is usually there because people were cheap or did not know any better.>>  I totally agree!
And I want to be neither of those people :)

So I guess another question I want to ask is; what would be the most affordable dry-suppression option for the server rooms?
Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security OfficerIT Consultant, Network Engineer, Windows Network Administrator, VMware Administrator
Commented:
In this area of Florida, it is an FM200 type of system.  A lot depends on what needs to be done.  Installing say a Halon system would do you no good unless you also had the required work on the ventilation system.

Author

Commented:
Asked the building mgmt >> with a chemical system we would still need a wet system in the room per code, but with a pre-action system we would not>>  So looks like I stuck with regular sprinklers?
Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security OfficerIT Consultant, Network Engineer, Windows Network Administrator, VMware Administrator
Commented:
Many of these systems are not chemical, but gas. Dry chemical systems are general toxic for electronics, like PKP.  For example Halon and FM200 are not chemical, but discharge as a gas or vapor.  

For FM200 the agent can be safely and quickly removed through conventional air handling (turn on the AC, open the doors and windows) and will pose no danger to the respondents or the employees working in the space. FM-200™ is safe for people to breath at normal design concentrations.

Datacenters and the like, avoid pure chemical extinguishers because of the corrosive nature of the chemicals and the cleanup that they take. We are talking generally about Class C fires here and the best ways of putting them out.  Since these other systems are not chemical, there would not be a requirement for a wet system.  

In any case, you have a sprinkler system, but it is not ideal for a Class C fire in a data center.  Water and Electricity do not mix well.

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