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  1. #1
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    Default Tactics for Fire in Data Centers

    Doing a research paper on Fire Fighting Tactics in Large Data Centers. Finding plenty of info on suppression systems but very little on tactics. Any suggestions on articles would be very helpful


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    Gotta be real careful. Those places are hazardous especially with the 'firewire' connections on the machines and CD/DVD burners let alone the 'flash' graphics..... (sorry couldn't resist)

    In all honesty - cutting all power is likely one of the biggies followed by good ventilation. Most data centers have redundant power and redundant AC which also ought to be cut. Even with it cut, there is a potential for energy to remain with UPS and Power filters for a while. Many also have built in supression systems of non-damaging agents as well so if all works the way its supposed to, its mostly overhaul. If that fails, there can be lots of hazards with LOTS of wires running around above and below the floor (in cable trays/troughs). Many have raised cielings and drop ceilings with infrastructure above for more cabling and AC (ductwork and in some cases - AC units). Its not a place I would really want to crawl into if there was a good fire going.

    As for salvage - the data should have offsite backups if its that important and the servers are generally commodity items. Best guess is that if the FD is called, insurance will replace the all of the equipment even if some of it doesn't look damaged. (If I had a fire where the FD came in my little server room at work - 75 or so machines - insurance would replace all 75 machines no questions asked. Machines are cheap - downtime costs money and machines that likely sucked smoke through them with their fans running full blast due to the ambient temps are suspect.

    I guess to me, a data center is a 'risk little' environment unless someone is confimed missing. They generally have few visitors and log sheets of who is where for security so onsite accounting should be very good.

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    Default Tactic Post

    As a volunteer FF and computer programmer I had put a similar post on this forum sometime ago when I thought about writing a program that would, depending on the type of incident, recommend potential tactics to be followed. Sort of like a flow chart for fire fighting. The prevailing opinion was this would be very hard, if not impossible to do because of the rapid changes that occur on the fire ground. There was however some support for using such a program as a training tool.
    All that said, I believe that we may be moving toward a tool that while it may not dictate tactics, will play an important role in keeping the incident commander informed of changing conditions by the constant monitoring of a number of variables coming from sensors both inside the structure as well as sensors on the firefighters themselves.
    I'd be interested in any references you find.
    Regards,
    Tom

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    Oh and google data center pictures for some examples of what I said:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...cture&aq=f&oq=

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    Default Sorry hit enter too soon

    mquijano,
    Sorry hit enter before I was done. With regard to tactic for data centers, there is a short section in John Norman's book Fire Officers Handbook of tactics relating to electrical fires in general, but nothing specific to data centers. He does make reference to the use of non conductive extinguishing agents for such fires. That said, water based systems are still used for fire suppression in some data centers so the same rules will apply as with any building using such systems, although in the computer room itself a gaseous system may be used. The good news is because of the importance of data centers both detection and suppression systems are usually good, so hopefully by the time you get there the fire has already been attacked and its a matter of de-energizing the fire and mopping up. Interestingly, the nature of data centers is changing as we move from the large mainframe systems to server farms. Another change is data is now committed to disc drives rather then tape. The one thing I always worried about was the fact most data centers had elevated floors to carry all the electrical conduit and this was one place you had to think about having fire right below your feet.
    Good luck with your paper and I hope you'll share what you found.

    Regards,
    Tom

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    Given that the objective is to preserve property the use of water should be a last resort. Any good company will have an off-site data backup and depending on how critical the operation is may even have a redundant system set up miles away.

    Typically data centers are protected with a halon type system. Realize halon was removed as a result of the Montreal protocol because it was supposedly depleting the ozone.

    Key points are that most data centers have raised floors. They have cable runs that route the cables. Some are very clean, some are an absolute cluster, hence a tripping hazard.

    As stated, most have some sort of back up power that will supply power for minutes up to hours. What this means is that even though the power is cut by the utility, the systems can still be powered.

    Another thing to think about is that a properly designed data center in a multi-story building will be placed in the center floors. Putting the data center on the top floors runs the risk of damage do to leaks in the roof. In the lower rooms you run the risk of flooding.

    The other thing to understand that some of these systems could be Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA). You need to know if these systems are controlling other things like nuclear reactors and such. Pulling the plugs could have devastating effects.

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    A properly designed Data Center offers little hazard. My daytime job is the DC to daylight communications person for a Hospital (radio, phones, microwave, repeaters, UPS systems, etc.)

    The UPS subsystems are on the life safety branch, with N+1 generators behind it. When they were updated, we checked with the local AHJ to ask what they wanted. Here's the list:

    * Floor plan in AutoCAD format for preplan
    * Floor tile lifters on a wall mount near each door
    * Location of EPO switch for UPS
    * All cabling is CMP.
    * Underfloor VESD
    * VESD detection in the CRAC (computer room air conditioning)
    * Pressure test the room envelope to keep the Halon in place.
    * Last line of defense: Wet pipe sprinkler system with quick response heads and a k factor selected for the piping size

    As noted, our backups are stored off site, with a plan to replace everything in the data center updated monthly. The only thing I would have added is a knox type remote EPO in the hallway outside the datacenter

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    Default good points

    Scarecrow and spare parts gave some excellent suggestions, especially about knowing just what operations the data center is controlling. One other factor that might be considered is the roof weight load because of the need to cool computer equipment the roof may be carrying a higher then normal AC weight load.
    I assume when talking about data centers your also talking about the building that houses the data center as well. In my building just getting to the data center would be a problem with the mass of cubicles causing a maze like condition that could easily get you lost, not to mention the fire load that's generated by the cubicles and all the paper material they contain.
    I don't know if it would be of any value for you to see if those departments in cities where say Microsoft or google reside have any specific SOP/G's they might share with you.

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    What ever happened to good ole halon?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnyirons2 View Post
    What ever happened to good ole halon?
    Still in service in many Data Centers. There is no legal reason to retire a system until OEM service parts are no longer available. (EU required mandatory decommissioning of fire extinguishing systems with halons before 31st December 2003)

    That being said, as 1211/1301 Halon is no longer produced, recharge costs will continue to escalate until it is more economical to replace the system with an alternative clean agent (Inergen, FM200, CO2, etc.)

    My site is exploring replacing the system so we can sell the unused halon to a halon recycler.

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