Partnership approach to understanding data centre fires

Published:  25 September, 2014

Groundbreaking research will answer questions such as where to place smoke detectors. 

FM Global and the US National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) recently conducted more than 100 experiments to understand and develop solutions to prevent this costly hazard.

It is estimated that companies lose an average of US$7,900 per minute when their data centres go down, with fire being one of the most feared causes of outage.

The groundbreaking research will be used to determine the optimal placement of smoke detectors in data centres—in order to detect fires at the earliest possible moment. Until now, smoke detector placement has been educated guesswork.

 “Last year, data centre fires at client facilities resulted in average losses of US$17 million,” said Dr. Louis Gritzo, vice president, manager of research for FM Global. “Our belief is that the majority of loss is preventable through engineering and research. These unique and novel experiments will help make our clients’ data centres more resilient and less prone to business interruption.”

The live fire testing took place inside a full-size mock data centre built at the world’s largest centre for property protection-related scientific research and testing, FM Global Research Campus in West Glocester, RI, USA.

Researchers mapped data centre air- and smoke-flow patterns and applied the knowledge to improve computer models for locating smoke detectors within data centre facilities. The research will inform FM Global’s property loss prevention engineering guidelines and NFPA’s consensus standards.

 “Even a small fire within a data centre can result in a significant loss of information,” said Kathleen Almand, executive director of FPRF. “The best way to conduct fire prevention and detection research is to run well-designed, full-scale tests.”

The complete scientific research findings are available in a downloadable technical report at www.fmglobal.com/researchreports. (User information required to download.) 

A video illustrating the project can be viewed here:

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