When it comes to addressing physical security needs for a data center, protection against fire is one of the major aspects that needs to be covered. Today, data centers in the US need to comply to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 75 and 76 revised standards to ensure that fire suppression mechanisms are in place. What is also interesting is that standard compliance is covered under jurisdiction, so avoidance or lack of adherence to these can result in severe consequences.

NFPA 75 and 76: Data Center Fire Suppression StandardsThe NFPA 75 is the Standard for the Fire Protection of Information Technology Equipment — 2013 Edition – and focuses on data centers. The NFPA 76 is the Standard for the Fire Protection of Telecommunications Facilities — 2012 Edition – with a focus on all aspects that are impacted by public telecommunication.

The revised standards have a considerable impact on data centers that use containment cooling. Containment offers great benefits to data center efficiencies by separating the hot and cold aisles. This, however, can prove to be extremely dangerous in case of fires, since fire detection becomes more difficult. Therefore, new revisions to the standards had to be introduced to address these aspects.

According to the new revisions, fire protection sprinklers need to be redesigned so that they cover all areas of contained aisles. The other option suggested is to have auto containment panels in such a way that the enclosures are integrated with the fire detection system. In this solution, the barriers to the containment aisles open up automatically in the event of a fire. Electrical containment is the more expensive option of the two and hence not as widely adopted currently.

The NFPA 75 requires that data centers install smoke detection systems that are in compliance with the NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code so as to give the earliest warning of a fire. The NFPA 76 has slightly different requirements with regards to the smoke detection systems that need to be installed. For facilities with telecommunication equipment in an area above 2,500 square feet, the standard requires Very Early Warning Fire Detection (VEWFD) detection systems to be used. For rooms below 2,500 square feet, the Early Warning Fire Detection (EWFD) system is required.

When it comes to prevention against natural disaster such as fires, any costs related to risk mitigation will be justified when compared to the cost of damage that will be incurred in case of an actual fire. It is always better to be safe than sorry and following standards such as the NFPA is surely a step forward in the right direction. For more NFPA compliance information for data centers, do get in touch with the data center experts at Lifeline Data Centers.

Alex Carroll

Alex Carroll

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Alex, co-owner, is responsible for all real estate, construction and mission critical facilities: hardened buildings, power systems, cooling systems, fire suppression, and environmentals. Alex also manages relationships with the telecommunications providers and has an extensive background in IT infrastructure support, database administration and software design and development. Alex architected Lifeline’s proprietary GRCA system and is hands-on every day in the data center.