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Why Fires Are Such a Threat to Data Centers and Computer Equipment 

Why Fires Are Such a Threat to Data Centers and Computer Equipment 

Posted 9/6/2022

Alt Title: X Reasons Why Data Centers and Computer Equipment Are Vulnerable to Fires

If you have a thriving data center, or just a business with significant stores of computer equipment, you need to be wary of your fire risks. An ill-timed fire, with no mitigation strategy in place, could cause you to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment – and potentially face millions of dollars of consequences in the form of property damage and liability.

Why are fires such a concern? And what can you do about them?

Potential for Fires

Major fires in data centers tend to be rare – mostly because the people running data centers know just how destructive a fire can be and are prepared to take proper precautions.

These are some of the most notable potential causes of fires in data centers, server rooms, and areas with many electronic devices.

·       Short circuits and overloads. Power surges, overloads, and short circuits can all present electrical fire hazards.

·       Faulty wiring. If your electrical wiring is old, out of date, or otherwise compromised, an electrical fire may become inevitable.

·       Overheating. Proper cooling upgrades can make sure your equipment doesn’t overheat. But if those cooling systems fail, and you don’t have a backup in place, overheating could eventually start a fire.

·       Lack of maintenance (and other forms of negligence). If your employees are negligent, or if you don’t have proper maintenance and surveillance procedures in place, your risk of a fire could increase precipitously.

·       Sabotage. Don’t forget about the possibility of sabotage. Data centers are valuable locations; a disgruntled employee or a malicious competitor could be incentivized to start a fire on purpose in this vulnerable location.

Fire Threats to Data Centers

Data centers typically aren’t heavily populated, but fires still pose a massive threat.

·       Expensive equipment. You probably spent hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars building this data center, and you probably spend the same amount of money per year maintaining it. That’s an enormous investment that could be gone in a flash if a fire gets to your equipment.

·       Sensitive information. Proper data management procedures dictate storing information redundantly, in multiple different locations. Still, your data center is probably storing highly sensitive data – and you don’t want to risk losing it.

·       Water sprinklers and irresponsible suppression. Certain fire mitigation strategies can end up causing damage in their own right. If you have a traditional water sprinkler system in place, it might be able to push back the flames and prevent the total destruction of your building – but it can also cause massive damage to your electronic systems and equipment.

Fire Suppression Solutions for Data Centers

What are the solutions? How do you property manage fire threats in a data center?

·       Assess your unique risks. Before investing in any new solutions, take a moment to assess your unique risks. How likely is a fire in this building? What type of fires are your biggest threats? Are there any specific areas of your building or pieces of equipment you own that are especially vulnerable?

·       Invest in a clean agent fire suppression system. Even considering the damage they could cause, water sprinkler activation may still be preferable to dealing with a the damage from a fire. Still, an even better solution is to use a “clean agent” fire suppression system. Clean agent systems use dry chemicals designed to cause as little secondary damage as possible. These agents are just as effective as water in terms of fire suppression – and sometimes are even more effective – but they’re far superior for a wide range of applications, including use in data centers.

·       Have active monitoring and surveillance in place. Fires are much less dangerous when there’s someone to step in and control the flames; if you catch a fire early enough, you can usually extinguish it before it becomes a major problem. To accomplish this, you need to have active monitoring and surveillance in place. Ideally, there will be a responsible team on the premises at all times, keeping watch and responding to potential threats of all varieties. You should also have active monitoring equipment, including cameras, detectors, and alarms.

·       Train your employees to respond properly. What should your employees do if there is a fire? Thorough education and training will make sure all your team members are able to respond appropriately, prioritizing their own safety while simultaneously protecting your equipment.

·       Invest in cooling systems. One of the best ways to prevent data center fires is with effective cooling. If you can prevent overheating, you’ll prevent one of the biggest fire hazards in your entire business.

·       Apply redundant measures. All your systems are vulnerable to unexpected failure, so consider applying redundant measures. If your primary cooling systems fail, can backup systems take over? If your first line of fire suppression fails, is there a secondary system to take over?

·       Be ready to isolate equipment. Isolating equipment can help you stop the spread of flames and minimize your total business losses. Be ready to isolate equipment at a moment’s notice.

·       Be ready to evacuate. Even with so much money and so many significant assets at stake, your first priority should still be protecting human life. Have an evacuation strategy and multiple escape routes available for all your employees.

·       Conduct routine maintenance. Periodically inspect, repair, and maintain all your systems, including both your network equipment and your fire suppression systems. If you notice something wrong, you can catch it and repair it before it becomes a bigger problem.

·       Back up everything in a geographically separate location. Don’t assume that your protective measures will reliably keep your data secure. Always back up your data in a geographically separate location – and preferably one with similarly robust protections.

Do you have a data center you need to protect? Or is your business loaded with expensive computers and peripheral equipment? A solid fire suppression system can give you all the protection you need. Contact us for a free quote today!