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Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

More Than Halon Replacements

Resources for Clean Agent Systems Plan Review and Inspection

Clean agent technology has evolved over the years.  The technology for the suppression as well as the application has grown leaps and bounds over the last five years.  Manufactures have invested money and energy to making systems which will protect critical resources such as computer server rooms or telephone data areas.

Most model building and fire codes refer the inspector and plan reviewer to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2001 Standard on Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems.  The most recent edition is the 2008 edition which has some changes to the body over previous years.

NFPA 2001 contains the minimum requirements for total flooding and local application clean agent fire extinguishing systems.   A common misconception is that it covers CO2 or water system.  The standard does not cover fire extinguishing systems that use carbon dioxide or water as the primary extinguishing media, which are addressed by other NFPA documents (NFPA 12 or NFPA 13).

The clean agent systems are intended to meet the standard as well as the manufacture requirements.  Similar to wet-chemical fire suppression systems, a clean agent system could be pre-engineered in smaller applications and larger applications the system will be engineered to ensure the proper concentration of agent for the possible fire in the space.

If you are utilizing the International Code Council code texts, the user is referred to section 904.10 (of the IBC or IFC) for clean agent systems.  You can see that the text never requires these systems are installed, but does give requirements when the systems are installed at the owner’s request.

The building plans examiner or the building code official should pay attention to buildings which utilize height and area increases.  The code implies that these systems should not be seen as replacements for sprinkler protection but rather an additional layer.

IBC or IFC section 904.2

Where required. Automatic fire-extinguishing systems installed as an alternative to the required automatic sprinkler systems of Section 903 shall be approved by the fire code official. Automatic fire-extinguishing systems shall not be considered alternatives for the purposes of exceptions or reductions  allowed by other requirements of this code.

Below are some quick resources to assist in plan review or inspection of these systems.  The checklists should not replace the code language and serve as a job aid only.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Nick Markowitz Jr. January 20, 2009, 11:05 pm

    One of the big problems I see with these systems is when they are installed and no one not even the AHJ knows about it many times as they are often an after thought for computer rooms etc. In addition they should be tied to buildings main fire system so when they trip off building occupants are notified there’s a problem.
    Of course this is just another area to that needs regular annual inspection
    as well to and companies that install these systems and say nothing are just as likely not to properly maintain them as well.

  • Insurance LC Rep January 21, 2009, 6:24 am

    Enclosure integrity is a BIG problem with ANY gas suppression system. So many of these systems are installed with no fan pressurization test, bottles look great but if the room is like Swiss cheese what good will it be? How many computer rooms stay the same as the day they room was installed, NOT many? How many more wires have been pulled into the room and holes never filled in? How many doors are held open with a box or wood wedge? How many have tons of boxes that computer equipment is stored in? IT folks do not want sprinklers because they do not want water damage, but think nothing of storing stuff in a computer room that increases the fire loading significantly. Housekeeping is usually poor, these guys are slobs! Most gas suppression system were never designed for the fire loading some of these IT folks put in the rooms. I wish I had a buck for every time I see problems with a gas suppression system enclosure integrity, I could retire tomorrow!

  • FM William Burns January 21, 2009, 2:29 pm

    Excellent points Insurance! These days, most of us know the firms in our area who perform these types of protection installations and know their historic practices both good and bad. Some companies do great work however and during their scheduled interval inspections they address situations found with extra loading and volume flow limitations. The companies we deal with are sending their reports electronically now which assists us in expediting corrective measures if necessary including deficiencies with room pressurization. Creating good relationships with these firms has allowed us to learn of deficiencies quicker also. When these situations are encountered it’s an opportunity for us to educate the IT people and their management before a time where a person like you walks in.

    Although, when we can’t get to them all it’s nice to know experienced and qualified auditors like yourself are out there too; because it’s been my experience as discussed before on other matters, some insurance auditors don’t have the ability to notice deficiencies in fire protection and are only worried about health and safety matters with companies they audit.

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