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Fire Prevention Systems -- Fire Alarms, Fire Prevention, Fire Suppression, Fire Extinguishers

Fire Prevention Systems - The Transition to Alternatives for Essential Electronics

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The Transition to Alternatives for Essential Electronics

Excerpted and edited from Status of Industry Efforts to Replace Halon Fire Extinguishing Agents - A 57 Page .PDF Report

In preparing this report on fire prevention systems, interviews were conducted with many industry experts to gather up to date information. While many subjects were discussed and are covered throughout the report, the most effort was put into trying to get a clear view of the current situation in two regards …..

  • What are owners of fire prevention systems are doing about converting their currently installed halon 1301 systems to some other type of protection (i.e. replacing existing systems)?
  • What are the prospective owners of alternatives to halon 1301 systems doing to protect their operations?

While there are specific answers to these two that are market segment dependent and reported below, there are some generalizations that can be made about all segments.

  • On the first question, the general answer is very little. With the exception of (1) the US Department of Defense, which has a program to remove halon 1301 from its non-essential applications, (2) three other federal agencies which have - 28 - directives to do the same and (3) two companies in the private sector that started across the board decommissioning, the consensus of the experts is that the organizations that have installed halon 1301 fire prevention systems tend to keep them in place, maintain them and even upgrade them. The general belief is that continuing with the protection offered by a currently installed halon 1301 system is not only the most cost effective alternative but it offers the best level of fire prevention. In the absence of any compelling reason(s) to remove these halon 1301 systems, they will likely continue in place until such time as the property protected becomes obsolete, the system reaches the end of its useful life, or they no longer have supplies of halon 1301 agent.
  • The second question is market segment specific where organizations are taking several approaches from …..
    - using new extinguishing agents, …..
    - using recycled halon 1301 in new systems, …..
    - returning to the use of alternatives that pre-date halon 1301 …..
    - to doing nothing.

Fire Prevention Systems for Essential Electronics

Existing Halon 1301 Systems

For the most part, the owners of halon 1301 fire prevention systems protecting their essential electronics have chosen to keep those systems operational and not remove them just for the sake of using some newer technology. Fire protection systems installation and service companies speak in terms of well over 50% to as high as numbers approaching 90% of the systems they have ever installed as still being in service. There are exceptions to this, however:

  • The US Department of Defense is methodically removing halon 1301 systems from non critical applications such as computer rooms, flight simulator computers and other applications where there are alternatives to halon 1301. This process frees up that halon 1301 for employment in the military’s mobile weapons systems.
  • Halon 1301 systems are being decommissioned when an essential electronics operation is relocated or a major remodeling of a facility takes place. Then, the owners tend to look toward a new fire protection system. The owners who still have their halon 1301 systems are not just letting the systems stay in place, but most are maintaining them under agreement with service companies and replacing the detection and control systems to the latest technology to minimize false discharges of the systems. Some are even cannibalizing lower priority systems in their facilities to use to modify other higher priority systems that have to be enhanced due to facility changes.

There are several reasons that account for this behavior …..

  • There is little economic incentive for a halon 1301 system owner to remove the system as not only does he lose the value of the current system but has to invest in another system that will cost 3 to 4 times the investment in the halon 1301 system.
  • It is very difficult to employ the new extinguishing system alternatives in facilities where the storage space for extinguishing systems was intended for halon 1301. There just is not enough room to store the new alternatives cylinders in existing facilities without making major building modifications to accommodate them.
  • Most owners of halon 1301 systems believe the protection those systems offer is still adequate even with the new alternatives available.
  • Finally, there is no one advising the owner to remove the halon 1301 systems. It is certainly not the government at local, state or federal levels. In fact, the companies that sell, install and service fire suppression systems have often found that it is a waste of time to try to sell a new alternative system to replace a halon 1301 system.

With the abundant supply of recycled halon 1301 available in the market at the lowest prices ever and with qualified service companies willing to maintain and refurbish these systems, it seems that it will take quite some time for the attrition of halon 1301 systems to some other form of fire protection without some stimulus to accelerate the process.

New Fire Prevention Systems

In the essential electronics segment, which absorbed about 75% of all the halon 1301 ever deployed in the US, the owners of new facilities or those housing new essential electronics are employing a whole range of types of fire protection. On one end of the spectrum, the highly protected owners are employing high sensitivity smoke detection (HSSD) systems to provide very early warning coupled with halocarbon or inert gas total flooding systems controlled by smart smoke detection systems. On the other end of the spectrum, the owners are doing nothing other than conventional automatic sprinklers if required by the code.

It is really unclear why some owners choose to invest heavily in fire protection for their essential electronics and others seem to do nothing. The industry experts had an equally wide range of opinions on why this might be, including …..

    It is usually an unregulated market application where the motive for (or against) fire prevention is at the owners discretion, so wide variances in behavior should be expected. The owners have been lulled into believing there is not a risk of fire since the fire losses have been nearly non-existent in very recent history. There are different groups promoting the various levels of protection, each armed with very believable arguments that its individual approach is the best. In any case, the owners of new essential electronic systems and facilities have many options to provide protection for their systems and business continuity. Some appear to be taking more risks than others by limiting their level of fire protection. The willingness to assume this additional risk appears to be based more on financial considerations than the fire prevention reality.

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Additional Articles on this Site:
Fire Suppression Systems - Types of Fires and Suppression Systems
Fire Protection Systems - Options to Prospective Owners of Fixed Protection Systems
Fire Prevention Systems - The Transition to Alternatives for Essential Electronics
Fire Control Systems - Use in other Industries
Fire Protection Engineering - Fire Protection for TelCom and E-Commerce
Halon Fire Extinguishers - FAQ on Alternatives
Status of Industry Efforts to Replace Halon Fire Extinguishing Agents - A 57 Page .PDF Report

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Industry Efforts to Replace Halon
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