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
- 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
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
- 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
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.