What Every IT Professional Should Know About Fire Suppression

There's a lot of things that could go wrong in a data centre. The costs related to a major data loss can be enormous. And while the likelihood of a data centre fire might be small, IT professionals need to be aware of the potential risks to their valuable data and establish a set of processes that ensure its properly protected.

In Canada, property damage due to fires tops $1.5 billion annually, according to the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals. But, you might be thinking "that would never happen to my business."

The odds might be low, but consider these statistics:

  • 20% of businesses will experience a major disaster that results in critical data loss within five years
  • About 25% of data losses occur because of fire or other natural disasters
  • More than 90% of companies that lose their data storage for more than 10 days are forced to file for bankruptcy within 1 year

Don't Let Your Business Become a Statistic

Data centre fires can be catastrophic. And considering more than 90% of business computers aren't adequately backed up, many businesses haven't taken the steps necessary to ensure they're data is protected if there is an accident. Even if you are backing up your files off-site, 55% of organizations that have experienced a major data loss saw recovery operations fail, according to Symantec.

Effective fire protection requires IT professionals to consider a number of factors, especially related to fire suppression systems. In data centres, sprinkler systems aren't the best option because of the risk of water damage to water-sensitive equipment. That's why many businesses are choosing to protect their data centres with clean-agent or inert gas fire suppression systems.

It's also critical that everyone working in the data centre knows how to operate a fire extinguisher. It's good practice to make sure there is a sign beside every fire extinguisher that indicates what type of unit it is and what kind of equipment it can be used on. For example, foam spray extinguishers aren't recommended for electrical fires, but they're still a safer option than water. For fires involving computer servers, clean agent extinguishers are best.

How IT Professionals Can Mitigate Fire Risks in Data Centres
Having a professionally installed and maintained fire suppression system can minimize much of the risk of catastrophic risk due to natural disasters. The proper systems don't just put out fires, but help you take steps to protect your systems and get your business back online as soon as possible.

With that in mind, your fire suppression solution needs to include the following:

  • Alarms that give an audible and visible signal that alerts anyone nearby
  • Alarms that will alert you via text, email, or phone call
  • Alarms that will notify fire professionals
  • Portable fire extinguishers positioned in key locations
  • Emergency power/power off
  • Suppression agents that don't damage your equipment

False alarms can do as much damage as an actual fire if they aren't caught in time and spring into action. Make sure your system detects false alarms and has a built-in delay so that you have the option to make sure there isn't actually an issue.

Make Sure Everyone is on the Same Page

All IT staff working in a data centre should be trained on the room's fire suppression system to make sure everyone knows what to do if there's a fire. To create an effective response plan, perform practice fire drills, outline data centre evacuation and establish a recovery plan that gets your business back online as quickly as possible.

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