With a range of direct automatic fixed fire suppression systems now certified to LPS 1666, Craig Halford considers the new opportunities and advantages this presents
IN A world where organisations are ever more reliant upon business critical technology, the protection of equipment from any downtime, delay or destruction is increasingly important. Your company, staff and ultimately your customers rely on your ability to deliver your services, operate your facilities or simply dispatch a sales order on time.
A fire situation of any size that is not dealt with quickly and efficiently can have a huge impact on your business continuity, often rendering it unable to function efficiently, if at all. Small energised enclosures, including those used for distribution, control, communication and server equipment, can present a particular problem where faulty equipment, damaged wiring or improper installation can increase the risk of fire.
It is possible to find enclosures such as these, frequently in multiple numbers, in more or less every workplace, factory, warehouse or general commercial site. Fires in such enclosures can be difficult to identify and often not until it is too late to take action or until the fire has developed to such a stage that room suppression fire detection devices are triggered.
This article will look at the fire protection of electrical enclosures, as well as the new thinking and new solutions now available with direct automatic fixed fire suppression systems certified to LPS 1666.
LPS 1666 is the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) certification standard for the approval of direct low pressure (DLP) application fixed fire suppression systems, with Jactone’s pneumatically actuated fire suppression system (PAFSS) the first system in the world to meet the requirements of the new standard. Systems certified to this standard are especially suitable for the protection of high risk or vital infrastructure energised enclosures often used to house electrical distribution systems, switchgear, control, communication and IT equipment.
Since the publication of the new LPCB standard LPS 1666, the landscape for certification of systems protecting small energised enclosures from fire has changed. Historically, the fire protection of small energised enclosures has in many cases been an imprecise and non certifiable area within the fire protection industry, due to the lack of specific performance standards.
For this reason, the default position has been systems certified to European Standard EN 15004, its international equivalents and extrapolations of them. This has been an unsatisfactory situation since the confirmation of performance when protecting small enclosures has relied on manufacturers’ own testing without the third party approval, essential for full acceptance in the market. With the publication of the new LPCB standard LPS 1666 in January 2017, the landscape for certification of systems in this area has changed.
Whilst fire extinguishing performance testing confirms one element of a system’s performance, LPS 1666 sets out detailed requirements for a whole range of system integrity tests, and provides an assurance to specifiers and end users that systems are fit for purpose. Certification of systems to LPS 1666 includes testing and confirmation of the following:
- fire extinguishing performance based on maximum enclosure volume(s)
- range of operation for system pressure and temperature
- detection and activation characteristics – tube burst, proximity
- system limits for detection tube length
- fully installed system leak characteristics
- maximum and minimum system temperature discharge characteristics
- system installation limits
- full system component testing – corrosion, pressure strength, leakage, corrosion, ageing and system monitoring devices
- protocols for servicing and maintenance of systems, together with approval of the manufacturer’s training programme
Below, there is a discussion which highlights the characteristics of systems certified to both BS EN 15004 and LPS 1666.
Also detailed are the historical limitations and improvements that are now available for the protection of small energised electrical enclosures.
Option 1: BS EN 15004
In order to detect fire in an enclosure, the room fire suppression system will require utilising sensitive detection devices to trigger the system. In well sealed enclosures, there will be very limited egress of combustion products/heat from the enclosure (some enclosures have high IP ratings for the purposes of equipment protection).
Due to electrical enclosure seals, the chances of extinguishing the fire are reduced, owing to insufficient penetration
of extinguishant into the enclosure.
Room suppression systems will probably only prevent breakout of fire from the room, not each individual electrical enclosure. Furthermore, migration of fire from one enclosure to the neighbouring enclosure(s) will not be prevented.
In summary, room suppression systems will require sensitive detection to detect deep seated fires in any individual enclosures, and the possibilities to extinguish fires and prevent fire spread between those enclosures will be limited.
Option 2: LPS 1666 – the PAFSS solution
Detection: basic – tube detection and discharge
As a result of its proximity to any fire or high ambient temperature, this will operate at least as efficiently within the cabinet as a much more sensitive detection device positioned outside the cabinet – refer to option 1.
Since discharge is directly into the cabinet, there is a much greater possibility that the fire will be extinguished, compared to option 1. Discharge of extinguishant is inside the cabinet and therefore right at the heart of the problem. Early detection and system discharge means the fire is extinguished at an earlier stage in its development. This minimises equipment damage and generation of combustion byproducts.
Effective against fire spread
Just as importantly, PAFSS systems are able to prevent migration of the fire between cabinets, eg from enclosure 1 > 2 > 3 > 4.
PAFSS DLP systems, which use 3M Novec 1230 fire protection fluid, are the only systems in the world approved to LPCB standard LPS 1666 that have allowance for vents (openings) and airflow (fans). This provision in PAFSS also futureproofs the system performance against maintenance/modifications that introduce further vent areas to the enclosure. It is essential to discuss this issue when enquiring about the certification status of a particular system.
A PAFSS system offers many benefits for the protection of electrical enclosures.
For example, a Jactone PAFSS DLP system is capable of detecting and extinguishing individual enclosure fires, followed by the safeguarding of individual enclosures and their equipment contents.
This leads to a number of benefits, which are summarised below:
- fast detection where the fire risk is – inside the enclosure
- fast system activation and extinguishing – the extinguishing agent is released at the heart of the fire
- fire events are prevented from spreading to neighbouring enclosures and equipment
- individual system pressure switches can enable very targeted safeguarding actions, including de-energisation of selected power supplies, equipment shutdown, alarms etc
- less equipment down time, operational disruption and clean up from system discharge
- lower cost than room fire suppression for initial install, ongoing service/maintenance, refilling (smaller capacity system cylinders for targeted protection)
- less disruptive to install and easily retrofitted to existing equipment
- systems are third party tested and certified to LPCB standard LPS 1666 – confirmed performance
- LPS 1666 is an emerging standard, increasingly recognised by world leading insurance companies
The LPS 1666 certified Jactone PAFSS solution is unique in approved electrical enclosure fire suppression, as it provides protection inside the enclosure and discharges at the heart of the fire, extinguishing quickly and preventing the fire from spreading to neighbouring equipment and the wider building. This can significantly reduce the risk of injury to personnel, as well as losses caused by equipment downtime and operational disruption.
Craig Halford is the managing director of Jactone Products. For more information, view page 5