The most common method of fire suppression is water. In part this is because many fire protection systems in buildings may have been installed before more advanced fire suppression systems were available. Traditional wet pipe water sprinkler systems keep a constant supply of pressurized water in the pipes, which is released by individual sprinklers as they are activated.
More modern solutions incorporate hydraulics to deliver water and extinguish fires. Some even use a water mist to suppress the fire without causing as much damage to the surrounding environment.
But just because water-based fire suppression systems are the most common, does not mean they are the best for every environment. There are a variety of different types of fire suppression systems that are unique in the way they are activated and the substances they use to extinguish a fire. Here’s what you need to know about the different options available and which is right for your building.
Fire protection, detection, and suppression systems are categorized based on the way they are activated, and what they do once they activate.
Manual fire alarm systems are a network of audible and visual signals like sirens and strobe lights that let the occupants of a building know that a fire is happening. These signals help everyone find their way to an exit and notify the local fire department that they should come to the scene. These alarm systems must be activated by a person on the scene.
Manual fire suppression systems are usually present in the form of handheld fire extinguishers, though some buildings may also have overhead sprinkler systems which are activated by a pull handle. Just like manual alarm systems, these options will only work to suppress the fire through human action.
Automatic fire detection and alarm systems are designed to make everyone on the premises aware that a fire is developing, perhaps before anyone has a chance to notice and activate a manual alarm.
Automatic fire suppression systems are present to put out emerging fires before they can spread and cause risks to life and property and automatically activate without an individual present.
These four categories distinguish the difference between fire protection systems like alarms, fire detection systems that automatically sound the alarm, and fire suppression systems that activate to put out the fire. But there are also different categories of fire suppression systems, depending on what suppression agents they use to extinguish the fire.
These types of fire suppression systems include some traditional approaches to fire suppression, as well as new innovations.
Water-Based Automatic Fire Suppression Systems: These traditional systems use water or water mist to suppress the fire. Though these are the most common fire suppression systems, they were still only present in around 10% of US fires from 2015-2019.
Dry Chemical Automatic Fire Suppression Systems: These systems use a dry chemical powder to extinguish fires, usually in industrial environments or when water would cause a risk of making an electrical fire worse.
Chemical Clean Agent Automatic Fire Suppression Systems: Compressed liquefied gas chemical agents like NovecTM 1230 or FM-200TM can be used to suppress different types of fire without damaging electronics or other equipment in the space. These systems are safe to use even when the space remains occupied, and do not require cleanup after they activate.
High-pressure CO2 Automatic Fire Suppression Systems: Pressurized carbon dioxide can also be released to suppress a fire by removing all the oxygen the fire needs to burn. While these systems are not safe to use in occupied spaces, there are some applications like server rooms and data centers where they are still the best solution to protect the property.
The answer is different for every building. Facilities like a warehouse or factory with employees coming and going have different concerns than property managers trying to protect an isolated server room from fire damage. Whatever you need to protect from the risks of a fire, there is a solution that will meet your needs and within your budget to keep your people and property safe.
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