Whether they break out in a commercial setting, electrical fires pose unique challenges when it comes to extinguishing them. A common approach would be to cut off the power supply first and then simply use an ABC fire extinguisher—the “universal” type extinguisher you may see around your workplace or your home.
Can you use a fire extinguisher on an electrical fire? You could, sure. What happens if a fire breaks out in a particularly sensitive setting, though? In settings like server rooms, electrical rooms, and cabinets, or manufacturing facilities, every second counts, and with each moment the fire grows, exponentially more damage is likely to occur.
In these settings, the ultimate goal of fire suppression is the same—to disrupt one or more elements of the “fire triangle” of oxygen, heat, and fuel. So, how do you put out an electrical fire without a fire extinguisher? To put out an electrical fire without risking additional damage to equipment—or people—you’ll need a clean agent fire suppression system.
Clean agent fire suppression systems
How long does it take for an electrical fire to start? It can take as little as a single spark, literally, and then spreads quickly. In some cases, electrical fires may break out undetected, as they can occur within electrical rooms, cabinets, walls, or outlets—anywhere electrical current is present.
Electrical fires spread quickly, too, making it important to address them immediately. What should you do in the event of an electrical fire in a setting where either you can’t afford to let a fire break out and spread at all, or a fire extinguisher would cause additional damage?
Again, the answer: implement a clean agent fire suppression system.
What is a clean agent fire suppression system?
A clean agent fire suppression system is unique in a few ways. First, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines a clean agent system as one that uses “an electrically non-conducting, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishant that does not leave a residue upon evaporation.” These systems are uniquely designed to minimize damage by acting quickly, suppressing a fire at its inception stage—before it can grow, and in some cases before you even know there’s a fire!
The main benefits of clean agent systems are that they are safe to use in occupied spaces, require no cleanup after discharge, won’t damage sensitive documents or electronics, and they are environmentally friendly, with a low Global Warming Potential (GWP).
How does a clean agent fire suppression system actually work?
The truth with electrical fires in sensitive settings is that it may already be too late to prevent major damage by the time you detect a fire.
Clean agent fire suppression systems like those used by Firetrace work in three steps. First, they detect a fire at its source. Since every second counts, Firetrace’s systems use proprietary heat and flame detection tubing to automatically activate the system, so that no time is wasted in detecting the fire—and putting it out. This results in fire suppression within seconds, again creating no risk for people, equipment, or the environment.
Direct release systems are ideal for the protection of electrical cabinets. Firetrace’s direct release systems make use of special tubing that detects fire and delivers the clean agent. This tubing is designed to rupture where the most heat is detected, releasing the suppression agent exactly where it’s needed—and this happens in seconds.
Indirect release systems use the same type of tubing, but when this tubing ruptures from the heat/fire, instead of directly releasing the agent, it activates the system. When activated, the system discharges the clean suppression agent from the cylinder through connected hoses and floods the area.
Factors to consider when evaluating fire suppression systems
A clean agent fire suppression system protects your most valuable assets—including both employees and equipment—without causing any damage or danger, and without disrupting operations. The best systems will be able to offer these benefits:
- Rapid detection and automatic suppression, to detect fires quickly and right at their source—with no human intervention needed.
- They are safe for equipment, leaving no harmful residue, and produce no false alarms, making them ideal for harsh or dusty environments.
- They are self-contained systems and quick to install, meaning you can have complete protection in just a few hours—independent of power, water, and electricity.