A fire occurs in a structure every 63 seconds in the United States. Some industries are more susceptible to fires including manufacturing, transportation, energy, and other mission-critical environments. For businesses with a higher risk of fire, it is important to determine the best fire suppression system to minimize risk, protect critical equipment, and keep employees safe.
There are several options for fire suppression systems. One of the most common types is a fire sprinkler system which spreads water to suppress the fire. While this method is very reliable, in many applications water can do more harm than good including the damage caused to equipment. This is also the case with fire suppression systems that use water mist suppression agents. Water mist agents can cause corrosion and have environmental and health corners. Another option is an automatic fire suppression system that uses dry chemical or gaseous agents to suppress a fire. The benefit of the gaseous agent that it leaves no residue behind while the dry chemical agents are suited for applications with flammable and combustible liquids.
Fire suppression systems may be activated manually or automatically when a fire is detected. This post explains the difference between automatic fire suppression systems and systems that require human intervention.
Defining an Automatic Fire Suppression System
Automatic fire suppression systems react to a rapid rise in heat, or fire situation, without any human intervention. These systems contain the same general components:
- Detection element, such as pneumatic tubing or a smoke detector
- Suppression agent cylinder
- Pressure switch (optional)
- Manual release (optional)
There are two common types of automatic fire suppression systems – passive, non-electrical systems and active, electrical systems. Active, electrical systems have an electronic actuator and as soon as it senses something is wrong, a signal is sent to the electronic device to activate the system.
Firetrace's passive system relies on detection tubing installed within the enclosed space to detect the rising heat from a fire. As soon as a fire is detected, a pressure differential is created causing the tubing to rupture at the point of heat contact. When the tubing ruptures it releases pressure on the cylinder. The fire suppression agent is released from the cylinder into the enclosure to suppress the fire. At the same time the agent is discharged, a pressure switch will shut down any machines, coolant pumps, etc.
Some automatic fire suppression systems also have a manual release for a human operator to release the agent into the enclosure. A manual release is generally installed when building specifications require a certain level of redundancy with the automatic system in the event of a failure.
When to Install an Automatic Fire Suppression System
Building codes and regulations usually define where automatic fire suppression systems need to exist. For example, if there is an industrial complex storing fuel, there will be an OSHA requirement saying an automatic fire suppression system is necessary. There are a variety of other governing bodies that dictate the safety requirements within an organization. These include NFPA, VDF, ISO, or the CCCF in Asia. While regulations may not always require automatic fire suppression, some organizations choose to install systems proactively to protect critical assets and prevent downtime.
To learn more about automatic fire suppression systems, watch our 40-second animated video showing how our pre-engineered tubing systems work.