Oxygen, heat, fuel—that’s all a fire needs to burn. Electrical rooms can pose a fire hazard because they have all these ingredients in abundance. Electric currents create the heat, especially those flowing through damaged cords or wires because that current can escape. Dust, paper, and any other supplies used can act as the fuel. And living on Earth, oxygen is everywhere. That’s why it’s so important to have electrical fire protection in industrial settings.
Whether you’re looking for electrical cabinet fire protection or protection for your entire electrical room, you should know how a fire suppression system works and what each type works best for.
Is Fire Protection Required in Electrical Rooms?
Yes, fire protection is required in electrical rooms. Fire protection is any effort taken to mitigate the chances of a fire starting and spreading. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has over 300 codes and standards that deal with fire safety in buildings, installations, processes, etc. Among the codes are NFPA 70®, which gives guidance on protecting against electrical hazards, and NFPA 79, which outlines safety measures to prevent fire and electrical hazards from industrial machinery.
What Are the 4 Methods of Fire Suppression?
The four methods of fire suppression are:
- Cooling: The system cools the fuel to a point where it can no longer burn. Water is typically used for this type of suppression because it has a high thermal capacity (how much heat it can absorb) and high enthalpy of vaporization (the temperature it has to reach before it turns into a gas).
- Starving: This type of suppression involves removing possible fuel sources that are within the vicinity of the fire. Fire suppression systems cannot starve a fire, it takes human action. It is dangerous to starve a fire if you aren’t a firefighter. Instead, you can take steps before a fire ignites to prevent a fire from starting, such as removing flammable materials like paper from areas with electrical equipment.
- Smothering: A fire suppression system that smothers reduces the amount of oxygen that a fire has access to. These systems typically use carbon dioxide or other forms of gas to put out the fire.
- Interrupting: A system that interrupts a fire does something a bit more technical than the other methods of suppression. It stops the chemical reaction that causes a fire by creating a layer of dust or other material on top of fuel to separate it from the air. Dry powders typically make up this kind of suppression system.
What Is the Most Effective Fire Suppression System?
How effective a fire suppression system is depends on where the fire is, how big the space is, what is being protected and what started the fire. Let’s take a look at a few different types. For bigger spaces, you might consider one of these systems:
Sprinkler systems spray water from the ceiling to cool fires in large spaces until they go out completely. While these systems may work in public buildings like schools or government offices, sprinklers in electrical rooms are not recommended. That’s because water has conductive properties and can make electrical fires spread. Plus, water will damage your heavy-duty electrical equipment.
Engineered fire suppression systems use gaseous clean agents to put out fires in large areas in a similar way to sprinkler systems. These work well as fire suppression systems for electrical rooms because it won’t conduct electricity like water does, and it’s safe for both your employees and your equipment.
High-pressure CO2 systems release carbon dioxide to diminish the amount of oxygen a fire can absorb. Just as it suffocates fires, though, it can also suffocate employees. That’s why you should only use a CO2 fire suppression system in spaces without employees. Another factor is that when the CO2 is released it can cause cold shock and freeze water vapor in the atmosphere and when it thaws, water is introduced into those sensitive components.
For smaller spaces, you should consider one of these alternatives:
FlexRope systems have granules in them that turn into gas when it senses a fire. They work well in your smallest electrical spaces, like panel boxes.
Direct release systems consist of a fire suppression tube that is routed inside of a small space, like an electrical cabinet. When the tubing senses a fire, it bursts and releases a chemical agent directly onto the fire.
Indirect release systems work similarly to the direct release system but have an additional step. Once the tubing bursts, it activates a valve that releases the chemical agent through separate nozzles. This type of system works best in larger spaces, such as CNC machines.
To sum things up, the best fire suppression system for an electrical room is an engineered fire suppression system. However, you might consider other options if you want to protect smaller areas.