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Volume 27, Issue 4

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Fire Service Considerations in Electronic and Computer Equipment Areas

Written by  Timothy F. Joo, FF / EMT, CBCP Wednesday, 21 November 2007 00:09

Electronic and Computer Equipment areas are found in every local community across America. They may range from a small computer in one office area to a large mainframe computer room with raised flooring and isolated power and climate controls. The primary purpose of this article is to address the specific construction principles and fire protection standards related to large data centers. The NFPA has reported more than one thousand fires erupting in computer equipment across the U.S. on an annual basis. Beginning in 1980 through 1991 the number of fires has been on a downward trend while 1991 to the last year of the report, 1996, has shown an upward trend in fire incidents . This trend can be attributable to the proliferation of home personal computers as well as the quantity of computers found in businesses today. Fires involving data centers, whether they originate inside the computer room or extend to the area from an adjacent room, brings special hazards to the firefighter that cannot be overlooked. Businesses today spend multi-million dollars in computer equipment to manage their information systems and rely on sophisticated controls, detection and suppression systems to protect this large investment. As businesses expand or divest, the need for computer equipment changes as well. As a result, the original sound installation of wiring, and fire-resistant construction is left to the hands of employees who have no knowledge of fire growth and flame spread.