Gas Suppression Control for Critical and High-Risk Sites: What to Consider

6 Apr 2021

Advanced’s Regional Sales Manager for South East Asia, Tin Le Than, discusses some of the key considerations to take into account when specifying an effective gas suppression system.

Data centres, control rooms, power generation facilities and archives may serve very different purposes, but they all pose the same critical challenge for those charged with their fire protection. Guarding against catastrophic loss – whether of data, irreplaceable cultural assets or essential services – creates unique impetus to design solutions that offer the highest levels of control, reliability and protection. Ensuring you’ve covered all eventualities on these sites takes meticulous planning from the earliest stages and demands the use of specialist, proven technology.

Gas suppression systems are a valuable asset in protecting critical sites, where the use of water could be almost as damaging to building contents as the fire it would be used to quell. Some suppression systems release gases to reduce the oxygen content, and others use chemical reactions to extinguish fire.

Compliance

EN 12094 details the compliance requirements for gas suppression systems and their associated components, and EN15004 details the requirements and recommendations for the design of these systems. In order to meet EN12094-1, you need both the EN12094-1 approved extinguishing control panel, and also EN54 approved peripheral products. The panel, the detectors, the manual call points, as well as the sounders, all require EN54 approval for full compliance and peace of mind that your system will perform as expected in a fire situation.

EN54 part 13 specifies the minimum functions required to be performed by the control and indicating equipment (CIE) and its associated components, and it specifies the requirements for networked systems. This can prove particularly useful in indicating trouble or a fault during normal conditions if the voltage/current at the end of a circuit is not sufficient to operate the device connected to it. Essentially the fire system continuously tests its integrity – continually checking the condition of its components, and wiring, ensuring that they will work as required in an emergency.

Advanced’s ExGo gas extinguishing panel was among the first solutions to achieve EN12094-1, alongside approvals to EN54 parts 2, 4 and 13. With a focus on ease of use for the end user, ExGo offers the additional functionality of manual activation on the fascia on the panel.


Functionality

Gas suppression systems offer two different modes of use – automatic or manual control. In automatic mode, the system can operate without human intervention to deal with a fire before anyone is even aware of an issue. This mode of operation is particularly beneficial for isolated or unmanned sites.

However, some solutions also offer a degree of manual control. Manual mode enables full control of the system, proving useful in scenarios where an end user wants to reduce the risk of costly false alarms. When repair or maintenance work of a protected area is being undertaken, or if detection with high sensitivity – such as aspirating smoke detectors – are in effect, manual mode functionality can be useful in reducing the likelihood of a gas suppression system being triggered and releasing costly suppressant into the protected environment unnecessarily.

A solution with manual mode functionality can also be highly advantageous to users who want to specify how a system will work or react when certain events occur. This is particularly apparent with integrated solutions, capable of transmitting command signals from one system to another.

For example, in a data centre environment, all doors and windows will need to be sealed, in order for any release of gas to be effective at preventing the spread of a fire. If the server room doors are left open, the building’s access control will register a fault. This can be reported to the BMS, which in turn communicates with the gas suppression system to enter manual mode until the doors are once again closed and the room sealed.

To cover these eventualities, ExGo from Advanced, was developed with enhanced functionality in mind. The main panel is complemented by a range of repeaters so that system status can be seen inside and outside a protected area. In addition, ‘hold’ and ‘abort’ buttons allow the gas release to be paused or cancelled on visual confirmation of the area.

This flexibility in control options and devices, including automatic/manual switching, is an important additional safeguard for minimising the possibility of accidental/unwanted suppressant release and ensuring the effectiveness of the protection measures.

Integration

A superior gas suppression system will allow interfacing with various third-party systems, such as the fire system, offering tangible benefits such as enhanced protection, cost efficiencies, greater ease of use and faster response times during an emergency. Gas suppression control modules can be added to the fire system and can then control extinguishing operations as part of the wider cause and effect programming. 

However, integrating gas suppression systems can be both delicate and challenging. Coordination and a good understanding of the integration approach are essential to attaining a system that operates smoothly.

ExGo has been designed to integrate easily into Advanced’s MxPro or Axis EN fire systems, as well as a site’s BMS, via a simple fire protection interface, or any third-party fire alarm system via an I/O loop device. Once integrated, the end user can take advantage of improved capabilities.

By consolidating data from HVAC, energy, security, CCTV and life safety applications onto one system, the end user gains facility-wide insight from a single workstation – benefitting from improved reporting, information management and decision-making.

Operational efficiencies can also be gained through the integration of the gas suppression system with the fire system and BMS, thanks to the reduced requirement for additional staffing and resource, simplifying training, and reducing false alarms.

These factors reduce risk, offering more strategic mobile or desktop control, exceptional alarm management and integrated security solutions. Overall, this provides a more comprehensive view of the status of a site, helping to speed up response time and mitigate risks to people, property and business.

Software

Carefully designed software has the ability to drastically enhance the performance of your gas suppression system, making it easy to perform remote monitoring tasks, fault find and plan and configure even the largest and most complex of systems. A high-quality solution will also provide users with unrestricted access to regular updates to ensure the system consistently meets changing standards.

The ExGo extraction tool, designed to work with Advanced’s gas extinguishant panel, makes the management of configuration, control data and event logs simple and efficient for integrators, maintenance technicians and end users. The complete suite of applications for Advanced’s solutions are continually updated with new features and performance enhancements, with legislation changes implemented across the software quickly, keeping customers’ systems up to date.

In summary, there is no ‘standard’ fire solution for critical and high-risk sites. Their distinctive characteristics and complexities demand that fire protection solutions be designed into them from the earliest stage. Specifiers and users need to understand the pros and cons of the solutions available and, importantly, how the gas suppression systems themselves can help deal with the unique challenges presented by critical and high-risk sites.


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Advanced Electronics Ltd
The Bridges
Balliol Business Park
NE12 8EW
Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear
United Kingdom

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