Using CO2 Meters to Test Fire Suppression Systems

Carbon dioxide has long been used as a fire suppressor for industrial applications. By displacing air, CO2 can be used to “starve” any fire that requires oxygen for combustion.

CO2 fire suppression systems were originally used in heavy industry, but today they have found a new market in computer server farms, ocean-going vessels, submarines, and even electrical power generation stations: anywhere fire suppression with water can create additional dangers around electrical components.

With all their benefits, CO2-based fire suppression systems have one problem: the high levels of carbon dioxide required to put out a fire is deadly to workers in enclosed spaces. According to EPA studies, depending on the fuel that is burning, fire suppression systems must be able to raise the CO2 level from 36-75%. At these levels, carbon dioxide is lethal.

To protect human life in an emergency, facilities that use CO2 as a fire suppressor are required by regulatory agencies to follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for design, installation and testing of CO2 systems. These standards include full discharge tests and an evacuation plan for personnel. Once the fire emergency is over, the standard requires the air be tested for normal CO2 levels before personnel can return to work.

To implement this testing, has worked with many different industries to provide the best tools to test and verify CO2 levels. For example, a Washington State public utility district is using our 30% CO2 Data Loggers to establish a safe working distance from power generation units after discharge. These meters are also being used by the Boston Fire Department to test for CO2 levels before sending firefighters into enclosed areas. And our eSense CO2 Meter for OSHA is used in server farms nationwide to warn personnel of leaks in their CO2 fire suppression system.

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