Josh Pringle, VP Business Development CO2Meter, Inc. - 6/29/2018
Did you know that there is a season for “Fire Suppression Testing”? In fact, there are two seasons – fall and spring. A variety of factors go into when a fire suppression system is tested like the client’s budget cycle and the life cycle of their machinery.
CO2 fire suppression systems are designed to displace oxygen from the designated area as quickly as possible to “suffocate” the fire. No oxygen = no fire. See this video snippet for an idea of what a CO2 suppression system does. Think of a fire extinguisher – then think of HUGE fire extinguisher. Now think of dozens of huge fire extinguishers in one room all going off at the same time. Whoosh! Out goes the fire!
One of the main advantages of CO2 as a suppression agent is that, as an inert gas, CO2 does not damage equipment or create any clean-up after the test or fire. Yes, you will have to mitigate the damage done by the initial fire, but you will not have water or foam damage to remediate like you would with other suppression methods. Additionally, CO2 is effective on a wide range of flammable and combustible materials, and is approved for suppression of Class A, B and C hazards.
The challenge facing designers and operators of CO2 Fire Suppression Systems is that they must also be safe for people working nearby. Fire-prevention systems which result in the oxygen content being less than 19.5% are not permitted for occupied spaces by federal regulation (OSHA) in the United States. They must also be safe for first-responders after the fire has occurred.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has gone as far as to create a standard for testing CO2 fire suppression systems. NFPA 12 lays out very clear standards for how a fire suppression system must be tested including the speed at which specified concentration levels of CO2 are achieved and how long those levels are maintained.
We have worked with worldwide fire protection and industrial companies like TYCO-SimplexGrinnell, UTC-Chematron, and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power to design a device that meets all the standards for CO2 fire suppression laid out in NFPA 12.
Our 100% CO2 Sampling Data Logger was designed to exceed the NFPA requirements for these tests. NFPA 12 standards require that CO2 concentrations be measured and recorded at multiple heights in the discharge space over specified times. This means that a testing agency will have to do one of the following: complete three tests one at each height OR purchase three devices to measure the different heights during a single test. The CO2 Sampling Data Logger allows testing companies and permitting/regulatory agencies to validate the fire suppression systems ability to rapidly and effectively put out fires. Validation information can also be transferred to insurance carriers as well.
Some permitting/regulatory agencies may require an oxygen depletion test as well which will validate the absence of oxygen in the space. These tests are often requested as back-up data to the initial CO2 test or as testing when other inert gases like Argon or Nitrogen are used as a suppressant. In these cases we recommend our 0-25% Oxygen Sampling Data Logger.
Additionally, some fire inspectors are starting to require the addition of a fixed CO2 monitor where the high-pressure CO2 cylinders or low-pressure bulk storage tanks are housed. Storing the massive amount of gases required to operate a suppression system leaves the end user susceptible to potential CO2 leakage. While neither the NFPA nor the International Fire Code have yet to expand CO2 monitoring requirements beyond beverage delivery systems both organizations are considering language that would expand the monitoring requirement to all stored gases. In these cases where a fixed monitor is required we recommend our Remote CO2 Storage Safety Three Alarm Monitor or our Remote Oxygen Depletion Safety Alarm.
“NFPA 2001: Standard on clean agent fire extinguishing systems," National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, Annex C, 2008
“Standard on Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems, NFPA 12-2018,” American National Standards Institute, February 2, 2018
“ISO 14520-1: Gaseous fire extinguishing systems - physical properties and system design – part 1: general requirements," International Standards Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, Annex E, 2006
“A Modified Hold Time Model for Total Flooding Fire Suppression,” Fire Safety Journal, Vol. 45 (1), 12-20, 2010.
“Hypoxic Air for Fire Prevention,” Wikipedia.