Fire Safety in Information Technology: What You Need to Know

Posted on: July 24, 2017

Protect your company’s IT infrastructure with proper fire safety procedures and equipment

Decades ago, before computers became mainstream, an organization was often most worried about protecting physical inventory and mountains of documents that were housed in various areas. But the dynamics that drive growth have changed. With the digital age, data centers have become a primary asset. These information technology hubs are incredibly important to the livelihood of a business – they often house critical data and customer information that could cause catastrophic harm to a company if lost or damaged.

According to FEMA, 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and 25% fail within one year. If you’re looking to go against this trend and protect your organization and sensitive digital information from a major fire, it’s critical that your organization is practicing proper fire safety procedures to safeguard IT resources.

How to protect computer equipment from fire

NFPA 75, the Standard for the Fire Protection of Information Technology Equipment, lays out the minimum requirements to protect data centers and computer systems from fire. There are two main factors to consider when selecting fire extinguishers for IT equipment:

  • NFPA 75 requires that either carbon dioxide or halogenated agent fire extinguishers are installed. Both of these types of fire extinguishers are compatible with IT equipment and even electronic media, because of their non-conductive properties.
  • In addition, portable fire extinguishers must have a minimum rating of 2-A to ensure they’re in accordance with NFPA 10. Because areas housing IT equipment are classified as being a “Light Hazard Occupancy,” the maximum area per unit in this classification is 3000 square feet. NFPA has put together a table, which we’ve referenced below to give you an idea of the number of fire extinguishers you’ll need in a data center or IT equipment facility based on square footage.

Minimum quantity of fire extinguishers necessary for Class A hazards in data centers and computer areas

Square footage 2-A Rated Fire Extinguishers
20,000 4
40,000 7
60,000 10
80,000 14
100,000 17

This table’s minimum requirements apply to occupancies classified as “light hazard;” in the case of “moderate hazard” occupancies, the requirement increases to at least one extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet.

Importance of the travel distance rule in NFPA 10

To determine Class A protection, it’s critical to do a walk-through of the facility to determine the number of fire extinguishers needed based on the 75 feet travel distance rule within NFPA 10. This rule states that the walking distance from any point to a fire extinguisher must not exceed 75 feet. This travel distance rule must be used in conjunction with the table listed above. If there’s any difference, the higher number of fire extinguishers must be used.

Signs are also critical to identify the type of fire extinguisher

In addition to the rules that govern how many and where fire extinguishers are to be placed, signs are also required that identify the type of fire the extinguisher is capable of containing. These signs must be located directly adjacent to each extinguisher.

Training is critical to maintaining compliance and preparedness

It’s also critical that designated personnel are well-versed in the compliance requirements related to fire safety in IT environments. This level of training must outline the benefits and drawbacks of the different types of fire extinguishers, and how and where to use them.

For more information on fire safety as it relates to IT equipment, or for a free consultation on your organization’s safety preparedness, don’t hesitate to reach out to LifeSafety Management today at (800) 330-1158 or through our contact form.