If you work in an industrial environment, you may be aware that your facility faces some unique fire hazards. The industrial marketplace involves some of the most dangerous, high-risk operations in the world — not to mention some of the most expensive assets to replace.
All of this goes without saying that it’s important to sufficiently protect your facility from those fire hazards. But where do you start? We’ll look at some basic fire protection tips for industrial buildings below.
Which Industrial Buildings & Applications Require Specialized Fire Protection Systems?
There are various types of industrial buildings and applications, all with unique products and operations. While some require very strict fire prevention measures, others require unique solutions for extinguishment. Some of the most high-risk and/or sensitive industrial applications include:
- Data centers
- Telecommunications facilities
- Power plants and fuel storage facilities
- Battery energy storage systems (BESS)
- Museums and art galleries
- Manufacturing facilities
This is by no means an exhaustive list of industrial buildings with unique fire hazards, but it does give a clearer picture of the types of sensitive materials and high-risk operations that require amplified protection plans.
What Unique Fire Hazards Do Industrial Buildings Face?
The type of fire hazards that industrial buildings face is heavily dependent on each one’s specific application. Some industrial buildings are most concerned with protecting the products housed within them (e.g. data centers protecting computer systems from fire damage, but also water damage from extinguishing efforts). Others are most concerned with safely managing housed materials that are highly flammable or explosive in nature (e.g. battery energy storage systems with lithium-ion batteries).
5 Fire Protection Tips for Industrial Buildings
So what can you do to best protect your industrial building from fires? Although there are some unique steps you should take depending on your specific application, there are a few basic recommendations that all industrial facilities should be aware of.
1. Design Your Fire Protection System with Adherence to NFPA Standards
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an international nonprofit organization that’s committed to reducing property damage, economic loss, injury, and death due to fire hazards. The association has established an extensive list of codes and standards that provide guidance on how to best prevent and respond to fire hazards in the workplace — and they even have a special set of standards and trainings for fire protection in industrial buildings.
By understanding NFPA standards and designing your fire protection system in accordance with them, your building and all those within it will be better protected against fires. If your team doesn’t have the time or resources to research and implement those standards, contact a local fire protection specialist. They’ll guide you through the process, making sure you’re checking all the boxes you need to build a safer facility.
2. Understand Clean Agents & Which May Be Best for Your Application
Industrial fires can’t always be extinguished with basic, water-based fire suppression systems. Instead, they require a different approach: clean agents. A clean agent is any type of fire extinguishing agent that’s electrically non-conductive, volatile, or gaseous, and that doesn’t leave a residue upon evaporation. It uses an inert gas or chemical that’s stored in a container until released when trying to extinguish a fire.
There are a number of clean agents out there, but depending on your application, you may find that one would be more suitable for your facility than the others. Three of the most common clean agents include:
- FM-200 – A non-toxic, colorless gas that uses heat absorption to extinguish fires and leaves no residue.
- INERGEN – A combination of three inert gasses (nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide) to lower the oxygen content in a room below the level that supports combustion, while still allowing people to breathe.
- Novec 1230 – Another non-toxic, colorless agent that extinguishes fires without leaving residue and disrupting high-value assets.
The main consideration here is to do your research into which clean agent is best for your facility, the materials that are stored there, and the people who work there.
3. Stay Committed to Regular Inspection, Testing & Maintenance Duties
No fire protection plan is complete without a plan for ongoing inspections, testing, and maintenance. So once you’ve invested in the fire protection tools and technologies you need to keep your assets safe, you must commit to putting in the work to keep them functioning well.
NFPA offers various standards related to inspection, testing, and maintenance protocols. You’ll find that some system components need to be inspected or tested every day, while others may only need to be tested every 5 years.
There are many components (main drains, fire sprinklers, fire alarms, etc.) that require different levels of attention — and while you can definitely manage that on your own, you may find it easier to contact a professional that can help keep track of and carry out those inspection, testing, and maintenance tasks for you.
4. Invest In a Comprehensive, Real-Time Monitoring System
A central station monitoring system can be integrated with each of your fire protection systems to ensure safety measures are taken promptly after one of them emits a signal. By monitoring your system constantly for fire alarm signals, as well as signals of sprinkler or electrical malfunction, they provide comprehensive, real-time monitoring 24/7, 365 days per year.
Another bonus? Upon receiving a signal, a central station monitoring system will also immediately prompt dispatch calls to your local fire department, a designated team of response personnel, and your alarm dealer. It takes care of much of the surveillance and drastically minimizes your response time, helping you put out dangerous fires quickly.
5. Train Employees on Effective Fire Prevention & Response
It’s not enough for just one person to know the fire hazards in your industrial workplace; your whole team must also be aware of them. Fire safety training aims to educate your employees of those hazards and how to best avoid them. Have a fire prevention expert visit your facility one or more times per year to make sure best prevention practices are consistently communicated to all employees.
And while it’s important to do your best to prevent fire emergencies in the first place, it’s also critical that your employees know how to respond in case a fire does happen. Things like hands-on fire extinguisher training and a thorough evacuation plan should all be implemented to prepare your team for a calm, safe, and efficient response.
Industrial buildings can pose special fire risks, which means they usually require special fire protection systems. If you’re concerned that your facility isn’t outfitted with the adequate fire protection systems it needs to keep your property, products, and people safe, contact our experts at Vanguard Fire & Security Systems. We’ll listen to your needs, then install and maintain a solution that will best protect your assets in unforeseen emergencies.