The most vital component of any data–center that is mission-critical isn’t the type of the UPS batteries it uses or the data capacity of its servers, it is the life-safety regulations it has put in place. The most crucial life-safety measures of a data center include;
A fire-alarm system usually contains horns or bells and sometimes strobe-lights which are connected to smoke sensors, fire as well as the local fire-department. An alarm system with horns or bells should be installed throughout the building while strobe-lights should be installed in almost all accessible areas. This means that all people including those with hearing impairments will be able to promptly evacuate the data center and also help other occupants to safely exit the building. With their ultra-modern and sophisticated management systems, data centers need to ensure that the life-safety alarms they have installed do not connect with other alarm-systems like the energy or security management alarm system.
There are four basic types of automated fire-suppression systems i.e. the water-based dry, water-based wet, a non-water-based dry and a non-water-based wet. Any kind of a water-based dry fire-suppression system is normally used in un-heated locations like parking garages, crawl –spaces, attics, warehouses among other places. The water-based wet fire-suppression system is just an ordinary and pressurized water-system that runs through iron-pipes i.e. Black-iron. In terms of operation, this system operates under its own water-supply line that is separate from the domestic water-line of the main building. Water-based fire-suppression systems are the most commonly used compared to other systems because they are cheaper and effective. However, they are not the best option for use in computer rooms as they can easily cause damage to expensive data servers as well as the irreplaceable-data stored in them.
Way Out or Means of Egress
Means of egress also known as way out or means of exit are normally paths within buildings that are used to safely escape in case of an emergency such as fire outbreak. They are usually protected using enclosures that are fire-rated e.g. A fire-rated ceiling assembly, floor, stairs or walls. Means of Egress normally provides an observable-guidance throughout the way by use of emergency lighting, flashing–strobes or back-lit exit signs. The exit leads out of the building into an open-air space which is legally described as public-right-of-way.
Unlike most buildings, means of egress is usually very complicated in data centers. Typically, the big floor-plate of the data center normally requires a lot of considerations based that it has long corridors. Also, if the egress stairs are located close to the servers, it will require its own exit- corridor.
Fire containment simply means prevention of fire and smoke from spreading throughout the building by using fire-rated barriers in all the major locations of the building. In case a fire erupts at a data center, it is usually very difficult to quickly carry out complex tasks such as server relocation. Employing fire containment measures such as fire-rated ceiling assemblies, floors, doors, walls, fire-alarm released overhead-doors or window shutters etc. becomes very vital. It’s also important to maintain the integrity of fire-barriers by fire-rating any type of penetration i.e. ensure that all plumbing pipes, electrical conduits, and electrical trays are sealed. It is also important to use smoke barriers which act as smoke seals.
Owing to the complexity of the fit-out construction of data centers, fire containment is also a lot more complicated here compared to other types of buildings. Most data-centers need to be online as fast as possible hence the buildings are usually constructed in phases. The early construction phase normally requires special design consideration in order to provide a full standalone system for way-out or means of egress. The first construction phase will also receive its building-permit and a construction schedule before it is turned-over for work operations during or before the completion of the subsequent phases.
Furthermore, equipment in data centers e.g. the cable trays, server racks, etc. usually differ from those that are found in other buildings. Occasionally, the equipment may undergo relocations and this has a potential of breaching any fire containment barrier. Data centers need special attention because they use rated-drywall which connects to an exposed roof or floor under-side such as metal-roof decking or a concrete floor.