Home Improvement

Room Integrity Testing to Protected Enclosures

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Room integrity testing to protected rooms is one of the most important validation tests you can undertake to any fire suppression system. If a protected enclosure has a suppression system, the agent that is discharged into the enclosure has to be able to remain there for a minimum period of 10 minutes, from the initial activation of the fire alarm or alert. A retention rate of at least 10 minutes is required for a pass. This time period is considered enough to allow deep-seated fires to be cooled beyond re-ignition levels and allow the emergency services to attend site.

Room Integrity Testing Services
A fire suppression system can provide adequate cover and function correctly if the room is adequately sealed. A room that is insufficiently sealed may allow the suppression agent that has been discharged into the room to escape too quickly, prior to fully extinguishing the fire which may result in damage to your equipment such as server racks or other critical assets. 

The performance of any protected room and fire suppression system can only be guaranteed when serviced regularly through a professional maintenance routine. APT always recommend that room integrity testing is made part of an annual service and maintenance package, to ensure that on discharge, the suppression agent achieves and maintains the correct concentration, at the appropriate height for minimum required timeframe. 

In some instances, although the room may be quite air-tight, the enclosure may fail the integrity test due to the minimum distance between the structural ceiling and the top of the protected height i.e. the top of the server racks. When designing a protected enclosure, it is always best to allow plenty of distance between the top of the protected height and the ceiling as this should result in more retention time – as long as your enclosure is sufficiently airtight.

The main areas of air leakage in protected enclosures

In our experience the main areas leading to room integrity test failures are: 

  1. Seal the underside of entrance doorways within the floor void with fire-batt. 
  2. Sealing all cracks or penetrations leading into or out of the protected enclosure.
  3. If a false ceiling is installed below the structural soffit, ensure the air tightness line – usually above the false ceiling is carefully checked and sealed. 
  4. Ensure all structural steels are sealed where they go through the inner envelope.
  5. Seal around all air conditioning/cooling vent frames.
  6. Sealing all pipe chases and cable trays to be sealed around the outside and inside where they penetrate the perimeter boundaries of the protected enclosure – often new cables are pulled through breaking the fireproof seal.
  7. Walls to be caulked around the inside perimeter at the wall/floor junction and wall/ceiling junctions. 
  8. The sealing of porous block walls – this can be remedied by ensuring all mortar joints are full as well as applying masonry paint or plaster. 
  9. The addition of door sweeps or drop seals, weather stripping around jambs.
  10. Sealing of windows/glazed sections within the enclosure. 

If all the above items are actioned – as well as the items on our room integrity checklist – the room should pass the integrity test at the first attempt. 

Typical causes of server room and datacentre fires

Server room and datacentre fires can result from a range of factors. Within the server room space, rack power densities continue to increase year on year, and it is not uncommon to find server racks drawing power from 5kW up to 30kW (or higher) for high power density servers. A sudden loss of air conditioning can immediately lead to a critical ‘hot-spot’ and over a short timeframe, fire within a server rack which can quickly spread. 

More common causes include poor electrical distribution system design and maintenance. Electrical faults and conductor overheating can result from poor specification, overloading or harmonics within the electrical system. It is worth noting that if your protected enclosure suffers fire damage, it may not be covered by the building’s insurance if you don’t have up to date Fire Integrity Certification.

How long will the integrity test take?

A typical server room takes around 1 -2 hours to complete. There is minimal disruption and IT servers and networks can continue to function as normal. If there is air conditioning and cooling fitted, any supply or extract ducts will require temporary sealing or closure. Where a site has fire suppression covering several rooms, each room will require integrity testing.

For further information on our room integrity testing services, please contact our technical manager at info@aptsoundtesting.co.uk

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