The importance of a server room should never be underestimated. The nature of the equipment itself and the business data processed within these rooms (some of which might be irreplaceable) means they can be one of the most essential areas in an organisation. Even when there’s a good back-up system in place, server room problems can lead to poor system responses, website crashes, and business continuity issues. Anything that causes damage in a server room has the potential to become a major problem and one significant potential risk that could cause such damage is fire. Server rooms are integral to the upkeep of business functions, including running hundreds of computers, telecommunications operations, and irreplaceable data storage. With all that electrical equipment, it’s no wonder that they are a prime spot for ignition. A server room fire can be one of the worst disasters that can befall a business, so here’s how to protect against them and prevent one ever happening to your business.
Common causes of a server room fire
Electrical failure of equipment
Overloading plug sockets is a common problem that is overlooked. So too is short-circuiting of electrical components such as switched or power inverters.
Cooling systems can fail or the room is not specified with enough ventilation which then causes components to overheat to the point that ignition is inevitable.
Subfloor wiring problems
Subfloor wiring can become damaged when subfloors are not strong enough, which will cause any number of problems, including overheating or sparks.
Fires that ignite nearby
Because server room walls often have many holes and conduits for cables to pass into adjoining rooms and offices, they are more vulnerable to fires that ignite nearby. When the fire reaches the server room it quickly engulfs it and it then becomes a dangerous source of deadly noxious gases.
Dirt and grease buildup
Cooling fans and other pieces of equipment readily attract dust and when this builds up it insulates the components and causes overheating. Once ignition occurs the dust is yet another ready source of fuel to the fire.
Our advice on how to keep your server room protected
Keeping your server room clean, clutter-free and well-maintained can help minimise the risk of fire. Unfortunately, server rooms can sometimes end up becoming unofficial storage rooms too and the more combustible the materials in there, the higher the chance of a fire igniting and spreading quickly. Put a process in place to make sure server rooms are regularly tidied and cleaned – even a small amount of debris settling on equipment can increase the fire risk.
Carry out regular inspections
Schedule periodic inspections, both by employees and third parties, to check that your server room is safe and compliant. Visually check wires and power leads to make sure they aren’t frayed or damaged and get any problems fixed quickly. Get regular tests done on your power supply too.
Carry out a risk assessment
A professional fire risk assessments is the first step in preventing a server room fire. A fire prevention specialist will be able to identify risks in an objective manner using the guidance that is approved by multiple professional bodies. You will come away from the risk assessment with a list of recommendations and the help of the officer involved in understanding why your server room presents and risk and how to mitigate these factors. When designing a brand new server room, having a risk assessment as part of the design process will help make sure the server room is compliant with legislation from day one. You’ll then simply have to update the risk assessment when your server room changes in any way.
Install a fire suppression system
Clean agent or non-volatile fire suppression systems are becoming more easily accessible and affordable. The investment is also a no-brainer for businesses whose server rooms are their lifeblood. The problem with traditional sprinkler systems is that water can cause just as much damage to electrics as a fire can. Water can also cause short circuits which are yet another cause of fire in server rooms.
Ensure the room is well ventilated
Cooling the room sufficiently is half the battle. If the room isn’t reaching high temperatures then the chances of overheating are minimised and you are therefore preventing one of the causes of server room fires.
Provide professional training for IT staff
Understanding how and when to use a fire extinguisher effectively has been shown to make a critical difference, save thousands of pounds worth of damage and keep people safe. If you require hands-on training and experience with your in-situ fire extinguishers, contact a fire safety training specialist and talk to them about educating your staff in server room fire prevention.