Special Hazards & Protecting our Environment
A Special Hazard Fire Suppression System is designed to detect and extinguish fire where a standard fire suppression system would not suffice. These systems use various compounds to extinguish fla
s without damaging materials as water might. As environmental concerns rise, there is a lot of debate over which compounds or agents should be used. Fire Protection Engineers or Technicians at a fire protection company are qualified to advise you as to which suppression system is best for your needs.
EPA Regulations on Halon
In 1998, the EPA issued a ban on the manufacturing of Halon blends. EPA regulations also cover the way halons may be vented, the way in which halon-containing equipment may be disposed of, and they prohibit halon releases that occur due to failure to maintain halon-containing equipment to meet industry standards. Halon compounds contain bromine, fluorine, and carbon. These compounds are used for special hazard fire suppression and are known to cause the depletion of ozone.
The EPA ban does not affect halon blends that already exist and are stored properly. Also, Halon blends can still be produced for the use of aviation fire protection if they are recycled to meet purity standards. There are exemptions for limited halon releases in consideration of things like health, safety, and environmental concerns. These exemptions can be reviewed online at Epa.gov. Because of these restrictions and regulations, some are considering replacing existing Halon systems with FM-200 or Novec 1230 fire suppression systems.
FM-200 vs Novec 1230 Fire Suppression Systems
The FM-200 fire suppression agent was the first to be considered an environmentally acceptable replacement for Halon because FM-200 has zero ozone depleting potential, a low global warming potential, and an atmospheric lifetime of 36 years. This liquefied compressed gas is colorless and can be stored as a liquid in smaller containers than Halon compounds. The vapor is electrically non-conductive. FM-200 has a high-level personnel safety rating as well; it is considered safe for use in occupied areas. The gaseous agent also leaves no residue, so there is very little clean-up required.
Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid is electrically non-conductive, non-corrosive, rapidly vaporizes to gas during discharge, leaves no residue, and does not damage electronics or delicate mechanical devices. Novec 1230 also has a wide margin of safety in use and ensures that occupants can safely leave the area. This fluid has an even lower global warming potential than FM-200. Novec 1230 is also easy to store in drums or totes as opposed to steel pressurized containers, thus simplifying recharge operations.
If you have an existing Halon system and you decide that one of these other systems will suit your needs more efficiently, then it is time to consider what goes into decommissioning and replacement.
Decommissioning a Halon System
Halon decommissioning takes place when an existing Halon system is being removed from service or the system is being replaced with an alternative fire protection system. The decommissioning of a Halon system requires two steps:
- Field decommissioning – This requires Halon cylinders to be disconnected from system hardware such as manifolds and piping at the location of the fire protection system.
- Reclaiming Halon Agent – This usually takes place away from the location of the system. The Halon is removed from cylinders so that it can be recycled for use in other applications.
Halon system decommissioning should only be performed by personnel who are trained to do so using the proper decommissioning procedures. This is to assure that Halon is not discharged into the atmosphere and to ensure a safe environment for personnel involved in the decommissioning process.
Replacing Halon with FM-200 or Novec 1230
In order to re-purpose a Halon system for the use of FM-200 or Novec 1230, existing pipework may need to be replaced or supplemented. The amount of supplementation or replacements can only be determined after a review of the existing installation.
An existing Halon control system that meets the requirements of national or international standards can be used with FM200 and can also be modified to function as part of an FM-200 system. Nozzles along with the container valve will need to be changed as the concentration and physical characteristics of the gasses differ. This can be done with little disruption and almost no system downtime.
As technology and our knowledge grows within the marketplace, fire suppression / clean agent system manufacturers have adapted existing systems or added alternatives to meet your fire protection needs. There are other types of suppression agents like inert gases such as IG-55, IG-01, and IG-5-4-1. These gases as an example of an alternative are naturally occurring and have 0 effect on the atmosphere. Inert gases are actually becoming more appealing to this generation due to that fact, and they are also more cost effective to refill.
Fire protection contractors’ work with all types of special hazard and clean agent fire suppression systems all based off the needs of your company and assets.
www.nafed.org – National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors
www.fssa.net – Fire Suppression Systems Association
www.harc.org – Halon Alternatives Research Corporation
www.nist.gov – National Institute of Standards & Technology
www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection/halons-program#ban-halon – Environmental Protection Agency