Bulletin 141 November 2010 Overloading Electrical Circuits
- Posted at: September 25, 2021 04:19:55

Computer room fire protection is a top priority in the design of a data centre. Today’s data centres and computer rooms are under enormous pressure to maintain operations without interruption. In the event of a catastrophic data centre or computer room fire, a company may lose equipment, productivity and, worst of all, lives. Industry studies tell us that 43 percent of businesses that are closed by a fire never re-open. And 29 percent of those that do open fail within the next three years. The potentially devastating effects of fire have created a great demand for state-of-the-art computer room fire protection, detection, and suppression. Fires in data centres and computer rooms are typically caused by power problems in raceways, raised floors and other concealed areas. Fires can result from defects in or the misuse of the power delivery system. In addition, wiring may fail due to faulty installation, overloading, physical damage, aging and deterioration due to normal wear. Such wiring should be replaced and new circuits installed. Natural occurrences such as lightening and power surges also increase the risk of fire. That said, the steps taken during the fire prevention stage provide more protection against damage than any type of detection or suppression equipment available. If your computer room is made incapable of igniting and breeding a fire, then there will be little threat of fire damage to the facility.

If a fire does occur, rapid detection is the next step in the fire safety process. There are a number of advanced devices that can sense a fire in its early stages, alert personnel and activate suppression systems. In a data centre or computer room, the main goal for the fire protection system should be to get the fire under control, while maintaining the safety of personnel in the facility and, if possible, avoid disrupting the flow of business. It is becoming more common for computers in any type of environment to be the source of a fire, be it corporate network servers or the standalone computers in a small office. Situations where computer monitors and laptops have started fires are on the increase. As most computers have cooling fans which draw in the surrounding atmosphere, it is not surprising that problems can arise. After 12 months of use, the average computer will be full of dust, lint and dirt which can clog up the cooling system of the machine, lead to overheating and provide a source of combustible material. Potential electrical fire hazards are everywhere, including all workplace areas. Overloading circuits by connecting more electrical devices than they are designed to handle is a typical problem. It is always hazardous to create a potential overload by installing extension cords and multi-plug outlets. Use extension cords only when necessary and make sure they are heavy enough for the job. Avoid establishing an electrical octopus or inserting several plugs into a multi-plug outlet connected to a single wall outlet. If a circuit breaker trips repeatedly while in normal use, this should be taken as an indication that trouble is brewing and further investigation is required until the issue is corrected. In the event that an extension cord must be used temporarily to supply power, ensure that it heavy enough to carry the maximum rated wattage for the required devices. Be sure to use grounded extensions for three-prong equipment.

For commercial and industrial buildings, each circuit must be protected by a fuse or circuit breaker that will blow or break when its safe carrying capacity is surpassed. Any circuit that must take a temporary overload, such as would occur during the start up of a heavy motor, should be enhanced with time delay (slow blow) fuses. Circuit breakers are continually being re-designed to include the latest safety features so as to reduce the risk of an electrical fire.

This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.

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