Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding FM-200® waterless fire protection systems.
1. How does a FM-200® system work?
FM-200® extinguishes fires through a combination of chemical and physical mechanisms. A typical design concentration of 7% v/v provides the required amount of gas to extinguish the flame.[^Top]
2. Who uses FM-200® systems?
FM-200® systems are a trusted choice for waterless fire protection. Our customers are businesses, governments, universities, hospitals, and museums around the world with valuable assets to protect against fire. Over 100,000 systems are installed in over 70 countries. Applications range from computer and electronic suites to military vehicles. From the largest Fortune 500 companies to small art museums: all rely on FM-200® systems for fast, effective, and safe fire protection.[^Top]
3. How are FM-200® systems designed?
FM-200® is stored as a liquid in pressurized cylinders. When discharged, the liquid flows through a piping network into the protected area, where it vaporizes. The amount of gas delivered from each nozzle is carefully calculated to deliver the proper amount of FM-200® to each protected area.[^Top]
4. Does the ban on HCFCs affect FM-200®?
In a word, no. FM-200® belongs to the class of compounds called HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, which were actually introduced to facilitate the phaseout of ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and bromine-containing fluorocarbons (Halons).[^Top]
5. How will the Kyoto Protocol affect FM-200® systems?
The Kyoto Protocol concerns itself solely with emissions reduction. The Kyoto Protocol is an effort by the developed nations of the world to find a way to define a baseline and ultimately reduce emissions of substances that contribute to global climate warming. It makes no reference to a ban on the use of any HFCs, whether in fire protection or other uses.[^Top]
6. How do I know FM-200® will be available in the future?
There is currently no movement to ban FM-200® or any threat to do so. Remember, FM-200® was created in response to the need for a clean gaseous fire suppressant to replace ozone-depleting Halon 1301 systems. It is thoroughly tested, meeting rigorous American and international standards. It is also the only HFC product approved for fire protection in Germany, a country known for its tough environmental standards.[^Top]
7. Are there any countries where FM-200® cannot be used?
There are no overall or outright bans on FM-200® anywhere. However, there are a few notable exceptions where certain countries have created barriers limiting the ability to sell FM-200® fire protection systems.[^Top]
Denmark has a general ban on all chemical extinguishants dating back to 1977, over a decade before FM-200® was invented. Iceland, which enjoys close ties with Denmark, has adopted a similar position. The Swiss government has stated that HFCs such as FM-200® can be used in cases where the safety of persons in aircraft, special army vehicles, and atomic installations could not otherwise be adequately assured.
8. How can I be sure that FM-200® is safe for people?
Exhaustive testing has been conducted to assess the safety of FM-200®, giving it the most comprehensive toxicity database of any clean agent. In fact, FM-200® is so safe that it is used as a propellant in pharmaceutical inhalers that dispense asthma medications. FM-200® is a single, pure compound; there is no active ingredient in FM-200®.[^Top]
9. Is thermal decomposition a problem with FM-200®?
The vast majority (>95%) of applications of FM-200® involve the protection of Class A hazards. Extensive testing shows that the levels of HF produced in extinguishing typical Class A fires are well below hazardous levels based on the dangerous toxic load (DTL) of HF. Moreover, these levels present no threat to electronics or other sensitive equipment. For fast-growing Class B fires, HF levels may exceed the human DTL depending upon the size of the fire and the volume of the protected area, and HF levels may also present a threat to equipment. In most cases this is a moot point, as the temperatures and levels of toxic combustion products such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and smoke render the atmosphere toxic and corrosive even before the discharge of FM-200®. There is no such thing as an "ordinary combustible fire." Fires are not combustible, they are undergoing combustion.[^Top]
10. Isn't FM-200® a lot more expensive than other options?
Not when you consider the total installed cost of a FM-200® system is usually only a small fraction of the earnings potential of the assets being protected. A FM-200® system takes up to seven times less storage space than other fire suppression systems. And it's difficult to put a price on safety and peace of mind. FM-200® systems offer the fastest fire protection available.[^Top]
11. Why should I install anything more than a sprinkler system?
Water sprinklers do offer effective fire protection for buildings and structures. Water sprinklers are designed to control fires, limiting the spread of the fire and contain it to its original location long enough to allow professional firefighters to respond and extinguish the fire before a total building loss can occur. Unfortunately, water will also ruin computers, electronics, artwork, and more--the very things you wanted to protect. By comparison, a FM-200® system provides fire protection for critical or irreplaceable assets contained within a structure. It's designed to detect and extinguish fires at their earliest stages to prevent any damage or downtime from occurring.[^Top]
12. Is water mist as good as a FM-200® system?
No. Water mist is not a gas, and will not penetrate all portions of an area like FM-200® gas will. Extensive testing has shown that water mist systems perform poorly on small fires and are best suited for the suppression of large fires. Therefore, water mist is not well suited for small or shielded or obstructed fires, exactly the type of fires most FM-200® systems are designed to extinguish. It's also crucial to remember that water is electrically conductive and can be extremely damaging to sensitive electronic equipment or valuable assets.[^Top]
13. How can I be sure a FM-200® system is the right strategy for my application?
If your application is an ordinary combustible, electrical, or flammable liquid fire, then a FM-200® system is most likely right for you. The more valuable the assets you wish to protect (including people), the more sense it makes to use a FM-200® waterless fire protection system. There are a few instances where a FM-200® system would not be the right choice for fire suppression. Applications not appropriate for a FM-200® system include:[^Top]
Applications involving chemicals that are capable of self-oxidizing or generating their own oxygen even without the presence of air, such as gunpowder and cellulose nitrate; or compounds that are very unstable and can spontaneously combust, such as hydrazine (rocket fuel) and many peroxides. Processing facilities or areas using pure powdered forms of metals. Fires fueled by reactive metals such as lithium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, titanium, zirconium, metal hydrides, and the radioactive elements uranium and plutonium require a different extinguishing strategy. Other applications where questionable chemicals are part of the fire hazard.
14. Can I use FM-200® on Class C fires?
FM-200® gas is non-conductive and is suitable for the protection of Class C hazards (hazards involving energized electrical equipment). Testing has demonstrated the ability of FM-200® to suppress typical Class C fires, for example fires involving electrically energized cable bundles.[^Top]
15. Where can I get a quote on a FM-200® system?
Chemours has teamed up with the top fire protection equipment manufacturers in the world to provide state-of-the-art FM-200® waterless fire protection systems. Please contact us to obtain more information on how a FM-200® system can best protect your facilities and valuable assets.[^Top]
16. Is it a requirement to have a sign posted on the entry door of the location protected by FM-200®?
FM-200® systems in the United States are typically installed in accordance with NFPA 2001 Standard for Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems. Section 18.104.22.168 of the NFPA 2001 (2204 edition) states: 22.214.171.124 Warning and instruction signs at entrances to and inside protected areas shall be provided. The "shall" designation in the NFPA code is a requirement, not an option.[^Top]
17. Is FM-200® accepted on the U.S. EPA's SNAP list? I cannot find FM-200® in the Federal register documents.
The U.S. EPA 40 CFR directs the use of substitutes for halon replacement. FM-200® is indeed included in the U.S. EPA SNAP listing of halon alternatives. You will find HFC-227ea, the ASHRAE chemical description of the chemical heptafluoropropane, listed as "acceptable for occupied areas" under the EPA's Significant New Alternatives Program (SNAP). FM-200® is the Chemours brand name for our HFC-227ea fire extinguishing agent.[^Top]
18. Are FM-200® cylinders required to be located outside the room being protected?
FM-200® cylinders may be placed in or out of the protected space, depending on the needs of the client. Both NFPA 2001, Clean Agent Standard and ISO 14520 allow the cylinders to be placed within or outside the protected space. It is always a good idea to keep the cylinders as close to the protected area as possible and remember to account for ease of access for service and maintenance.[^Top]
19. Is your product accepted by SOLAS for marine applications?
Several of our OEM Fire System partners have marine systems that comply with SOLAS 74, under the IMO MSC Circular 848. As a result, FM-200® is currently being implemented as an agent of choice for many commercial and military vessels.[^Top]
20. How often do I have to inspect and test the system?
NFPA 2001, 4-1.1, requires clean agent systems be thoroughly inspected by competent personnel at least annually. Section 4-1.3 requires a semi-annual check of the agent quantity and cylinder pressure.[^Top]
21. Is there a height limitation in sub-floors protected by FM-200®?
In general, there is no limit to the height of protection in a sub-floor. In fact, if the sub-floor were 3 meters high it would be treated exactly like a room for purposes of design. Each manufacturer maintains a system listing to a maximum nozzle height. Rooms exceeding this height are effectively protected using multiple layers of nozzles, each layer remaining within the height limitation. There are minimum heights for sub-floors to account for the practical installation of nozzles and piping. Limitations on system design are the responsibility of the specific system manufacturers and their respective listings and approvals. You should contact your specific system manufacturer for further clarification of the limitations on their particular system.[^Top]
22. After a discharge is the residual FM-200® left in the space hazardous to responding fire fighters in protective gear? Does the gear (which is WMD rated by the manufacturer) need to be taken out of service to be decontaminated?
The key to responding to a post FM-200® discharge is to evaluate the scope and nature of the fire event. If there was no fire event, the agent can be safely and quickly removed through conventional air handling (turn on the AC, open the doors and windows) and will pose no danger to the respondents or the employees working in the space. FM-200® is safe for people to breath at normal design concentrations.[^Top]
In the event of a fire, most FM-200® systems are designed to respond while the fire event is still in the earliest stages and very small. In a typical electronic computer facility the fires are low energy, slow growth events. Early detection limits the potential for fire damage and combustion by products. Modern electronics, however, can give off a wide range of noxious byproducts when burned. For this reason, it is recommended that firefighters employ SCBA when re-entering a space. FM-200® will generate some HF as a result of extinguishing the fire.
In general, there is no requirement to decontaminate firefighter gear after responding to an FM-200® event. There will be little or no residue, other than possible combustion products from the fire, within the protected space. Repeated fire tests have been performed, without ever decontaminating the fire suits used by the technicians.
23. Is there any post-activation purge/ventilation requirements for your system?
There is no requirement within NFPA 2001 for a dedicated exhaust system when using FM-200®. NFPA requires that the post-extinguishment atmosphere be ventilated in a safe manner. With most installations, this can be accomplished by simply turning on the air handling units and allowing enough time to dissipate any smoke in a post-fire event.[^Top]
Some jurisdictions have implemented additional local requirements concerning ventilation systems. You should check with your local authorities.
24. Should we install a backup sprinkler system?
FM-200® systems are usually installed specifically to protect the contents of an enclosure and the ongoing operations of the protected space. Sprinkler systems provide structural protection for a facility or building - Tough to burn a brick or mortar. Both systems can be installed within a given space, but provide very different levels of protection against damage.[^Top]
25. What are the criteria for sealing up a FM-200® protected space and how quickly must the door to a linear accelerator space, for example, close prior to release of the gas?
Because FM-200® is a gas, it will flow freely wherever the air goes. This is one feature that makes FM-200® extremely effective in getting into and around complex structures, finding and extinguishing fires in the deepest recesses. It will, however, also leak out of the space with equal ease. Generally it is recommended that doors and significant openings be closed prior to the discharge of the agent. This includes ventilation dampers, windows, and other normal openings. For the integrity of the space, we recommend performing a room integrity test with a door fan unit. With all of the normal openings closed, the door fan provides a slight positive and negative pressure to the space and calculates the total cumulative volume of openings. Using this data allows us to derive a hold time for the agent concentration. Hold time requirements are usually set by the AHJ and most conventional enclosures look for ten minutes. This ensures thorough extinguishment and minimizes the potential for reflash of the fire.[^Top]
26. Are there training programs available for FM-200® that fire departments can receive regarding applications, safety, and precautions?
We do not have a training program specific to FM-200® systems, but we can forward information that we have produced. Materials discuss the use and efficacy of the FM-200® agent. Contact us for additional information on system components.[^Top]