A fire occurs in a structure every 63 seconds in the United States. Some industries are more susceptible to fires including manufacturing, transportation, energy, and other mission-critical environments. For businesses with a higher risk of fire, it is important to determine the best fire suppression system to minimize risk, protect critical equipment, and keep employees safe.

There are several options for fire suppression systems. One of the most common types is a fire sprinkler system which spreads water to suppress the fire. While this method is very reliable, in many applications water can do more harm than good including the damage caused to equipment. This is also the case with fire suppression systems that use water mist suppression agents. Water mist agents can cause corrosion and have environmental and health corners. Another option is an automatic fire suppression system that uses dry chemical or gaseous agents to suppress a fire. The benefit of the gaseous agent that it leaves no residue behind while the dry chemical agents are suited for applications with flammable and combustible liquids.Fire suppression systems may be activated manually or automatically when a fire is detected. This post explains the difference between automatic fire suppression systems and systems that require human intervention.


Defining an Automatic Fire Suppression System

Automatic fire suppression systems react to a rapid rise in heat, or fire situation, without any human intervention. These systems contain the same general components:

  • Detection element, such as pneumatic tubing or a smoke detector
  • Suppression agent cylinder
  • Pressure switch (optional)
  • Manual release (optional)  

There are two common types of automatic fire suppression systems – non-electrical systems and active, electrical systems. Active, electrical systems have an electronic actuator and as soon as it senses something is wrong, a signal is sent to the electronic device to activate the system.

When to Install an Automatic Fire Suppression System

Building codes and regulations usually define where automatic fire suppression systems need to exist. For example, if there is an industrial complex storing fuel, there will be an OSHA requirement saying an automatic fire suppression system is necessary. There are a variety of other governing bodies that dictate the safety requirements within an organization. These include NFPA, VDF, ISO, or the CCCF in Asia. While regulations may not always require automatic fire suppression, some organizations choose to install systems proactively to protect critical assets and prevent downtime.