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First-of-its-kind research from FM Global aims to prevent costly fires in data centres

LONDON, UK – Companies lose an average of US$7,900 per minute when their data centres go down. With fire being one of the most feared causes of outage, commercial and industrial property insurer FM Global in partnership with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) recently conducted more than 100 experiments to understand and develop solutions to prevent this costly hazard.

The groundbreaking research will be used to determine the optimal placement of smoke detectors in data centres—in order to detect fires at the earliest possible moment. Until now, smoke detector placement has been educated guesswork.

“Last year, data centre fires at client facilities resulted in average losses of US$17 million,” said Dr. Louis Gritzo, vice president, manager of research for FM Global. “Our belief is that the majority of loss is preventable through engineering and research. These unique and novel experiments will help make our clients’ data centres more resilient and less prone to business interruption.”

The live fire testing took place inside a full-size mock data centre built at the FM Global Research Campus in West Glocester, R.I., USA, the world’s largest centre for property protection-related scientific research and testing. Researchers mapped data centre air- and smoke-flow patterns and applied the knowledge to improve computer models for locating smoke detectors within data centre facilities. The research will inform FM Global’s property loss prevention engineering guidelines and NFPA’s consensus standards.

“Even a small fire within a data centre can result in a significant loss of information,” said Kathleen Almand, executive director of FPRF. “The best way to conduct fire prevention and detection research is to run well-designed, full-scale tests, and FM Global has the facilities, science and engineering expertise to do that.”

The complete scientific research findings are available in a downloadable technical report at www.fmglobal.com/researchreports. A video illustrating the project can be viewed on YouTube.
Related: FM Global’s Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet, “Data Centres and Related Facilities.”

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organisation founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

About FM Global

For nearly two centuries, many of the world's largest organisations have turned to FM Global (www.fmglobal.co.uk) to develop cost-effective property insurance and engineering solutions to protect their business operations from fire, natural disasters and other types of property risk. With clients in more than 130 countries, FM Global has been named "Best Property Insurer in the World" by Euromoney magazine, "Best Global Property Insurer" by Global Finance magazine and received the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise. In the United Kingdom, FM Global is the communicative name for FM Insurance Company Limited, which celebrates its 50th anniversary of international operation in 2013.