Halon

Halon an extinguishing agent was developed after World War II for the
protection of aircraft engines. Several types were developed, and several
were banned and discontinued such as halon 104. Other types were halon
1202, halon 1211, halon 1301, and halon 2402, which was never widely used
in the United States due to its high toxicological concerns. Halon type 1101
was widely utilized for aircraft engines. The two most common types being;
halon 1301 bromotrifluoromethane, CBrF3, which is most commonly used in
fixed system, and halon 1211 bromochlorodifluoromethane, CBrClF2, which
is used in portable systems. Halons are synthetic gases, grouped under the
category of halogenated hydrocarbons, that exhibit exceptional fire-fighting
and explosion prevention/suppression effectiveness when appropriately
applied. Halon chemically interferes with the combustion process of fire
resulting in extinguishment. Halon is stored as a liquid, which then vaporizes
into a gas. Its boiling point is negative 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Halon in
non-conductive and non-toxic when used at 5 – 7 percent concentrations.
Even though it is non-toxic human exposure should be less then 15 minutes
when concentration is 0 – 7 percent. With a higher concentration 7 – 15
percent exposure should be less than one minute. Fire fighters should wear full
protective gear and SCBA’s when exposed to halon. Halon is considered a
“clean agent” it leaves no residue behind and does not cause any damage to
the applied area. Halon is used in computer rooms to safely extinguish any fire
that may happen so that minimal damage will be caused. Computer rooms that
contain millions of dollars worth of equipment. Hitachi Data Systems main
computer room in Santa Clara of Lafayette and Central is one example. This
room contains millions of dollars worth of computers. There is more computer
power in this room than any other in the United States. It is protected by a
halon 1301 fixed system, and several halon 1211 type extinguishers. Halon is
also the best extinguishing agent for flammable liquids. In a flooded type halon
system concentration should reach 5 percent concentration in 10 seconds.
During tests halon has put out a flammable liquid fire with a 20-minute
pre-burn time with a concentration of 5.6 percent. Every fixed halon system
must contain a storage vessel, which is where the halon is contained in a liquid
form. A piping system to deliver the agent to the nozzles which is where the
halon turns into its vapor form. Ionization type detection system. Two alarms
must be set of before it is discharged. The second one is to confirm. An abort
switch to cancel the discharge. A manual pull station that will override
everything. A pre-alarm bell to warn that halon will be released in the area.
Warning signs must also be placed on the entrances to the room. Also the
abort switches and the manual pull stations are placed at every exit of the
room. In most cases there is also an exhaust fan to clear the room out after a
release has occurred. Although halon has become a great fire suppression
system since its initial use, it has now become illegal to manufacture in the
United States. It was discovered in the early 1980\'s that certain man-made
chemicals depleted the Ozone Layer. Among Ozone Depleting Substances
(ODS) are methyl bromide which is contained in halon. The Montreal
Protocol is an international agreement by over 140 member countries to
eliminate the production of ODS in order to protect the Earth\'s Ozone Layer.
Therefore, halon production in the United States ended on December 31,
1993 because it contributes to depletion of the ozone layer. They cause ozone
depletion because they contain bromine. Bromine is greatly more effective at
destroying ozone than chlorine. The end of halon production has had a
dramatic impact on the protection of special hazards against fire and
explosion. However, halon systems are still being used today and it is not
illegal to use the agent itself. The halon supply in the United States is said to be
enough to last for 50 years or more. Halon is also smuggled across the border
from Mexico, keeping the halon supply high. There are new safer alternatives
to halon, but replacing there many applications still prove to be a challenge.
The new agents are also more expensive. Hitachi’s computer room in Indian
used the agent FM 200 that cost around 50,000 dollars just for the chemical
in a much smaller room. Apple Computers also used the FM 200 agent in
their recently remodeled server room, in Cupertino. The system was halon
before the remodel took place but was changed during the remodel. The
components for the system are basically the