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NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520: The Firefighting Aces

In the ever-evolving realm of fire safety, standards like NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 are the guardians of integrity. These standards are not mere guidelines; they are the bedrock of safeguarding lives and property. These standards have become instrumental in reshaping the fire suppression industry. Consider an industrial facility with a state-of-the-art fire suppression system.

Retrotec integrity testing setup

Without a passing integrity test, the consequences could be catastrophic. In a recent case, an untested enclosure led to a 60% increase in property damage during a fire incident, costing millions.

In this article, we delve into their significance, the role of Retrotec, and the transformative impact on the sector.

Understanding NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520

NFPA 2001 sets forth the requirements for designing, installing, testing, inspecting, and maintaining clean agent fire extinguishing systems. Clean agent fire extinguishing systems are used in critical environments, such as data centers, telecommunications facilities, museums, and other spaces where water-based fire suppression systems could cause damage to sensitive equipment or valuable assets.

Key points covered by NFPA 2001 include:

System Design: The standard outlines the specifications for designing these systems, including factors such as the type and quantity of clean agent used, storage and distribution of the agent, and the activation mechanism.
Installation: It provides guidelines for the proper installation of clean agent systems, ensuring they are set up correctly and meet safety standards.
Testing and Inspection: Using Retrotec’s Blower door system, NFPA 2001 outlines the requirements for testing and inspecting these systems on a regular basis to ensure they remain functional and effective. Moreover, the company provides training programs tailored to the testing and commissioning protocols of the systems, guaranteeing their operational and functional validation.
Maintenance: The standard emphasizes the importance of ongoing maintenance to ensure that the clean agent fire extinguishing system is ready to perform when needed.
Documentation: NFPA 2001 requires proper documentation of the system's design, installation, testing, and maintenance records.

What is ISO 14520?

It is an international standard that specifically addresses the design, installation, and maintenance of gaseous fire suppression systems. The standard "ISO 14520 - Gaseous fire-extinguishing systems"

Part 1: Physical properties and system design. Here's a brief explanation:

ISO 14520 Part 1 primarily focuses on the following key aspects of gaseous fire-extinguishing systems:

Physical Properties: The standard outlines the physical properties and characteristics of gaseous agents used in fire suppression systems. These properties are important for understanding how these agents extinguish fires effectively without causing harm to people or equipment. Understanding properties such as density, pressure, and discharge characteristics is crucial in system design.
System Design: ISO 14520 provides guidance and requirements for the design of gaseous fire-extinguishing systems. This includes specifying the appropriate quantity and distribution of the fire suppression agent within the protected space, ensuring that the system can effectively extinguish fires.
Installation and Testing: Retrotec’s Integrity Test (RIT) incorporates comprehensive instructions for the proper installation of these systems, emphasizing the importance of following the design specifications as per the standard. Additionally, the company offers training that specifically covers the testing and commissioning processes of the systems to ensure their operational and functional validation.
Maintenance and Inspection: ISO 14520 discusses the maintenance and inspection procedures necessary to ensure that gaseous fire suppression systems remain in proper working condition. Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to ensure that the system will function when needed.

Enclosure Integrity Test by Buildingdoctor - Site in Nort Kuwait Powerplant

Al Zour North Powerplant, Kuwait - Enclosure Integrity Test - Site Tested by Engr. Mithulaj Shajahan

Key differences between NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520

NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 are two standards that address gaseous fire suppression systems, but they are developed by different organizations and have some key differences in their scope and content.

Origin and Scope:

NFPA 2001: Developed by NFPA for U.S. use, specifically for clean agent fire suppression systems.

ISO 14520: An international standard by ISO applicable globally, with a broader focus on gaseous fire-extinguishing systems.


NFPA 2001: Detailed requirements for clean agent systems, covering design, installation, testing, and maintenance.

ISO 14520: Emphasizes physical properties of agents, and system design, with less emphasis on detailed requirements.

Global Recognition:

NFPA 2001: Primarily used in the U.S. and the Middle East

ISO 14520: Mainly used in Europe and Australia

The choice between NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 will depend on factors such as the location of the installation, applicable regulations, and the specific needs of the project. It's important to consult with local authorities and experts in fire protection to ensure compliance with relevant standards and codes.

Retrotec’s Role

Retrotec Enclosure Integrity Setup by Buildingdoctor DMCC

Retrotec specializes in equipment and expertise for Enclosure Fire Integrity Testing. Their commitment to adhering to and promoting the standards has made them industry leaders in ensuring the reliability and effectiveness of fire suppression systems. By aligning with these standards, they drive innovation and ensure that their equipment and practices remain at the forefront of fire safety technology.

In 1985, Retrotec took a significant step by writing the first standard for testing fire suppressant containment for NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). This standard likely focused on assessing the effectiveness and integrity of fire suppression systems, particularly those containing clean agents or gases. Such testing is crucial to ensure that these systems can effectively contain and suppress fires without causing harm or damage to the protected environment.

Retrotec’s work in this area may have contributed to the development and improvement of standards related to fire suppressant containment within NFPA. The fact that Retrotec also followed up with an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) version suggests that their expertise extended beyond national boundaries, making them a global authority in this field.

In 2015, Retrotec became the ONLY blower door manufacturer to achieve the internationally recognized “ISO 17025 accreditation” for both pressure and flow. Allowing Calibrations performed by Retrotec to be accepted by every government and industry organization, body, and standard.

Retrotec’s contributions to these standards align with their role as a manufacturer of building diagnostic tools and equipment, as these tools can be crucial in conducting tests and assessments related to fire suppression system containment.

Retrotec Enclosure Integrity Testing by Buildingdoctor

Retrotec’s Equipment

Retrotec has a long history of over 30 years as the only manufacturer of blower door and duct testing equipment, and the provider of building diagnostic tools in the industry.

Retrotec’s blower door system testing is specifically designed to calculate the hold time and peak pressure of an enclosure, regardless of its size.

Clean agent fire suppression systems are used in enclosures where a sprinkler system would cause damage to sensitive contents such as computer servers, paper files, or historical artifacts. Upon fire detection, the compressed clean agent(which can be a halocarbon or an inert gas) is released into the enclosure. Once the enclosure is flooded, the agent will begin to leak out at a rate that primarily depends upon the leakage area in the lower part of the enclosure, although higher leakages play a significant role as well.

The gas suppression system is designed to protect critical systems within the enclosure for a certain time once the agent is released, which is called the ‘hold time’. This will generally be 10 minutes or in some cases 20 minutes, or any other time frame dependent on the exact situation and used standard

To make sure a room is protected it will have to be tested on the enclosure integrity by a capable technician, with the use of Retrotec blower door system, as well as up-to-date software that can calculate the expected hold time as per the latest applicable standards.

Once the agent is released within an enclosure, the pressure in the enclosure will go up, and a peak pressure will be reached (before the start of the required hold time).

Article by:

Rila Khairun - Technical Engineer



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