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

JOHNSTON, R.I., USA—Companies lose an average of US$7,900 per minute when their data centers 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 centers—in order to detect fires at the earliest possible moment. Until now, smoke detector placement has been educated guesswork.

“Last year, data center 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 centers more resilient and less prone to business interruption.”

The live fire testing took place inside a full-size mock data center built at the FM Global Research Campus in West Glocester, R.I., USA, the world’s largest center for property protection-related scientific research and testing. Researchers mapped data center air- and smoke-flow patterns and applied the knowledge to improve computer models for locating smoke detectors within data center 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 center 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 A video illustrating the project can be viewed on YouTube. Related: FM Global’s Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet, “Data Centers 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 organization 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

About FM Global

Established in 1835, FM Global is a US $5.6 billion mutual insurance company whose capital, scientific research capability and engineering expertise are solely dedicated to property risk management. Its client-owners, who share the belief that the majority of property loss is preventable, represent many of the world’s largest organizations, including one of every three FORTUNE 1000 companies. They work with FM Global to better understand the hazards that can impact their business continuity in order to make cost-effective risk management decisions combining property loss prevention with insurance protection. FM Global is rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best and AA (Very Strong) by Fitch.