Fire Detection in Cool Rooms

A cool room is an enclosure typically within a larger structure and is designed to maintain a temperature of generally between -18°C and +2°C. Cool rooms vary in size and as such the type of fire detection (AS1670.1) and fire sprinkler protection (AS2218.1) must adapt accordingly.

CEO, Firewize
16 Jun, 2022

A smoke detection and alarm system is required in buildings described in Specification E2.2a of the National Construction Code ("NCC"). This Specification describes the installation and operation of automatic smoke detection and alarm systems. The types of smoke detection and alarm systems generally falls into one of three categories;

  • a smoke alarm system with smoke alarms (mains powered) complying with Australian Standard AS 3786; or
  • a smoke detection system complying with Australian Standard AS 1670.1 that operates the building occupant warning system; or
  • a combination of a smoke alarm system and a smoke detection system.

In certain circumstances, a cool room in a building fitted with with either a smoke alarm system or a smoke detection system may require the installation of one or more fire detectors subject to its size (floor area).

There are many sources of fire in cold storage facilities with obvious causes including;

  • electrical wiring and equipment;
  • transport equipment faults (conveyors);
  • maintenance operations (hot work);
  • arson.

Protecting buildings from fire is an obvious requirement from building owners, insurers and the national construction code.

Cold rooms and freezers are required to have fire detectors

The National Construction Code requires certain buildings to have a smoke detection system installed in accordance with AS1670.1.

According to AS1670.1 all areas of a building, including cold rooms and freezers are required to have a fire detector installed if the balance of the building is also required to have a smoke detection system.

There is one exclusion from this requirement (AS 1670.1;2008, Clause 3.27.10) where the cold room or freezer has an internal volume of less than 10m3 and has been manufactured to be a "transportable building".

Protection of Fire Detectors in Cool Rooms

Smoke Detector Operating Parameter Example

There are a number of challenges to effective fire detection within a cool room, cold store or freezer. These challenges include;

  • condensation;
  • excessive humidity;
  • water vapour clouds;
  • airflows that might dilute smoke;
  • smoke transport due to low thermal conductivity;
  • temperatures (lower) that the operating temperature range of the detection device set out by the manufacturer;
  • the buildup of ice in and/or around fire detectors.

Selecting the correct type of fire detector for a cool room is vital to ensure its reliable operation.

Fire Detector Selection for Cold Rooms & Freezers

Cold Room Fire Detection (Heat Detectors)

Appendix M of Australian Standard AS1670.1 provides guidance for the selection of fire detectors in various circumstances. Clause M2 (ix) specifically mentions the requirements for cold rooms and freezers, and offers the following options;

  1. aspirating smoke detector; or
  2. projected beam (optical beam) smoke detector; or
  3. heat detectors with normal temperature duty and fixed temperature operation.

In practical application the size, storage, layout, capacity, use of the room and specialised risks are the determining factors that are considered when developing a fire detection strategy.

Summary

At Firewize we have observed cool (cold) rooms and freezers (lowest is -40°C) that incorporate each of these types of fire detectors (Aspirating Smoke Detectors and Heat Detectors). We also observe specialised fire sprinkler heads in cool rooms specifically designed for this application.

Where a building is required to be fitted with a fire detection and alarm system in accordance with Specification E2.2 of the National Construction Code and has a cool room that has a floor area greater than 10m3, then that cool room must be protected with a smoke detector or heat detector in order to comply with the NCC and AS 1670.1.

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