Halon Decommissioning – What You Need to Know

Do you use a Halon fire suppression to keep your building safe from fires? Halon systems are commonly used to protect valuable electronics, oil and gas production facilities, military systems and other critical operations. Unfortunately, Halon has been identified as a potent ozone depleter, and production of new supplies of Halon has been banned. While removal of old Halon systems is not required, more and more businesses owners are having their fire suppression systems replaced with more environmentally friendly options. The process of Halon system removal is called “decommissioning,” and is a two-step process involving the removal of the actual equipment and then reclaiming the actual Halon agent.

Since Halon needs to be carefully handled, stored, transported and eventually reused, the process of decommissioning needs to serve multiple purposes – the old system needs to be removed from service and replaced with an alternative means of fire protection, and then the Halon from the system must be recovered so it can be cleaned and made available for use again. As Halon supplies get more and more scarce, this reclaiming and reusing of the fire suppressant will be crucial to meet future fire protection needs of critical applications.

If the process of Halon decommissioning seems complicated, it’s because of how important it is that Halon supplies are not leaked into the air. Since Halon supplies are stored under pressure, they must be handled with care. As a result, it’s important that Halon decommissioning be performed only by properly trained fire protection personnel. If the cylinder is not handled properly and the pressure is released in an uncontrolled manner, the cylinder can act as a projectile, potentially causing serious injury or death. The FSSA (Fire Suppression Systems Association) lays out specific guidelines related to Halon decommissioning:

  • Only qualified and experienced fire suppression system service professionalsshould perform decommissioning activities.
  • Decommissioning personnel should be thoroughly trained in safe handlingprocedures as well as proper procedures related to disabling, removing,transporting, shipping, and emptying Halon cylinders.
  • All relevant procedures specified in manufacturer’s, Owner’s, Service, Operation and Maintenance manuals should be followed.
  • Cylinder brackets should NOT be removed and cylinders should NOT bedisconnected from system piping, or moved or shipped, without firstdisabling the actuation devices and providing protective caps and anti-recoildevices.

Potential Risks Involved with Halon Decommissioning

Halon systems have been manufactured for over 20 years, in many different places and by many different companies. While all Halon systems have their own unique differences, they all share the same inherent risks, which should be considered during the process of Halon decommissioning:

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Risks due to pressurized cylinders

Since Halon is stored under pressure, any damage to or improper handling of the cylinder, including accidental activation of the discharge mechanism, can cause it to become a projectile. This can cause serious injury or death to workers or bystanders. Common causes of accidental Halon discharge include:

  • Accidental automatic firing at the releasing panel/remote
  • Accidental manualactivation at the cylinder/remote
  • Accidental operation of the cylinder valve
  • Damage to the discharge head/neck
  • High cylinder temperature above the working pressure

Risks associated with heavy objects

A fully charged Halon cylinder can weigh as much as 1,500 lbs. As a result, moving the cylinders can be complicated. Accidentally dropping or improperly lifting the cylinder can cause injury to personnel handling the equipment or accidental release of cylinder pressure.

Risks associated with Halon exposure

One of the most serious risks associated with Halon decommissioning is the risk associated with exposure to the chemical itself. Halon exposure can cause dizziness and anesthesia as well as cardiac sensitization, which can lead to irregular heart beat and, in severe cases, heart attack. At high enough concentrations, Halon exposure can be fatal.

Halon decommissioning can be complex, but it’s no problem for the fire protection professionals at Confires! If you want to replace your old Halon system with a more environmentally friendly one, such as FM-200, call today!