We have a halon fire suppression system. What should we do now that halon is being phased out?
For 35 years, Halon 1301 fire suppression systems have been installed in cultural institutions as an alternative to water-based systems. Because halon is classified as an ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), the production of new halon was banned beginning January 1, 1994. Currently, there is no direct replacement for halon. Halon fire suppression systems must either be retrofitted or entirely replaced to accommodate another agent. Fortunately, most halon fire suppression systems were built to last a very long time and may still be relied upon to provide effective protection. Once the halon gas has been discharged, however, it will be extremely expensive and ultimately impossible to replace. Therefore, institutions with halon systems must begin planning now for replacement fire suppression systems.
It is important to have a halon fire suppression system inspected regularly by a qualified specialist to insure that the system is still able to perform effectively. Reevaluate the need for a non-water-based system. Many institutions have found that a water sprinkler system, combined with specialized storage containers for water sensitive artifacts, is an acceptable choice. Have a replacement system designed and installed by qualified professionals. Although there is a strong market for recycled halon, institutions should adopt a redundant system that will add protection and be in place when the current halon charge is depleted.
The National Fire Protection Association is a resource for up-to-date fire suppression information. NFPA 2001, "Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems" discusses alternatives to halon and can be ordered directly from the NFPA National Archives Catalog.