Organisational Fire Protection in the Semiconductor Industry

The establishment of operational fire safety regulations at GLOBALFOUNDRIES in Dresden, a provider of manufacturing and technology services for semiconductor products, represented a challenge due to the large cleanroom area of around 52,000 m². This article focuses on the permissible particle emissions which represent the framework conditions for designing all processes for the maintenance and inspection of the fire protection facilities.

Organisational Fire Protection in the Semiconductor Industry
Fig. 1: View of part of the company building Module One during a deployment exercise in 2012 (Source: GLOBALFOUNDRIES)

By Mario Dethloff. The provider of manufacturing and technology services GLOBALFOUNDRIES has production locations in Singapore, Germany and the USA. Alongside national statutory regulations for fire protection in buildings and emergency planning, this type of globally positioned company also needs to pay particular attention to stable production conditions and supply chains.
The three building blocks of the operational fire protection system are thus oriented to these factors (see figure 2). The cleanroom area of 52,000 m² operated by the company (corresponds to approximately eight football pitches) in cleanroom class ISO 5 (maximum of 100 particles per 30 litres of air) places particular demands on the fire protection system.

Organisational Fire Protection in the Semiconductor Industry
Fig. 2: The building blocks of the operational fire protection system at GLOBALFOUNDRIES (Source: GLOBALFOUNDRIES)

The proportions of the wafer processing structures in the nanometre range illustrate this problem in relation to normal ambient conditions (see figure 3). A wafer is a circular disc cut from a cylindrical silicon crystal (semiconductor material) onto which the integrated switches in the form of microchips are applied in multiple elaborate processes.

Organisational Fire Protection in the Semiconductor Industry
Fig. 3: How big is small? Proportions in chip production (Source: GLOBALFOUNDRIES)

Another example of the particular issues encountered is the provision of ultra-pure water. This water is approximately 1 million times cleaner than drinking water quality and has a measurable level of permissible contamination that is comparable in scale to a sugar cube being dissolved in a volume of water the size of Lake Constance.

The article was published in FeuerTRUTZ International, issue 1.2017 (January 2017).
More information about eMagazine FeuerTRUTZ International

Framework conditions

The permissible particle emissions form the framework conditions for designing all processes for the maintenance and inspection of the fire protection facilities. The cleanroom atmosphere must be protected from particle emissions from a variety of sources. Potential sources are material surfaces, including human skin, particles in gaseous emissions, smoke, etc. Therefore, the surfaces of all equipment used in the cleanroom has to be cleaned when moved into the room at the air lock to prevent particle contamination. Pressure testing of the wall hydrants thus requires an elaborate logistical process. The special cleanroom compatible hoses thus need to be dismantled in advance, collected and tested outside of the cleanroom.
The diversity and amount of chemicals (sulphuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, etc.) and technical gases (silane, arsine, phosphine, etc.) used at the location in Dresden (Fab 1) to prepare the silicon wafer structures, as well as the highly complex technical processes employed, mean that high standards must be adhered to when managing the associated risks and hazards. The hazardous materials comprise very toxic and toxic substances, highly and easily flammable liquids, oxidising and environmentally hazardous substances and hydrogen.
Their use is monitored by a multi-stage gas detection system with detection points in the storage areas, at the distribution points for gases and chemicals and in the actual plants for processing the wafers.
The sprinkler system comprises approximately 55,000 sprinkler heads installed over almost the whole area, including the passageways and under the external canopies. The extinguishing water is provided via three DN 400 feeds with additional water storage and two separate external hydrant systems.

The other fire protection measures include:

  • Stairwells as fire walls (F 90-A)
  • Technical separation of special rooms (electrical/IT/chemical) to provide fire protection against flashover and radiated heat
  • Highly resistant ceilings
  • Sealing of ducts for line/pipes
  • Fire detectors/smoke extraction system fitted universally with monitoring in the suspended ceilings and raised floors

Organisation of the operational fire protection system

All of the so-called “Life Safety Systems” are brought together in two Security Control Centres because the site is (historically) divided in two modules. This is where the alarm signals from the gas detection systems, fire detection systems and other systems are handled. The emergency management services at GLOBALFOUNDRIES were expanded from the Emergency Response Team (ERT), which exclusively comprised volunteers from the workforce, to include a full-time company fire service. The voluntary ERT covers the traditional functions of first-aiders and fire protection assistants, while the additional capabilities cover protection against chemicals. The members are exclusively active on a shift system in order to guarantee coverage 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. In addition, there is also a health centre at the site.

Organisational Fire Protection in the Semiconductor Industry
Fig. 4: Impression of the deployment exercise in 2012 (Source: Mario Dethloff)

A deployment exercise carried out in 2012 with the then exclusively voluntary ERT and the local fire service rated the time taken until the fire services were operationally ready for firefighting in the company as unacceptable (see figure 4). This led to a reorganisation of the emergency services that are now arranged as follows:

  • Partial professionalisation of the ERT through the additional establishment of a company fire service with full-time professionals working in a 24 hour shift system
  • Expansion of the technical equipment with a focus on fighting incipient fires and chemical leaks
  • Reduction of the widely distributed storage areas for the emergency equipment by introducing a mobile deployment concept with specially equipped company vehicles for GW/L logistical tasks in accordance with DIN 14555-21
  • Authorised work with fire and work using tools posing a risk of fire and explosion are continuously monitored or checked by the company fire service
  • Introduction of a bonus system for the voluntary ERT as motivation, based on participation in training courses and performance.

The practical approach followed in the training courses and exercises is also followed throughout the entire workforce as well as e.g. the training plan “Evacuation exercises”. Evacuation exercises based on the specific building are carried out on average three times a year. This represents an exercise cycle of four years for the total of eleven buildings or fire compartments. The organisational work involved for buildings with cleanroom areas is significantly higher than for other buildings because the employees leave these areas in cleanroom clothing and their clothing must then be completely replaced and cleaned.
Basic training to become a firefighter for the company fire service is completed according to FwDV 2, which is supplemented with flexible and site-based training courses. The training is successively increased to the level of fire chief and training as a first-aid assistant (SanH) is completed. In addition, employees have received training and become qualified for the maintenance of breathing apparatus. They run the company’s own breathing apparatus workshop that provides the entire breathing equipment for the production areas and the ERT.


Sites based on highly complex technology must comply to a great degree with constantly changing requirements. The introduction of new technologies and chemicals and the associated structural changes also have an impact on all elements of the fire protection system. Individually tackling each requirement that arises from this kind of business with inventiveness and specialist expertise is the actual challenge here because there is wide degree of scope when it comes to the organisational aspects.


Dipl.-Ing. Mario Dethloff: Senior Section Manager Safety/Company Fire Service at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, ­Dresden; long-standing experience as an EHS manager in the area of semiconductor production, wind energy, oil & gas and a consultant for various major projects in the area of demolition and site clean-up operations

The article was published in FeuerTRUTZ International, issue 1.2017 (January 2017).
More information about eMagazine FeuerTRUTZ International

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