Your warehouse can serve as a safe haven for productivity. However, with the delicate balance between staff, product, and more, fire safety protocol should always be top-of-mind. So, how can you be prepared for anything that comes your way? Let’s discuss some A-Zs of fire protection in storage facilities.
If you’re thinking that arson isn’t something you need in your warehouse sprinkler systems vocabulary, unfortunately, this is untrue. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), arson accounts for 18% of warehouse fires in the U.S. and is responsible for 32% of the direct property damage of warehouses.
Combustible items are those that can be easily ignited and burned. For example, wood and paper. Combustibility also determines what hazard level the contents of your facility fall into.
- Low hazard contents are considered to have low combustibility
- Ordinary hazard contents are likely to burn with moderate intensity/speed or give off a certain volume of smoke
- High hazard contents are classified as those that can burn extremely rapidly or that can cause explosions
Another main cause of fires in warehouses is due to electrical or lighting incidents. According to NFPA, electrical fires and arson both account for equal distribution at 18%. However, these fires also cause 38% of civilian injuries.
The importance of flue space cannot be understated. In fact, flue spaces allow vertical fire spread to reach ceiling sprinklers and for sprinklers to reach the warehouse racking without obstructions. Without the proper use of safety solutions to allow for clear flue space, warehouse fires can become particularly dangerous.
International Fire Code (IFC) Requirements
The International Fire Code has some sets of requirements that differ from the NFPA. In fact, facilities that store non-hazardous materials are instead referred to as storage occupancies. There are some other requirements to know when it comes to fire sprinkler systems that you can review in-depth here.
Longitudinal flue space
Longitudinal flue space is one of two types of flue space between your pallet racking. If one were to walk to the end of an aisle and look along the double- or multiple-row long dimension of the racks (back-to-back) this is the longitudinal flue space.
National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)
The NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
Occupant load factors
According to the NFPA occupant load factors apply to facilities that are not just considered storage occupancies. These spaces follow a different formula, which determines the probable number of occupants in the space at a given time. Otherwise, occupant loads are determined by dividing the available floor area square footage by the occupant load factors in the table you can view here.
Storage occupancies are buildings that have a small number of people in proportion to the area of the structure. For example, barns, freight terminals, grain elevators, parking structures, and warehouses. Again, requirements, such as those for warehouse sprinkler systems, are determined by how many people will be in the space at a given time.
Transverse flue space
Transverse flue space is the second type of flue space related to warehouse racking. As one faces the rack storage array, transverse flue space is the space between commodities on the racks and between the racks themselves.
Fire Protection Takeaways
Now that you know some A-Zs of fire protection in storage facilities, how can you best use this knowledge? What are some of the main takeaways? As a storage facility or warehouse owner, you should:
- Know what local law and model codes require in terms of protection
- Find a qualified fire safety contractor to install or retrofit what’s needed
- Use an inspection, testing, and maintenance contractor and/or designated personnel to maintain any systems according to model codes and local regulations
If you have more questions about how to better equip your facility with additional safety solutions and keep it fire code ready, contact us!