As a material handling professional — and likely an essential worker dealing with a pandemic, no less — it may be easy to fall behind when it comes to certain protocols. As you navigate how to maintain the productivity and safety of yourself and your team, don’t forget about fire protection. Here are the top five things to know about warehouse sprinkler fire codes.
1. What products you store
The first thing to consider about warehouse sprinkler fire codes and how they relate to your facility is what products you store. Fire code parameters vary slightly, whether you have low hazard contents, ordinary hazard contents, or high hazard contents. You can also further classify what items you’re storing with a corresponding class, such as Class I, Class II, Class III, or Class IV.
- Class I: Non-combustible items on pallets, single-layered carton. Ex: bricks
- Class II: Non-combustible in wooden crates, multiple-layered carton. Ex: food items
- Class III: Product fashioned from wood, paper, natural fibers, or Group C plastics. Ex: cigars
- Class IV: Group B plastics or partial (5-25%) Group A plastics
2. How your products are stored
The next thing to consider about your facility and how it relates to fire code adherence is how your products are stored. Do you have solid shelving? Is it moveable? How high is everything stored? Some helpful resources when considering these questions are this guide to industrial shelving options from our friends at Cisco-Eagle and best practices for organizing storage and inventory from our friends at Grainger.
3. Your flue space and rack design
When it comes to your flue space and rack design, the two are quite interconnected to both each other as well as fire code adherence. As your engineering team will likely tell you, rack geometry, in conjunction with product size and placement, is an integral part of overall fire suppression.
For sprinklers to access any flames, of course, you should ensure you have adequate transverse and longitudinal flue space. The overall design of your racking as well as your products may also determine the location of sprinkler heads, which may impact your flue space needs accordingly.
4. NFPA requirements
National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) requirements differ slightly depending on how many people typically present in a given facility. In brief, NFPA 13 is a design standard for the installation of sprinkler systems within a building, including pipe diameters and distances between sprinkler heads. Here are some more specifics on sprinkler history, design, types, and uses.
5. IFC requirements
International Fire Code (IFC) requirements, in brief, are regulations to safeguard life and property from fires and explosion hazards. IFC defines facilities that are used to store non-hazardous products as storage occupancies, whereas structures that house hazardous products are instead classified as Group H, high-hazard. Storage occupancies are further divided into Group S-1 and Group S-2 facilities.
Additional fire code considerations
Though we covered five key things to know about warehouse sprinkler fire codes, it’s important to also keep the following in mind:
- Know what local law and model codes require in terms of protection.
- Vet and hire a qualified fire safety contractor to install or retrofit what’s needed.
- Utilize an inspection, testing, and maintenance contractor and/or designated personnel to maintain any systems according to model codes and local regulations.