Adhering to Fire Safety Codes Maintain functional fire suppression systems – this is a requirement for any structure, but having properly installed and maintained fire suppression systems in your warehouse is the single most important thing you can do for your structure. Deluge fire sprinklers and in-rack fire suppression systems are frequently used in warehouses. Maintain an adequate distance beneath sprinkler heads – You must have a minimum of 18 inches of space beneath all sprinkler heads, as anything higher will obstruct water flow and jeopardize your warehouse’s protection.
Allow space between pallets – if storing items on pallets, allow three inches of transverse space on all sides of each pallet and six inches of longitudinal flue space between back-to-back rows. If you’re racking pallets to store items, leave at least three inches of “transverse flue space” on either side of each rack. The term “transverse flue space” refers to the area on both sides of a stacked pallet.
Additionally, six inches of longitudinal flue space, or space between rows of back-to-back rack, must be maintained. Nota bene: the space between the loads, not the space between the pallets, is used to determine the flue space. This means that if your load extends three inches beyond the side of the pallet, you must begin measuring the flue space at that point, not at the end. If your warehouse meets the above requirements for flue space, an in-rack fire sprinkler system is unlikely to be required. However, if you rack using solid decking and shelves, if your storage configurations prevent the maintenance of flue spaces, if you store hazardous materials, or if your storage reaches a height of more than 40ft, in-rack fire sprinkler systems are strongly recommended.
Aisles that end in a dead end must be noted and cannot exceed 50ft in length. In solid piled floor storage facilities, aisle space must be maintained at a minimum of every 100ft and within 50ft of any wall. This essentially means that any area with solid piled floor storage must be located within 50 feet of an aisle. If you manually replenish your warehouse, maintain a minimum aisle width of 24 inches or half the aisle width – whichever is greater. Maintain an aisle width of at least 44 inches during mechanical restocking. Needless to say, smoking should never be permitted in a warehouse.
Throughout the facility, place “No Smoking” signs. Cylinders of liquid propane must be kept at least 20 feet away from fire exits and are limited to 300 pounds per storage facility. When counting propane tanks, empty cylinders are considered full (just to be safe). If you require additional fuel storage, ensure that the storage locations are at least 300ft apart. Consult your local fire codes for information on the following: Material handling operations that are automated, such as carousels and ASRS units Areas for battery charging Plastics Aerosols Hazardous Substances Beyond Compliance: Fire Safety in Warehouses Clearly, the recommendations above will shield you from fire marshal fines.
Even following those guidelines, however, does not ensure that you will be completely protected in the event of a fire! There are numerous factors that can affect your actual level of protection, many of which are unknown to a fire safety inspector: changes in the composition of stored products, changes in the type of packaging used, or changes in the storage configuration can all impact your level of fire protection. If you want to go beyond simply adhering to the guidelines and providing serious fire protection for your employees, you should speak with a fire protection engineer who can design a fire protection plan specifically for your warehouse’s needs. To ensure that your warehouse is completely protected from fires, follow these warehouse fire safety tips: Evacuation plans – Needless to say, every structure requires an evacuation plan.
A fire protection engineer can assist you in determining the simplest routes to all of your building’s exits and in conducting fire drills to ensure that your employees understand exactly what to do in the event of a fire. Additionally, because warehouse configurations change frequently, ensure that your employees understand that going to a “assigned” exit is less important than going to the exit that is closest to them calmly and efficiently. Fire extinguisher training – if you work in a warehouse, you will almost certainly come into contact with Class ABC or Class D fire extinguishers.
A fire protection company can provide training for all types of fire extinguishers, ensuring that everyone in your building understands how to respond quickly and effectively to a fire. Using tape to denote specific storage and staging areas on the floor. This significantly simplifies the process of establishing and enforcing proper aisle space rules. Trash accumulation – this is not something that requires the assistance of a fire protection company, but it is still critical.
Clearly, a space that is cluttered with trash is more prone to fire than one that is kept tidy. Assign adequate trash cans and the responsibility of emptying them as they fill. Additionally, you should have designated areas for unused pallets, crates, and other similar items. As a general rule, stack unused pallets no higher than six feet. To fully protect your warehouse against fires, you must go above and beyond the fire code’s minimum requirements.