Learn More About Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes And How They Impact Rack Design
By MHI Industry Group, RMI (Rack Manufactures Institute)
As RMI’s representative on the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 13 committee that’s tasked with the creation and revision of national standards specific to the safe design of sprinkler systems, member Gary Smith knows warehouse fire sprinkler codes. He shared some of his insights about sprinkler system design approaches, system installation, and component options to prevent fire deaths and property loss during MODEX 2018, in the free, on-floor seminar “Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes and Impact on Storage Racks,” last April. (For those who were unable to participate in the 45-minute session—or who wish to review its content—the presentation and its accompanying audio have been recorded.)
The seminar overviews some of the most current warehouse fire statistics (1,200-plus annually in the U.S.), the associated direct property damages (an annual average of $155 million), and the two leading causes of warehouse fires (arson and electrical). It also walks through the evolution of the current warehouse fire sprinkler design and building codes that resulted from six separate, significant facility fires that occurred in the last two decades.
With 84% of warehouse structure fires being suppressed by wet pipe sprinkler systems, the method has proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce potential damage and deaths. Yet, to ensure its proper operation, a sprinkler system’s in-rack design must allow the water to flow through the storage system in the most optimal manner. That’s why the presentation discusses three pertinent warehouse fire sprinkler design and building codes recommended by RMI:
- NFPA 13, a design standard for the installation of sprinkler systems within a building, including pipe diameters and distances between sprinkler heads.
- The International Code Council (ICC) International Fire Code (IFC), regulations to safeguard life and property from fires and explosion hazards.
- FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets, from the world’s largest commercial insurer, which outline stringent engineering standards to reduce the potential for fires.
Further, the seminar dives into the three areas that need to be considered by a fire protection engineer when determining which rules need to be followed when designing a warehouse’s fire suppression system: the type of items being stored (non-combustibles, plastics, furniture, paper and wood products, and more); the type and density of the rack and the pallets upon which the products are being stored; and heights of both the racks and the building.
Additionally, the presentation reviews some of the devices and accessories that can be added into a rack structure to ensure that the water flows through designated flue spaces, overhead clearances to prevent blocked water spray, and considerations for the location of in-rack sprinkler heads so as to avoid impacts from forklifts.
Looking for more information about fire suppression systems and their impact on rack design? Further details can be found in the “Building Departments and Fire Codes” section of RMI’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) page.