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Warehouse Fire Safety Tips

Posted on: May 23, 2011

If you operate a large or small warehouse in New Jersey, Delaware or Philadelphia, you know how important it is to be compliant with all fire codes. Not only does meeting all required fire code standards increase the safety of your warehouse, but it can also help you avoid potentially serious fines. Of course, following the minimum standard of the fire codes will only get you the minimum amount of fire protection – if you want to be truly protected, there are a lot more steps you can take!

Warehouse Fire Safety: Meeting Fire Safety Codes

  • As with just about every other type of building, having a working fire sprinkler system installed is the single more important fire protection measure you can take. Many warehouses use deluge style automatic fire sprinklers, as they deliver the highest quantity of water at the fastest speed.
  • Maintain storage no higher than 18 inches below sprinkler head deflectors. Anything higher could block the flow of water and compromise the protection provided by the fire sprinkler.
  • In racked pallet storage facilities, make sure you maintain at least three inches of “transverse flue space.” Transverse flue space refers to the space on either side of a racked pallet. You will also need to maintain six inches of longitudinal flue space, or space between rows of back-to-back rack.
    • It is important to note that flue space is measured by the space between the loads, not between the pallets. Basically if you have a load that extends three inches off the side of the pallet, you’ll need to start measuring the flue space from there, not the end of the pallet.
    • If your warehouse meets the above requirements for flue space, you will probably not need to have an in-rack fire sprinkler system installed. However, if you rack with solid decking, you use storage configurations that prevent maintaining flue spaces, you store high hazard materials or your storage reaches more than 40ft in height, in-rack fire sprinkler systems are advised.
    • If you have any dead end aisles in your warehouse, they must not be more than 50ft in length.
    • In solid piled floor storage, you must have an aisle at least every 100ft and, if the storage is up against a wall, within 50ft of said wall. Basically, this means that every portion of solid piled floor storage must be within 50ft of an aisle.
    • If you restock your warehouse using manual restocking methods, such as using stock cards, rolling ladders, etc, make sure to keep a minimum unobstructed aisle width of 24 inches or half the aisle width – whichever is greater.
    • During mechanical restocking, you’ll need to maintain an unobstructed aisle of at least 44 inches.
    • Obviously, smoking must be prohibited in all warehouses. Make sure you conspicuously post “No Smoking” signs throughout the facility.
    • Liquid propane fuel cylinders for use on LP forklifts must be stored at least 20ft away from fire exits and are limited to 300lbs per storage facility (six 43lb cylinders or nine 33lb cylinders). For this classification, consider empty cylinders full. If you need to store more than this, make sure the storage locations are at least 300ft apart.
    • Check your local fire codes for guidelines pertaining to:
      • Automated material handling operations such as carousels and ASRS units
      • Battery charging areas
      • Plastics
      • Aerosols
      • Hazardous Materials

Warehouse Fire Safety: Beyond Compliance

Obviously, the above recommendations will protect you from fire marshal fines. However, even following those guidelines is not a guarantee that you will be fully protected in the event of a fire! There are many, many things that can affect your actual level of protection, and many things that a fire safety inspector would not know: changes in the composition of products stored, changes in the types of packaging used or changes in the storage configuration that could affect your level of fire protection.

If you want go beyond simply “meeting the guidelines” and provide your employees with serious fire protection, you should talk with a fire protection engineer who can design a fire protection plan that is custom tailored to fit your warehouse’s needs. To make sure your building is fully protected against fires, follow these warehouse fire safety tips:

  • Evacuation plans – obviously, every building needs an evacuation plan. A fire protection engineer will help you determine the easiest routes of access to all the exits in your building and will assist you in running fire drills so your employees know exactly what to do in the event of a fire. Also, since warehouse configurations change fairly frequently, make sure your employees know that going to an “assigned” exit is less important than calmly and efficiently going to the exit closest to them.
  • Fire extinguisher training – working in a warehouse, you will probably have Class ABC or Class D fire extinguishers. A fire protection company will be able to provide training for all types of fire extinguishers so everyone in your building will know how to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a fire.
  • Designating floor storage and staging areas – use tape to designate specific storage and staging areas. This will make it much easier to determine and enforce proper aisle space rules.
  • Trash accumulation – this is not something you need a fire protection company to help you with, but it’s still extremely important. Obviously, a space that is cluttered with trash is going to be at a higher risk for fire than one that is kept neat. Make sure you provide adequate trash cans and assign the task of emptying them as they fill up. In addition, you should have designated areas for storing unused pallets, crates, etc. As a general rule, you should stack unused pallets no more than six feet in height.

In order for your warehouse to be fully protected against fires, you need to go beyond the minimum standards set by the fire code.  If you own a warehouse in New Jersey, Delaware or Philadelphia and either need a fire protection inspection, or want to find out how to maximize your existing level of fire protection with more warehouse fire safety tips, call Confires today!

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