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Is Your Warehouse Fire Sprinkler System Up to Par?

Posted on: October 2, 2012

Times are tough, and in this economy, businesses are looking everywhere they can for ways to cut costs and save money. One way a lot of business owners are doing this is by converting empty warehouses into storage facilities instead of constructing brand new buildings. And while this is a great way to scoop up properties, the problem comes in trying to keep these facilities safe from fire—namely, the fact that fire sprinklers are not one-size-fits-all. This is especially true in older buildings with older fire sprinkler systems. Without a proper fire sprinkler inspection and analysis, there’s no way to tell whether the old sprinkler system will be equipped to handle the risks presented by the building’s new use.

Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Inspection

Obviously, you’ll have to have the building inspected before you start using it. And fortunately, most sprinkler system deficiencies are caught during the inspection/permitting phase. However, there have been many cases where local AHJs have not been trained on new storage requirements, and the fire protection system gets overlooked in the process. Even more common are instances where the AHJ is never involved in the first place, and as a result, there is no regulatory review of a change in storage hazard. This happens when building owners alter the criteria associated with the development of a fire sprinkler system for the storage hazard.

Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Requirements

NFPA 25 (Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems) lays out the requirements for building owners to ensure their facility’s fire sprinkler system is capable of handling the storage arrangements present when a change in hazard level occurs. Any time you change any of the critical characteristics that drive sprinkler system design for storage areas, you should conduct a review of the fire sprinkler system’s effectiveness. Such changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Commodity classification changes
  • Changes in storage height
  • Changes in clearance to ceiling
  • Changes in packaging, such as encapsulated to exposed
  • The addition of solid shelving
  • Changes in storage type, such as from shelf storage to rack storage
  • Changes in pallet type.

Conducting NFPA 25 inspections is your responsibility as a business owner. If your building is located in New Jersey, Delaware or Philadelphia, call Confires to schedule a fire sprinkler inspection.

Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Design Considerations

In some cases, the fire sprinkler system design may be appropriate for the commodity being stored and the storage arrangement being used, but changes in storage operation can limit the system’s overall effectiveness. Optimizing rack loading is becoming more and more critical as many owners try to maximize their warehouse volumes. By maximizing the efficiency of their rack loads, however, owners may accidentally block flue spaces or create obstructions to the sprinkler spray pattern where in-rack storage systems are used. Either of these can compromise an otherwise properly designed system. In addition to large changes in which new product or new racking is used, it is important to understand that even small changes such as rack optimization can have a major impact on sprinkler system effectiveness.

Making the most of available storage space can be cost-effective, but failing to understand if the sprinkler system is properly designed when taking into account variables associated with stored goods can be costly.

If you’re setting up a storage facility in an existing warehouse and want to make sure the fire sprinkler system is up to date, don’t wait – call Confires today!

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