Running a warehousing business is no easy task. As an owner or operator, you are well aware of the many difficulties and challenges of running a safe, efficient, and profitable warehouse. One of the toughest and most devastating situations – you hopefully never have to face – is fire at your warehousing facility. Should this ever happen, there are ways to reduce exposure and potential damage. As you can imagine, the best fire safety practice is always prevention – preventing a fire (or catching it early) is by far the best strategy to anything else. If the unthinkable happens though and a fire does occur, despite your prevention measures, there are still ways to contain the situation and affect the outcome for the better.
So What Can You Do To Better Protect Your Warehouse From a Potential Fire?
As a warehouse owner or operator, you need to understand which areas and materials at your facility are prone to fires and therefore be most at risk. Understanding fire hazards will help you devise and implement the best prevention and reaction measures.
Know What You Are Storing!
First of all, you need to be fully aware of what is being stored in your facility at all times. Certain products or materials are big fire hazards – any substance or product that is combustible, volatile, or flammable is a fire hazard and should be stored and handled according to safety regulations.
Know Your Warehouse Inside Out!
Having a good understanding of your warehouse infrastructure (internal and external) is essential in order to devise and implement effective fire prevention and reaction strategy. If you have a fire marshal or health and safety officer working at your facility, he or she needs to know every nook and cranny of that warehouse like the back of their hand. Risk assessment for all equipment and infrastructure should be carried out on a regular basis (or when new machinery additions or warehouse renovations have taken place).
Know What Fire Protection System You Need!
You should never underestimate the importance of a properly installed and functioning fire protection/response system. According to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) warehouse fire sprinkler systems have reduced human casualties and loss of goods in warehouse fires by more than 60%. Consult with a fire hazard contractor if unsure which type of automated sprinkler system is needed at your storage facility.
ESFR and Pallet Rack Sprinkler Systems
A combination of early-suppression-fast-response sprinklers (ESFR), and pallet racking sprinklers are considered to be one of the most effective fire response systems you can have in place.
There are certain considerations though when it comes to installing and running either of these sprinkler systems. First of all, ESFR systems are only suitable for warehouses no higher than 45ft. ESFR systems have their nozzle heads facing downwards in order to extinguish a fire, not just contain it.
If you warehousing facility is higher than 45ft, then what you need (in combination with ESFR) is the in-pallet rack sprinkler system. According to Speedrack West in Oregon, pallet racking of any type or size can be fitted out with an in-rack sprinkler system. In-rack anti-fire systems can be effectively utilized in facilities of up to 100ft in height. The system is generally installed on or within your existing pallet shelves without too many infrastructural alterations.
These fire suppression systems can be used successfully in both human and computer-operated (automated) pallet racks.
You should also know that in-rack anti-fire systems are much more economical and reduce potential water damage. They use approximately 30gpm of water rather than the 100gpm of the conventional sprinkler system.