The fire prevention in warehouse is a fundamental aspect that should be considered on early stages of system design. Before starting any activity, it is essential to carefully plan the installation of all the safety elements that will ensure the safe execution of the operational phases. In this regard, the objective of any company must be the prevention of any type of risk that could compromise both the health and work of its employees, and the integrity of the products and structures present in the warehouse.
Each country, region and municipality has specific safety regulations and specific fire regulations. The designer must strictly comply with the rules to avoid future problems and any administrative and legal consequences deriving from non-compliance with the regulations.
The risk of fire and prevention in the warehouse
There are numerous building safety regulations issued by experts who cover all stages of a fire: how they arise, spread, detect and extinguish. Extinction of a fire with manual means is very complicated, especially in modern storage systems in which the hallways are narrow and structures can exceed 20 m in height. The difficulty increases with the complexity of the structures. This does not mean that implants with a simpler scheme should be omitted.
In warehouses with racks only 4 or 5 m high, for example, it is recommended to work on prevention and install a sprinkler system (literally “water sprinklers”) to support the equipment mounted in the warehouse ceiling. Relying on the expertise of an expert in fire prevention is an activity that must be included in the design of a warehouse as this is a priority.
Only experts are able to design and install the appropriate systems considering all the variables of a warehouse: from the means that are used, to the type of goods that are stored in the plant. Data in hand, an expert can determine which systems to use, where to mount them and in what quantity.
At the same time, it will take care of the distribution of the same in the center, choosing how to distribute the detection devices (flames, heat or smoke) and the automatic or semi-automatic extinguishing devices (with water, foam or gas).
Let’s now review the products to be monitored in a special way:
- Low-combustion products, coated or packed in easy-to-ignite cartons. The use of cardboard packaging which, for cost reasons, has not been fire treated is more common than one might think.
- Wooden pallets, on which goods are usually stacked, are also subject to catch fire. Despite this, given their itinerant nature, this equipment is not treated for the event of fire.
- Cartoons. Cartons can often be labeled, sealed or wrapped for advertising or distribution purposes, with materials that produce a large amount of smoke or toxic gases. In turn, these materials can be easily flammable. To reduce the risk of fire we recommend the use of plastic containers that can offer the same service. A cardboard packaging acts as a screen in front of water in the event of a fire. However, when the heat increases, the film becomes a dry material for fire.
- Loose metal elements, contained inside metal containers, represent a high risk product due to the presence of oil residues in the bottom of the container. In the design of the operational plan and the warehouse it is necessary to establish a system of inspection and cleaning of these elements before including them in the system itself.
- Stretch film used to cover pallets makes these objects more vulnerable to fire, even if their main contribution to the increased risk of fire is due to the spread of the same and not to the triggering cause. A load of cans of flammable liquid packed with plastic film, on the other hand, is more protected from fire since, in the event of a fire; the film itself would act as a barrier against the heating of the goods, delaying the point of ignition and, therefore, the instant in which it can catch fire.
Final remarks on fire prevention in the warehouse
Warehouse racks should always be equipped with an integral detection and extinguishing system. In the case of mobile racks, articulated water supply systems are available. Normally, the water supply connections are located in the lower part of the building, having to carry the liquid up to the sprinklers located in the racks.
The number of dispensers that must be installed and their position on each level of the warehouse will be determined according to the degree of specific risk of the installation and what can happen in each of the levels of the same. The sprinklers are strategically positioned to operate without any impediment. In many cases, it is sufficient to install dispensers only on the roof depending on the height of the building and the fire resistance of the stored products.