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Fire Damage in Warehouses
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Ask anyone operating a warehouse and they will tell you that it is important to be well-acquainted with fire codes and safety protocols. Warehouses are full of opportunity for fire damage and having to deal with one may result in lost inventory, revenue, and perhaps some very steep fire marshal fines.
Warehouses by their very nature are large structures and home to any number of different products and materials, some of which may be extremely flammable. It is therefore important to properly assess and determine your fire threat, and take appropriate steps to minimize the chances of a fire occurring.
For most warehouses, a sprinkler system is the single best purchase you can make. Deluge sprinkler systems are preferred, as they deliver a much heavier amount of water in a concentrated area as opposed to regular sprinkler setups. Boxes and stored materials should be kept at least 18 inches below sprinkler heads, as anything higher could impede the water flow and prevent the fire from being fully extinguished.
Maintain at least three inches of transverse flue space between any rack pallet mounted material, and six inches of space from front to back. Try to avoid any dead end aisles in the warehouse, but if they must be there, make sure they are no more than 50 feet in length. All aisles in the warehouse should be between 24 and 44 inches wide and free of obstruction. Employees should be able to get out quickly in the event of a blaze.
Of course, no smoking should be allowed anywhere in the warehouse. Cigarettes are a common source of warehouse fires. Make sure No Smoking signs are prominently placed throughout the facility.
Have an evacuation plan in place and make sure that all employees are aware of how it works and their part in it. A fire protection engineer can help you coordinate such a plan, identifying the easiest routes of access to fire exits, and adopting a plan that can easily be adjusted to accommodate rapidly changing warehouse floor plans.
Every employee should know how to operate a fire extinguisher. Make sure they know where they are located and how to properly operate them. In many cases, the employees are the first line of defense in the event of a blaze, followed by the fire department.
Marking off designated storage areas allows for some familiarity and predictability when it comes to finding one's way out of a warehouse. It also helps enforce proper aisle space requirements.
Keep the area clean. Trash is a common source for warehouse fires. Have trash bins available throughout the facility and instruct your employees to keep the space clean and free of debris.
Proper planning early in the game will cut down on the likelihood of a devastating blaze in your company's warehouse.