What Every Warehouse Manager Needs To Know Before Reconfiguring Their Pallet Racking Systems

Construction & Contractors Articles

If you manage a warehouse or a distribution center that stores combustible materials, such as aerosols or tires, you likely have well-designed fire and life safety systems for protection. However, if your facility is having a different pallet racking system installed, it's important to understand that a change in your storage configuration can make your fire and life safety systems ineffective. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), warehouse fires have a higher average of property loss than other types of buildings. The NFPA also says that storage configurations pose a fire protection challenge. Here are a few important things to know about how the new layout can affect your fire and life safety systems,

Understand the Chimney Effect of Tall Pallet Racking

The chimney effect is a phenomenon that is created when there is a channel for heat to be conveyed as it rises. Essentially, tall stacks of pallet racking systems have the same affect as a flue inside a chimney. Due to this, a fire located at or near the bottom of a pallet racking system can quickly engulf the entire stack due to the flames and heat shooting upwards by the chimney effect. 

This does not mean that you won't be able to reconfigure your racking system. But it does mean that your fire and life safety systems need to be considered. Before any changes are made to the storage configurations in your storage facility, contact the service that installed your safety systems. The systems you currently have in place were designed for your current layout.

Redesigning the Fire & Life Safety Systems 

The service technician will likely need to reconfigure the safety systems in order for your new layout to be protected from fire. This may involve relocating fire alarms, smoke detectors, heat sensors, and sprinkler systems to accommodate the changes.

Fortunately, if there are areas in which your new pallet racking system may be deemed too tall for the sprinkler system, there are sprinklers that can be attached directly to the interior portions of pallet racking systems. If this is the direction your safety technician determines as a better fit for your facility, contact your pallet racking system provider for more information about these sprinkler systems. 

Getting Approval for the Plans 

While no additional amount of down-time is ideal for any facility in any type of industry, it's important to adhere to the International Fire Code at all times, especially when it comes to high-piled combustible storage. You'll need to have the local fire code authority inspect the plans for the changes of your pallet racking systems and safety systems, and he or she will need to approve them before you can move forward with implementing the plans and re-opening your facility. 

Scheduling the Transition

Since the safety systems in your facility are crucial for fire protection, it's important to schedule the update to the safety systems before the new pallet racking systems are installed but after the old pallet racking systems are removed. This could become a logistical nightmare, especially if you don't have a lot of available space to store materials during the transition.

It's highly beneficial to discuss the situation with your pallet racking supplier. They may have someone on staff who is familiar with how to make these transitions as smooth as possible. Click here to investigate some possible solutions. Keep in mind that you may need to bump the completion date of your transition by one or several days, depending on the size of your facility and the amount of work that needs to be done by your safety systems technician. And don't forget to have the fire code authority inspect your facility before you re-open for business. 

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22 December 2015

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