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Warehouse Fire Safety Guide

Last Updated: June 4, 2015

If you operate a small or large warehouse facility in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, or Alabama, you know how important it is to comply with all fire codes—local and national. Not only does meeting all required fire code standards increase the safety of your warehouse, but it can also help you avoid costly fines. Of course, following the minimum standard of the fire codes will only provide your warehouse facility the minimum amount of fire protection.

To find out how to maximize your facility’s level of fire protection, call State Systems at 901-531-6550.

Meeting Warehouse Fire Safety Codes

As with just about every other type of building, scheduling fire sprinkler system installation is the single most important fire protection measure you can take. Many warehouses throughout the Mid-South use deluge style automatic fire sprinklers, as they deliver the highest quantity of water at the fastest speed.

Here are some tips to improve your warehouse fire safety protection:

  • Maintain storage no higher than 18 inches below sprinkler head deflectors. Anything higher could block the flow of water and compromise the protection provided by the fire sprinkler.
  • In racked pallet storage facilities, make sure you maintain at least three inches of “transverse flue space.” Transverse flue space refers to the space on either side of a racked pallet. You will also need to maintain six inches of longitudinal flue space, or space between rows of back-to-back rack.
  • It is important to note that flue space is measured by the space between the loads, not between the pallets. If you have a load that extends three inches off the side of the pallet, you’ll need to start measuring the flue space from there, not the end of the pallet. If your warehouse meets these requirements for flue space, you will probably not need to have an in-rack fire sprinkler system installed. However, if you rack with solid decking, you use storage configurations that prevent maintaining flue spaces, or you store high hazard materials or your storage reaches more than 40 feet in height, in-rack fire sprinkler systems are advised.
  • If you have any dead end aisles in your warehouse, they must not be more than 50 feet in length.
  • In solid piled floor storage, you must have an aisle at least every 100 feet and, if the storage is up against a wall, within 50 feet of said wall. This means that every portion of solid piled floor storage must be within 50 feet of an aisle.
  • If you restock your warehouse using manual restocking methods, such as using stock cards or rolling ladders, make sure to keep a minimum unobstructed aisle width of 24 inches or half the aisle width—whichever is greater.
  • During mechanical restocking, you’ll need to maintain an unobstructed aisle of at least 44 inches.
  • Smoking must be prohibited in all warehouses. Make sure you conspicuously post “No Smoking” signs throughout the facility.
  • Liquid propane fuel cylinders for use on LP forklifts must be stored at a minimum 20 feet away from fire exits and are limited to 300 pounds per storage facility. For this classification, consider empty cylinders full. If you need to store more than this, make sure the storage locations are at least 300 feet apart.
  • Check your local fire codes in TN, AR, or MS for guidelines pertaining to:
    • Automated material handling operations such as carousels and ASRS units
    • Battery charging areas
    • Plastics
    • Aerosols
    • Hazardous materials

Going Above and Beyond Warehouse Fire Safety Codes

The recommendations outlined above will protect you from fire marshal fines. Even following those guidelines, however, is not a guarantee that your warehouse facility will be fully protected in the event of a fire! There are numerous things that can impact the facility’s real level of protection and many things that a fire safety inspector would not know, such as: changes in the composition of products stored, changes in the types of packaging used or changes in the storage configuration that could affect your level of fire protection.

To ensure that your warehouse facility is fully protected against fires, consider the following:

Evacuation Plans

Every building or facility needs an evacuation plan. A fire protection engineer will help you determine the easiest routes of access to all the exits in your building and will assist you in running fire drills so your employees know exactly what to do in the event of a fire. Also, since warehouse configurations change fairly frequently, make sure your employees know that going to an “assigned” exit is less important than calmly going to the exit closest to them.

Fire Extinguisher Training

Working in a warehouse, you will probably have Class ABC or Class D fire extinguishers. A well-established fire protection company will be able to provide training for all types of fire extinguishers so everyone in your building will know how to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a fire.

Designating Floor Storage & Staging Areas

Use tape to designate specific storage and staging areas. This will make it much easier to determine and enforce proper aisle space rules.

Trash Accumulation

This is not something you need a fire protection company to help you with, but it is critical. A space that is cluttered with trash is going to be at a higher risk for fire than one that is kept clean from trash. Make sure you include enough trash cans throughout your warehouse facility and assign the task of emptying them as they fill up.

In order for your warehouse to be optimally protected against fires, you need to go beyond the minimum standards set by fire codes. If you own or manage a warehouse in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, or Alabama, and either need a fire protection inspection, or want to find out how to improve your existing level of fire protection with more tips, contact State Systems today.

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