Almost every business stores something! You don't need to be a big manufacturing or warehousing facility to have storage concerns. Even offices buildings have storage rooms which may overtax the existing sprinkler installation. Are your sprinklers up to the task?

Storage occupancies have been involved in some very large loss fires over the years. Many of these large loss fire occurrences were aggravated by storage conditions, which were not provided adequate sprinkler protection. In some cases, commodities were introduced which exceeded the capability of the existing sprinkler system. In other cases, the storage methods or arrangements were changed, and the sprinklers were not changed to meet the new, higher hazard. Many times a building which is provided sprinkler protection is leased or purchased, and the new storage hazard is greater than the sprinkler system was originally designed to protect.

Storage occupancies range from being considered low hazard to high hazard. Providing adequate sprinkler protection requires a comprehensive analysis which takes into account:

  • Storage configuration

  • Storage commodity classification

  • Building and Storage height

  • Aisle width

  • Ceiling slope

  • Building height

  • Ceiling slope

  • Type of sprinkler system to be used

The most common methods of storing goods include racks and piles, with the majority of facilities using racks less than 25 feet in height. Many buildings have adequate clear space to accommodate these racking systems. The racking is readily available, can be set up quickly, is less expensive than systems greater than 25 ft., and use generally available lift equipment.

NFPA 13, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems© " is one of the most widely referenced documents in the evaluation and design of storage protection. Most fire departments, municipalities, sprinkler contractors, and insurance companies recognize NFPA 13 as the basis of protection criteria. The purpose of NFPA 13 is to provide a reasonable degree of protection for life and property from fire. NFPA 13 does not intend to prevent the use of alternative protection methods, nor does it intend to restrict the use of new technologies, so long as the degree of protection is not lowered below what is provided in NFPA 13. This topic will use NFPA 13 as the basis for the sprinkler design and storage arrangement.

What is storage?

Storage is the holding of materials. They may be raw materials, work in process, or finished goods. The storage may be in warehouses, or in production areas. The storage may be the main occupancy, or it may be incidental to the main occupancy (miscellaneous storage).

Storage configuration

Storage is generally grouped into piled storage and rack storage. Piled storage is the piling of goods, one on top of the other. Rack storage uses a system to racking so that materials may be removed in a predetermined fashion, and sometimes random fashion. Racking introduces the air space around the unit load, and enhances fire growth in the storage arrangement.

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