Is your company buying a new building and looking into setting up a fire detection system? Or, perhaps you’re a property manager at an existing warehouse, and you’re just curious what possible scenarios can happen with regards to fire protection.
If so, this post is perfect for you.
Today, we’ll go through 13 questions to think about when discussing your fire detection system for your warehouse.
1) Have you brought your insurance company and AHJ’s involved in your fire protection planning?
This is very important! You may bring your fire detection system up to code, but your insurance company wants more protection. This is a very costly mistake!
We’ve seen from certain warehouse projects that the insurance company will want a fire system designed to deploy twice the water required by code!
We’ve also seen from another warehouse project that the insurance company required a foam system installed.
It’s easier (and cheaper) to bring both parties together at the beginning of the fire protection planning process.
2) Does your fire detection system shut down production?
In an effort to stop smoke from traveling to other areas of your warehouse, most fire detection systems made for warehouse come with a shut off mechanism for production equipment.
Conveyor belts, fans and many other production equipment needs to be linked to your fire detection system to prevent the fire/smoke from spreading.
Even your HVAC system will have a shut off mechanism to make sure the HVAC unit is not fueling the fire with fresh air.
3) What is the fire hazard level of the products you are making or storing at your warehouse?
If you’re making explosives, you will need more fire protection than someone who is producing chewing gum. You may need additional fire extinguishers, fire sprinkler heads, in-rack sprinklers or a special hazard fire solution.
4) How much machinery do you have?
If you’re using CNC machines, plan on supporting a CO2 fire suppression system. CNC machines are very expensive, but they keep the product development process going, and are an all-around, must-have to keep your business afloat.
You must look into how much protecting your CNC machine will cost? You also need to evaluate how much production will be lost if this machine ever goes down?
5) Are you planning on storing items on shelving?
If you plan on storing items in your warehouse, there are a few fire protection issues to consider:
- What is the height of your racks? By code, you need to allow enough space for fire sprinkler heads to spread its water.
- Is your shelving solid or is it meshed? Depending on what setup you have, you may be required to install in-rack fire sprinklers.
6) Are you planning on using forklifts in your warehouse?
If you’ll be using forklifts in your warehouse, keep in mind that they need their own fire protection system installed.
7) Are you required to have an alarm system?
Please check with your AHJ, insurance company and fire protection company, as some existing warehouses may not need an alarm system.
8) How many fire extinguishers are required for your warehouse?
The amount of fire extinguishers needed for your warehouse is determined by a few factors:
- What product(s) you are trying to extinguish?
- How many square feet is your warehouse?
- Are there barriers interfering with fire extinguisher accessibility?
Get with your fire protection company who will know the proper number of fire extinguishers to keep your warehouse safe and legal.
9) Are there additions you’d like to add to your warehouse fire detection system?
Some companies would like to add custom additions to a warehouse fire detection system. Even though it’s not reinforced by code, some companies like to go above the norm.
For example, one warehouse we did work on wanted a horn strobe for their fire alarm system at the beginning, middle and end of every aisle in their warehouse.
Why would they want that?
Imagine the devastation if someone would happen to not hear/see an alert to leave your warehouse? No company wants to take that risk, so some companies make additions to make sure it never happens.
10) How loud is your warehouse?
Depending on how loud your warehouse is, you may have to enhance the volume of your fire detection system.
We’ve installed 15 amp speaker systems throughout a warehouse in one instance where machine noise was above background noise.
Make sure you test your alarm system with everything full-go. Then, make sure everyone in the warehouse can hear the alarm.
What good is an alarm if the machines are so loud that no one can hear it?
11) Are you planning for exit lighting?
Depending on how many exits you have, you’ll probably need to supply exit lighting for each exit. If your warehouse is large and the exits aren’t visible, you’ll need signs that point people in the direction of those exits.
Although it’s not new, it is relatively unknown, that illuminating fire exit signs that can go on your floor. Check out this video to see a quick demo:
12) Are you planning for fire training per OHSA requirements?
OHSA may require you to provide fire training to employees so they can react accordingly if a fire occurs. Your insurance company may also need someone at your warehouse fire certified as well.
Fire training does not cost a bunch, especially if you do a “train the trainer” course. In the “train the trainer,” a fire protection company will provide extensive training to one employee, certifies the student as a fire trainer for 3 years, and thus puts them in position to where they can train the rest of your warehouse employees.
13) Are you aware that you may have a different fire alarm and sprinkler system for your office and warehouse?
Your warehouse uses spacing all the way up to the ceiling, where as your office uses a drop ceiling. If you don’t make modifications to your fire sprinkler system, the water would go on the opposite side of your ceiling.
Hopefully, today, we opened a few scenarios you haven’t thought about when planning your fire detection system for your warehouse.
When in doubt, your best bet is to reach out to a fire protection company. They have installed many, many warehouse systems, know the requirements, have relationships with both fire marshals and AHJ and have worked alongside insurance companies.
If I could give you the most important statement to take away from this whole post, is to make sure you bring the AHJ and insurance company to the table when discussing your fire system BEFORE you start building. If any changes need to be made after a system has been installed, it will probably be super expensive!