Warehouses are vital storage facilities for ensuring the success of modern-day businesses. Their significant function as a repository for the flow of incoming and outgoing goods can control the eventual fate of a business. How? Warehouses store an ample stock of goods either ready for sale or distribution. These facilities must safeguard the raw materials, semi-finished merchandise, or final products in their possession to assure profits when they reach the hands of customers.
If a sudden warehouse disaster were to occur—and damage or destroy the immense source of income—a business would face its own financial disaster. In turn, this disaster could disrupt operations forever. An unexpected warehouse fire has the power to completely destroy inventory, damage the structure of the building, and even take the lives of employees.
Fortunately, warehouse owners, managers, operators, and developers can protect such indispensable buildings against this destructive fate through proper security and safety measures. We are here to provide precautionary advice and knowledge to prevent long hours, hard work, and relentless efforts from going up in smoke. Read through our guide to understand what you need to know when protecting your warehouse from fire.
The Fire Prevention and Control Act
Fatal fires are a public health and safety concern for all residences, commercial properties, and businesses. Before examining the leading methods of warehouse fire protection, having background information about the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974—enacted by the United States Senate and House of Representatives—is key.
Created as a response to the “America Burning” report by the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control, the findings of this publication changed how the nation would approach and act on common fire hazard prevention. Thanks to this effective bill, fire safety legislation and recommended guidelines became relevant in areas across the country—and around the globe—to protect lives, property, and main assets.
The Goal: Reducing the Toll of Loss From Fire
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, this law initially outlined how “Destructive fire takes a huge toll in lives, injuries, and property losses, yet there is no need to accept those losses with resignation. There are many measures—often very simple precautions—that can be taken to reduce those losses significantly.” All you need to know from this document is that protecting your warehouse from fire requires the appropriate safety initiatives, techniques, and technologies.
The First Line of Defense: Basic Fire Safety Measures
A fire protection system created by a professional engineer is a standard safety measure in warehouses. This fundamental system serves as the first line of defense against the loss of human life or valuable property. A basic prevention plan involves installing an efficient fire alarm system and strategically placing fire extinguishers around the property.
Additional features may include built-in sprinkler systems, fire suppression systems or passive protection systems such as Firefree 88, which can compartmentalize a building and contain the fire to the room of origin. The need for these additions depends on the characteristics of the products or materials traditionally stored at the warehouse facility or the regular use of heavy machinery or high-risk equipment.
Regular System Inspection and Evaluation
Even if properly installed, fire protection systems are not capable of protecting people or property if they are not in operational order around the clock. For this reason, regular fire alarm, fire extinguisher, sprinkler, and suppression system testing and inspecting are necessary. These components require professional inspection and evaluation through guidelines set by local fire codes in your area, alongside standards 10 and 72 designated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Passive protection systems, such as that provided by Firefree 88, do not require mechanical maintenance.
Workplace Education and Employee Training Plans
Every building needs a fire evacuation plan, and warehouses are no exception. For safe, calm, and efficient evacuation, ensure that the building has easy access routes to all exits. Passive protection systems, such as that provided by Firefree 88, can compartmentalize such exit routes and extend their resistance to fire, providing additional time to exit and for the firefighters to arrive.
Regular training or practice drills are essential for assuring employees understand the immediate actions to take in the event of a fire. Do not forget about safety training for personnel who handle flammable objects or need to learn the basics of proper fire extinguishing. No structure or person is immune to the dangers of a facility fire.
Proper Storage Conditions and Layout Arrangements
Integrating a layout that minimizes security or safety risks will help protect a warehouse from fire dangers. Designating between storage areas, staging areas, and walking areas is the key to effectively reducing these fire risks. A wise idea is to use tape, rope, or other visible indicators to clearly define these different areas from one another.
Physical designation or labeling enforces proper spacing, prevents excessive clutter, and ensures clear walkways. Note any dead-end aisles or removable waste, and ensure adequate spacing between pallets, racks, and rows of goods or merchandise. Protectively storing any flammable or hazardous items should also be a top priority. Any electrical or heating equipment requires smart storage and stacking to minimize potential problems.
Evaluating Fire Hazards With Risk Assessments
The combination of a workplace fire safety program and a warehouse fire protection system needs to involve the consistent undertaking of risk assessments. These assessments take place according to local fire safety legislation. As streamlined in the previously mentioned Fire Prevention Act, risk assessments generally follow five pivotal steps:
- Identifying the potential fire hazards in a facility;
- Assessing who is at risk of danger;
- Examining, eliminating, or reducing the risks in question;
- Recording findings, creating an emergency contingency plan, or providing education; and
- Regularly reviewing and improving the fire risk assessment.
Enhancing a Fire Protection System: Fireproofing Materials
One final protection step is the fireproofing of the structural components, equipment, assemblies, and substrates. Fire-resistant or intumescent coatings are valuable for covering these vulnerable areas and protecting the infrastructure of your warehouse if the worst should happen, as long as they have been successfully tested to the ASTM E119 standards and to the Room Corner Test (UBC 8-2, NPFA 286).
These innovative coatings expand during exposure to high temperatures—slowing the rate of spreading flames—which allows staff to evacuate safely and buys firefighters time to successfully put out the fire. Implementing this coating technology is a best practice to stay compliant with both fire safety and building codes while protecting what matters most.
Firefree Products: When Fire Protection Matters Most
Your warehouse fireproofing project starts here, with Firefree fire protection coatings. Our high-performance fire-resistant and flame-retardant products are far ahead of any alternatives on the market. You won’t find this unique performance and applicability anywhere else. Firefree coatings can provide:
- Hourly ratings required by the Building Codes.
- Compartmentalization of a building.
- Additional time for exit and for firefighters to arrive.
Our cost-effective coating systems for varying substrates and assemblies offer exclusive features that comply with safety code requirements and achieve standard ratings. When time and safety matter most, consider the advantages of using thoroughly tested Firefree paint for superior protection. Get in touch with us to request a quote or inquire about project applications on our contact page.