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Warehouses represent a unique fire challenge to both fixed fire suppression systems and the manual firefighting forces that are called upon to deal with a fire.  Modern warehouses and storage occupancies are especially subject to rapidly developing fires of great intensity, because complex configuration of storage and building layout that are usually conducive to fire spread, presenting numerous obstacles to manual fire suppression efforts.  The only proven method of controlling a warehouse fire is with properly designed and maintained automatic sprinkler systems.  If sprinkler protection is not provided, the likelihood of controlling a fire in a warehouse is minimal at best.

Critical elements that must be considered when developing comprehensive risk mitigation strategy to protect facilities.  The  elements include: 

  • Commodity classification
  • Common storage configurations
  • Various protection schemes
  • Hazards associated with some of the common types of warehouses
  • Loss prevention guidelines for minimizing the frequency and severity of a loss

Commodities are classified taking into account three factors:

The specific item or product

  • Its heat of combustion
  • Its rate of heat release
  • Its rate of flame spread

The packaging of the specific item or product including the type of pallet the item is stored on.  The interior and exterior packaging components (e.g., type of carton or container as well as the material inside carton or container)

The individual storage units must be taken into account.  The commodity classification shall be determined based upon the makeup of individual storage units, for example a unit load or a pallet load.  As a general guideline it is critically important to identify the correct commodity class, as this will serve as the foundation for determining the appropriate fire sprinkler protection scheme.