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For warehouse managers, being told they need to install in-rack sprinklers can be stressful. The fire protection benefits are not in question. The problem is the cost.
Typically, a large number of sprinklers are required for warehouse storage racks, making the cost far higher than ceiling-level sprinklers. Adding to that, managers worry that in-rack sprinklers could cause water damage to products if they’re set off unintentionally.
However, as warehouses grow taller to make more efficient use of space, the fire risks are elevated because the natural path for fire to grow is vertical.
In 2011, commercial property insurance company FM Global launched an in-rack sprinkler research project to improve the protection of storage racks and lower the overall cost of fire protection. The company’s research division conducted small-, intermediate-, and full-scale fire tests using computer modeling to identify potential protection solutions.
This unique approach proved that by using larger sprinklers and higher water flow rates, the number of in-rack sprinklers could be significantly reduced, saving significant cash. It was estimated this could lower the cost of in-rack sprinkler installation by 40 percent, in addition to reducing the likelihood of damage to stored products.
A feature story in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal, “Rack Rate,” takes an in-depth look at this research, which offers building owners and designers new possibilities for protecting buildings and products that may be impossible for ceiling-level sprinklers alone.
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