Fire Code Requirements for Rack Storage and Atriums
Did the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) over your project recently reject your design due to improper smoke control in your building? Do you need to calculate proper exhaust and convince the AHJ your structure will meet or exceed the intent of the fire code?
Vertically stacked rack storage units and multi-story atriums can trigger the more obscure fire code requirements that designers are unprepared to manage. Even though these fire codes aren’t as well known doesn’t mean the problems they cause aren’t common. We frequently receive calls to help with smoke control fire code violations.
Real Danger of Fire Ignition in Rack Storage and Atriums
Smoke Control is important because smoke can obscure exits within seconds and trap building occupants inside with no means of escape. Smoke can quickly cover a confined space and become deadly, as was the case in the recent Brazilian nightclub tragedy.
The fire code devotes particular attention to rack storage and atriums because of the unexpected dangers they present.
When rack storage ignites, it can produce a fast-growing, high smoke-producing fire. The potential rate of fire expansion in storage racks creates a substantial fire hazard, and the AHJ often requires mitigation with specialized fire protection, such as early notification fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems designed for suppression. Extreme cases may require smoke and heat venting or mechanical exhaust
An atrium connects multiple floors with an unprotected vertical opening. This unique arrangement can cause unexpected ventilation problems in the event of a fire. Your design needs to exhaust smoke out of the area quickly enough to keep escape routes open – on every floor that is open to the atrium. Each building requires its own unique, minimum exhaust rate to ensure proper fire protection and to maintain safe egress paths for the occupants.
As Fire Protection Engineers, we develop fire hazard analyses that explore the potential scenarios and the steps that need to be taken in order to mitigate the risks. Professional evaluation of these scenarios ensures occupants have clear access to means of egress in case of a fire situation. If your building has one or more of the unique features discussed above, give us a call or contact us using the form below:
By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.