The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently released its first project phase report addressing the growing concern of fire safety solutions in modern-day warehouses. The first phase of the project was conducted in 2009 and 2010 and included literature review, hazard assessment, and development of a research plan. The research study focused on the impact of using detection technologies to identify fires earlier than the use of traditional sprinkler systems. The second phase of the project, which will involve full-scale testing to measure the benefits of warehouse fire detection, will begin later this year. According to NFPA, the second phase will have two objectives – “characterizing the fires, and evaluating the detection system performance against those design fires”. The results of this testing are expected to help to develop standards for fire detection in warehouses and evaluating the effectiveness of the available technologies.

Today, fire safety solutions in warehouses have become a growing concern as warehouses have become massive. They are taller and filled with more commodities, including a variety of hazardous materials. These days, it is not uncommon for industrial warehouses to exceed the length of 10 or more football fields and include high-piled rack storage reaching heights of 100 feet or more above the floor.  In a recent article in the NFPA Journal, A Harder Look at Detection, Amanda Kimball states that, “…as the size of warehouses increases, so does the size of the required site. This has resulted in large warehouses built in more rural locations where land is more available. However, these areas often present problems in terms of water availability for firefighting, and the facilities constructed in these areas can be difficult, if not impossible, for small, rural fire departments to protect, depending on the fire.”

It is the Fire Protection Research Foundations goal, through this study, to provide information to develop guidelines and standards for pairing fire protection technology with today’s changing warehouses and their environments.