Storage space has become an expensive commodity forcing storage racks to take up as much volume as possible in logistics warehouses, resulting in tighter and higher racks. For the ultimate in operational efficiency storage management is carried out with the aid of robots in automated stockers.
Fire loads in warehouses are increasing and change on a daily basis as stock movements increase to support business operation, all of which has a significant financial and economic value, often several millions of Pounds. The cost of a fire in a warehouse goes far beyond the loss of the building and goods; the consequential loss caused by downtime, operation interruption, business reputation and goodwill is significant.
Modern goods tend to have increased flammability, in addition to the presence of large amounts of packing materials such as plastics, cardboard, wooden crates and pallets. There are various possible ignition sources in warehouses including smoking, lighting, electrical equipment, heaters and so on.
Whilst sprinklers are typically installed in many warehouses the absence of a suitable and appropriate early warning smoke detection system may potentially turn the facility into an inferno resulting in the controlled burn down of the facility, at the same time compromising the safety of adjacent buildings.
Warehouses come in a wide range of sizes and contain a wider range of goods. Most large warehouses are characterised by high ceilings, extending over 12 m with some modern automated high rack storage facilities having ceiling heights over 40 m. In these conditions smoke is heavily diluted making detection difficult for conventional detection technologies. Sufficient heat generated by the fire is required to initiate suppression containment measures (sprinklers).
Typically Codes and Standards set down the minimum requirements in these facilities although certain detection technologies, such as point detectors, are considered unsuitable if deployed at such heights.
Even for warehouses with lower ceilings, the installation, wiring and maintenance of point detectors can make them inconvenient and very costly. Maintenance access for point detectors in some large facilities with high ceilings is simply too difficult.
Maintenance contractors will require costly access equipment (e.g. scissor lifts and cherry pickers) to provide safe access to the detectors. In many cases, the ceiling is virtually impossible to get to after installation. The situation is more challenging in those facilities that operate 24/7 where maintenance is only allowed during a planned maintenance period.
Linear heat cables are sometimes offered as a solution and might be tempting from a maintenance point of view. However their detection point (i.e. flaming stage of fire) is too late to be truly considered as early warning or adequate detection for warehouse and storage racks.
A possible alternative to heat cables, but in the same category, are flame detectors.
On the other hand, an emerging technology, only approved by UL and FM for special applications, is Video Smoke and Flame Detection. This technology is based on video image analysis of smoke and/or flames in the field of view of cameras. Irrespective of the need for adequate lighting at all times, the fact that smoke has to be seen to be detected creates the need for several cameras per rack - making VSFD a very expensive solution.
The options for smoke detection technologies, which do not require physical maintenance access above the high bay racks, are Aspirating Smoke Detection (ASD) and Beam Detection.
As part of the product and brand selection process it is important to pay close attention to the following considerations
• Business continuity – impact on the business following a fire event
• Installation cost – don’t simply look at product cost.
• Maintenance cost - the cost people tend to forget to factor in
• Reliability - cost of false alarms
Taking the above considerations into account, VESDA-E VEU, VESDA VLI or OSID are the most optimum and costeffective smoke detection solutions available to address the fire protection needs of a wide range of warehouse applications.
The primary consideration when selecting a smoke detection system in a warehouse is the acceptable size of a potential fire, relative to the risk. For the earliest possible warning of a potential fire Aspirating Smoke Detection (ASD) offers the best solution. Multiple hole sampling combined with sophisticated detection technology allows fires to be detected at the earliest possible stage allowing for the earliest possible intervention. In addition to the early warning capability, ASD systems also:
• allow for the detector to be located at an accessible height removing the need for access to the ceiling for service and maintenance
• accommodate irregular ceiling structures
• are not affected by internal business operations (e.g. forklifts, robotic gantries)
• can provide detection within storage racks for the fastest possible response to a fire threat.
It is for these reasons that ASD has become an industry standard for the protection of warehouses.
Where standard detection may be acceptable and none of the above attributes of ASD are required; open path beam detectors can provide an alternative.
Do you have a Warehouse project that requires VESDA HSSD air sampling?
Call us today to dicuss your requirements on 01628 902107 or email us [email protected]
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