As the marketplace for industrial products and systems becomes increasingly global, corporations are seeking strategic solutions for storage and retrieval of these commodities. Innovative automated systems are enabling unique warehouse configurations – storage heights above fifty metres are not uncommon. Sophisticated storage and distribution centres are located strategically close to markets; and indeed in many cases serve as retail outlets. All of these innovations increase efficiency of storage; they also present unique fire protection challenges for the property protection community.
The nature of commodities stored in warehouses is also changing; increased use of plastics for packaging and pallets, and emerging types of commodities such as lithium ion batteries, aerosols, and others, are also changing the landscape of commodity storage. These developments, together with the changes in warehouse configuration described above, are causing some fundamental reconsideration of the basis for storage protection currently prescribed in global codes and standards such as the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 13.
The Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA’s research affiliate, has a long history of research in support of NFPA 13. The Foundation’s completed research portfolio includes sprinkler solutions for solid shelf storage, compact mobile shelving, exposed expanded plastics, lithium ion batteries, and many others. Configuration challenges, such as the presence of high-volume, low-speed fans have also been addressed. In 2009, the Property Insurance Research Group, a group of industrial property insurers with an interest in improving the technical basis behind standards for property protection, was formed under the Foundation’s umbrella. This group meets regularly to share field experiences, note emerging challenges, and define and implement a research agenda to address those challenges. Its current protection research interests include lithium ion battery storage, impact of obstructions on sprinkler protection, and storage under sloping ceilings. The group is worldwide mirroring the global nature of the insurance industry and the companies they insure.
In recognition of this global landscape, and to assist in technology transfer, in June of 2012, the Foundation sponsored a research update in Paris on strategies to meet the new challenges presented by emerging storage configurations and commodities worldwide. The conference, the proceedings of which can be found in www.nfpa.org/foundation, brought together leading global companies that are facing these challenges and the research community to explore developing solutions. The Foundation’s Property Insurance Research Group sponsored the event as a means to share emerging global information.
Due to the success of the event, the Foundation will sponsor a second update on May 22nd, 2014. The event will be held in collaboration with Fire Sprinkler International 2014(www.firesprinkler international.com), the only conference in Europe dedicated to sprinkler and water mist technology, at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London, England. Registration is currently open at www.nfpa.org/foundation and a special discounted rate is available for participants attending both events.
The programme will feature a keynote presentation from global property owner, Procter and Gamble Corporation, USA and European research updates on storage hazards and solutions, and an insurance industry “look ahead” at tomorrow’s storage challenges. Attendees will benefit from solutions to real-world applications such as lithium ion battery storage, high hazard plastic storage, and unique shuttle storage configurations. We hope to see some of you in London to discuss your concerns and share possible solutions!
For further information, go to www.nfpa.org
Kathleen Almand is Executive Director, Fire Protection Research Foundation
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Olga Caledonia, NFPA Executive Director of Global Operations