Monday, April 9, 2018

Fire Protection Requirements for Rack Storage


What are the requirements for rack storage? Are in-rack sprinklers required? How can rack storage sprinkler requirements be determined?

Fire protection requirements for rack storage are addressed in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.  

  • Chapter 13, Protection of Miscellaneous and Low-Piled Storage
  • Chapter 14, Protection for Palletized, Solid-Piled, Bin Box, Shelf, or Back-to-Back Shelf Storage of Class I through Class IV Commodities
  • Chapter 15, Protection for Palletized, Solid-Piled, Bin Box, Shelf, or Back-to-Back Shelf Storage of Plastic and Rubber Commodities
  • Chapter 16, Protection of Rack Storage of Class I through Class IV Commodities
  • Chapter 17, Protection of Rack Storage of Plastic and Rubber Commodities

To determine which chapter to go to for fire protection requirements, there are three questions that must be answered:
  1. What is stored?
  2. How is it stored?
  3. How high is it stored?

“What is stored” refers to the items hazard and commodity classification. “How is it stored” refers to the storage method, or medium (pallets, bins, etc.), and container type (wood, plastic, etc.).  “How high is it stored” refers to the height of stored items.


If the stored items are classified as miscellaneous or low-piled, refer to Chapter 13 for fire protection requirements. “Miscellaneous storage”  does not exceed 12 feet and is incidental to the occupancy (see, 13:3.9.1.18 for additional requirements). “Low-piled storage” is storage that is up to 12 feet in height.  Storage medium for low-piled storage can include, solid-piled, palletized, rack storage, bin box, and shelf storage. Fire sprinkler design requirements are outlined in section 13.2.

If the stored items are classified as a Class I through Class IV commodity, and palletized, solid-piled, bin box, shelf, or back-to-back shelf storage Chapter 14 requirements apply. Fire protection requirements will vary based on height of stored items. Sprinkler design requirements for storage up to 12 feet is outlined in section 14.2.3. Storage over 12 feet is defined in section 14.2.4. It is in Chapter 14 that we first see “encapsulated” storage. This refers to items that are wrapped in plastic sheeting, or pallets that are covered with plastic sheeting. If encapsulated storage is utilized and it is between 15-20 feet, the sprinkler design requirements of section 14.2.5 should be followed.

If the stored items and rack shelving are classified as plastic or rubber commodities, and palletized, solid-piled, bin box, shelf, or back-to-back shelf storage Chapter 15 requirements apply. If the plastics are Group A and do not exceed 5 feet in height then the protection requirements of Chapter 13 can apply. For all plastic or rubber commodities that exceed 5 feet in height, section 15.2.2 outlines the fire protection requirements. For clarity and protection requirements the decision tree provided in figure 15.2.2.1 of this standard should be referenced.

If the stored items are a Class I through Class IV commodity and on rack storage the protection criteria of Chapter 16 shall be met. If these commodities are stored up to 25 feet in height the sprinkler requirements or section 16.2 are to be met.  If the they are stored over 25 feet high, section 16.3 should be followed for protection requirements and design criteria.  If the overhead sprinkler system does not meet the minimum design requirements for protection of the commodity alternate provisions and options are provided in section 16.1.2.4.

If the stored items are plastic or rubber commodities and on rack storage the protection requirements of Chapter 17 shall be enforced. This section has a decision tree that must be followed based on the group of plastics being protected, as well as alternate provisions for systems that do not meet minimum design requirements. If plastic or rubber commodities on rack storage is encountered, this chapter should be closely examined.  The plastic or rubber commodity should be further broken down by answering the original three questions: what type of plastic is stored? How is this plastic or rubber stored? How high is the plastic or rubber stored?  Fire protection requirements and design criteria will differ based on the answers to these questions.