Reference for Seismic Calculations

NAWL distributes an RMI certified pallet rack product the is manufactured in China. Our seismic engineering data and specifications have been tested by Seismic Inc. and all information for preliminary calculations are available through the Seismic Inc website once you register.

US Seismic Zone Map

Sheet Thickness Tolerances

RMI Certified

Pallet storage racks were created to optimize warehouse and distribution center operations. As individual storage rack manufacturers developed new and competing products, the need for design and utilization standards and their implementation by the user and producer industries became obvious.

The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) was established and incorporated in 1958 to deal with industry-wide issues. Among its initial activities was development of the first edition of an RMI standard, Minimum Engineering Standards for Industrial Steel Storage Racks, which was issued in 1964. It represented the first step in developing specifications and other products designed to suit the needs of users, manufacturers, and the engineering and code-enforcement communities.

From Fema-460 – September 2005

Click to download documents below:


Safe Approaches To Unjamming Pallet Flow Systems

Although its designed for the pallets stored within it to flow smoothly from the point of loading (also called “charging”) to the pick face, sometimes a jam occurs in pallet flow rack (also known as “gravity flow”). Whether it’s a pallet that’s settled onto the tracks, debris in the gravity wheels or roller lanes, temperature and humidity changes that have affected the wood pallet, or a broken stringer, hang-ups happen. There are a variety of approaches to safely un-stick a pallet in the lane—and none of them involve an operator climbing into a live, loaded flow system, which has a high potential of injury and is never recommended.

The first technique to try is known as “plugging” the pallet flow. In this process, a forklift positioned squarely at the discharge/pick face end of the lane lifts the front pallet 1-inch above the rollers. Once lifted, the forklift uses the pallet to firmly push (or bump) the pallet load behind it by 3-4 inches. As the forklift backs out with the first load onboard, the subsequent loads should follow.

If plugging does not work, the removed pallet should be replaced in the pick face position and the entire system should be inspected to identify the type and location of the blockage.

The next step is to try to dislodge a stuck pallet from the loading end of the lane by placing another loaded pallet into the system. The force generated by the new pallet as it glides down the lane should dislodge the stuck one. If not, continue to load the lane until the pallet releases or the lane is full.

If after loading the lane behind the stuck pallet does not resolve the hang-up, remove the last pallet loaded. Then, remove all the pallets in the lane adjacent to the one with the jam. After securing the empty, adjacent lane with tie-offs and any other facility-mandated safety procedures, an operator may enter it to inspect and diagnose the reason for the hang-up. If it is possible to correct the issue manually—and safely—the operator should do so.

However, if it’s not possible for the jam not be cleared manually, the last technique is to load pallets from the discharge/pick face end until the new pallets reach the stuck pallet. This permits the hung-up pallet to be pushed back toward the loading end. The operator in the secured adjacent lane can also report to the lift truck driver about the progress of new loads upon contact with the stuck pallet.

To learn more about best practices in safe operation of pallet flow racks, click here

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Why Pallet Flow Systems Are Designed For Specific Pallets And Loads

The vast majority of industrial steel storage rack systems—including pallet flow (or “gravity flow”) rack—are engineered specifically for a single storage purpose. Likewise, when designing a high-density pallet flow system, there are a number of variables that must be taken into account to ensure its safety, structural integrity and smooth operation. Two of the most critical variables are the load itself and the type of pallet it rests on.

Assessing The Load

In order to design a rack system with adequate capacity to handle a given load, the design engineer must be informed of the weights and dimensions of the individual loads intended for the system.

The weight of the load impacts the type of pallet flow used (full roller, split roller, skate wheel and more), its pitch and the beams used. Further, the depth, width and height of the load (or of the largest load if there are multiple types) must also be known. That’s because the overall capacity of the rack frame is determined by the vertical distance between shelf beams (which brace the structure), the weight of the loads placed on the beams, and the weight of the flow lane tracks.

When calculating beam spacing, typically an additional 12 inches are added to the height of the load—6 inches for pallet height and 6 inches of clearance space to allow a forklift to place or remove the load from the point of entry or exit. Because the beams act as upright supports, the tighter the beam spacing, the denser the design and the stronger the rack bay. If different types of loads are to be stored within the same system, the entire structure must be designed to accommodate the heaviest load to ensure safe operation and minimize the risk of collapse.

Assessing the Pallet

As the point of contact between load and the rollers or skate wheels, the pallet is also a critical element of pallet flow system design. Type, dimension and orientation of the pallets to be used in a system can have a significant impact on its design.

  • Type means the material used in the pallet’s construction (wood, plastic, metal or resin). Each material has its own unique set of properties that could impact the ease with which the pallets flow down a lane. This will guide the decision about the type of flow tracks used (roller or wheel) to facilitate smooth operation.
  • Dimension is the length and width of the pallet, which determines the number that can fit within a given lane, and the number of lanes a building can accommodate.
  • Orientation refers to the construction and configuration of the pallet’s underside. For the smoothest operation and the lowest risk of a hang up within the system, it is optimal to place pallets in a lane with the bottom boards running parallel to the direction of the flow. However, because pallets can be used in both directions, it might be more space efficient to design the system with the bottom boards running perpendicular to the flow. Additionally, the quality, number and thickness of the bottom boards—as well as the shape and orientation of the undersides or feet of certain plastic or metal pallets—must be considered, as they too can impact pallet flow performance.

Looking for more information on how to pick the optimal pallet rack system for your operation? RMI will be presenting “Warehouse Racking Systems for the E-Commerce World,” at ProMat 2019 on Wednesday, April 10 at 2:15 p.m. in Theater B in the South Hall of McCormick Place.

The post Why Pallet Flow Systems Are Designed For Specific Pallets And Loads appeared first on RMI Safety.

Applying Pallet Separators, Speed Controllers To Flow Rack

Because high-density pallet flow (also called “gravity flow”) rack is engineered to hold multiple pallet loads in a lane with a downward pitch, they are increasingly popular for use in case-picking operations. Full pallets are loaded from the back, or charging, end atop a series of rollers or skate wheels; the forces of gravity draw the pallets forward to the pick-face, or discharging, end. This allows pickers to split case pick from full pallets.

However, because the pallets in the lane rest against each other, they generate a substantial amount of force on the pallet at the pick-face. This effect, known as pallet flow back pressure, is approximately 6% of the full weight of all rear pallets.

3-deep system, 2,500 lb. load. Back pressure = .06 x 2,500 lbs. x 2 pallets = 300 lbs.

That increased force can make it extremely difficult for a picker to lift and remove the front pallet when empty. Attempting to do so has the potential for ergonomic injuries due to repetitive bending, stretching and straining.

To mitigate pallet flow back pressure, a pallet separator (sometimes referred to as a “hold-back” or “braking” device), can be added to the lanes. This interlocking component pops up above the roller or skate wheel tracks to stop and hold the series of pallets behind the one at the pick-face, typically at a distance of 6 to 12 inches. That negates the forces prohibiting the front pallet from being easily removed. To advance the pallet flow, a manual release latch is triggered by the operator, allowing the next pallet to index into pick-face position.

When used in deep-lane flow, the device relieves the pressure otherwise experienced by the lift truck. That increases forklift driver productivity while preventing product damage as it eliminates the forces that prevent easy removal of the empty pallet.

For further control of pallet movement as each indexes forward in a lane, two other accessories can be added:

  • Speed Controllers: Braking devices mounted below the roller tracks or dropped in on top of wheeled tracks—typically at a single pallet interval—that ensure pallets advance at a controlled, steady pace. In addition to minimizing the risk of product or pallet damage, the controllers help to keep the loads centered in the lane, reducing the risk of a hang-up.
  • Ramp Stops: Also referred to as “end stops,” these devices are bolted onto the discharge end of the pallet flow rack lane and slow the advance of the first pallet, stopping it safely and holding it securely at the pick-face.

Looking for more storage rack safety guidelines? RMI will be presenting a free educational seminar, “Storage Rack Safety 101,” on Wednesday, April 10 at ProMat 2019 in Theater F at 11:15 a.m.

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Best Practices In Safe Operation Of Pallet Flow Rack

Pallet flow rack (also sometimes called “gravity flow”) is a high-density, dynamic storage system engineered to hold up to 20 pallets in a single lane. Loaded back to front for first-in/first-out load access, the pallets ride atop gravity wheel or roller lanes mounted at a slight pitch that slopes downward from the loading point to the pick face. These systems are ideal for storing multiple pallets of the same product, particularly fast movers.

Because it relies on gravity to move the loads through the lane—as opposed to a mechanized device—pallet flow rack requires fairly precise pallet placement. A lane of pallets also generates a significant amount of force, particularly on the load at the pick face. Therefore, it’s important to ensure operators are well versed in the best practices for safe operation of pallet flow rack at three key points: loading, unloading and clearing a hang-up within a lane.

Safe Loading (also called “Charging”) Practices: For safe and proper pallet placement, the fork truck must be positioned squarely to the opening side of the lane, with the center pallet stringer aligned with the center flow lane. (To further ensure correct pallet positioning, optional entry guides can be added to the outside of the flow rails at the point of entry, helping to straighten an off-center pallet.)

The load should be raised 2-3 inches above the lane rollers. Once in position, the forks are tilted forward, allowing the pallet to first make contact with the rollers or wheels, then roll away from the vehicle and down the lane until it meets the preceding pallet load. When placing the load, it’s important to avoid contact between the fork tips and the lane wheels, and to not place pallets with broken or missing bottom boards into the system, as either instance could cause a jam within the lane. After placement is complete, the forklift should back away from the opening completely prior to turning to avoid an impact with the uprights.

Safe Unloading Practices: For safe and proper pallet removal from the discharge/pick face end of a lane, the forklift should first be aligned square to the rack face prior to entering the pallet’s fork openings. Once the pallet is on the forks, it should be lifted to a level position high enough to clear the front beam, yet still low enough to make contact with the loaded pallet behind it. Before extracting the pallet, the forklift operator should gently push it back against the subsequent pallet load to help start forward flow of the rest of the lane; after slowly removing the pallet, the remaining loads will advance to the aisle face. (If they don’t advance, refer to the “Safe Jam Clearing Practices” section below.)

Safe Jam Clearing Practices: First, operators should never climb into a live flow system to attempt to clear a stuck pallet, as the risk of a serious injury is high. Instead, a technique known as “plugging” is recommended. To begin, a forklift positioned squarely at the discharge/pick face end of the lane lifts the front pallet 1-inch above the rollers. Once lifted, the forklift uses the pallet to firmly push (or bump) the pallet load behind it by 3-4 inches. As the forklift backs out with the first load onboard, the subsequent loads should follow.

If this does not work, the removed pallet should be replaced in the pick face position and the entire system should be inspected to identify and address the blockage.

Looking for more storage rack safety guidelines? RMI will be presenting a free educational seminar, “Storage Rack Safety 101,” on Wednesday, April 10 at ProMat 2019 in Theater F at 11:15 a.m.

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Discover How Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes Impact Rack Design In Free ProMat Seminar

RMI member Gary Smith has long served as the group’s representative on a National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 13 committee tasked with creating and revising national standards specific to the safe design of sprinkler systems. Intimately familiar with warehouse fire sprinkler codes, Smith will be sharing some of his insights about sprinkler system design approaches, system installation, and component options to prevent fire deaths and property loss during ProMat 2019 in Chicago. His free, on-floor seminar “Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes and Impact on Storage Racks” will be held on Tuesday, April 9 from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. in Theater E in the South Hall exhibit floor. (For those unable to attend the 45-minute session—or who wish to review its content—the presentation and its accompanying audio will be recorded and shared shortly after the conclusion of ProMat.)

The session will include some of the latest warehouse fire statistics and estimated insurance losses, as well as an overview of pertinent national codes and standards associated with the design of sprinkler protection systems. Permitting processes and key personnel roles will also be covered.

Smith will further share the three areas that need to be considered by a fire protection engineer when determining which rules need to be followed when designing a warehouse’s fire suppression system: the type of commodities being stored (non-combustibles, plastics, furniture, paper and wood products, and more); the type and density of the rack and the pallets upon which the products are being stored; and heights of both the racks and the building. For facilities storing products with either unique or environmental constraints, other options will be reviewed.

Additionally, the presentation reviews some of the devices and accessories that can be added into a rack structure to ensure that the water flows through designated flue spaces, overhead clearances to prevent blocked water spray, and considerations for the location of in-rack sprinkler heads so as to avoid impacts from forklifts.

Finally, as warehouses grow ever larger, firefighters are developing new techniques in fighting fires within these facilities. These—as well as changes to the current edition of NFPA 13—will be shared. Attendees will leave the presentation armed with a complete checklist of areas that must be considered when designing and operating a warehouse storing flammable products.

Can’t wait until ProMat 2019 for more details about integrating fire suppression systems and storage rack? Additional details can be found in the “Building Departments and Fire Codes” section of RMI’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) page.

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Comprehensive Resources For Safe Rack Design, Use Detailed In RMI’s ProMat Education Session

The safe use of a storage rack system is key to the ongoing productivity of a warehousing operation. That’s why members of RMI will both share insights from the current standards for the design, testing and utilization of industrial steel storage racks and address related questions in “Rack Safety, Inspection and Repair,” a free, on-show floor seminar during ProMat 2019. The session will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Theater F, located in the back right-hand corner of McCormick Place’s South exhibit hall.

Attendees will learn about the comprehensive catalog of resources offered by RMI that can be used to design and implement a safe rack system. These include:

  • The ANSI MH16.1-2012 Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks
  • The ANSI MH16.3-2016 Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Cantilevered Storage Racks
  • The ANSI MH26.2-2017 Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Welded Wire Rack Decking
  • Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks
  • Guideline for the Assessment and Repair or Replacement of Damaged Rack

Additionally, the session will feature an overview of the elements that should be included in rack inspections to help ensure a rack system remains in productive working order. Further, the recommended frequency of those inspections to ensure the integrity of the installation and its safe use will be discussed.

Presenters will also detail the types of accessories that can be deployed to further enhance the safety of a rack system by offering a measure of protection from impacts. Finally, the presentation will discuss how to assess rack damage and, if deemed necessary, how to decide between repairing or replacing the damaged components.

Those who are unable to attend the session in person may still access the presentation and its accompanying audio via a recording that will be made available online after ProMat concludes.

Looking for answers to industrial storage rack system safety questions prior to ProMat? Visit RMI’s page of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

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Rack System Enhancements That Further Mitigate Forklift Impacts

A previous blog entry reviewed a selection of optional guarding accessories. These add-ons are applied at the time of installation—or as a later retrofit—to aisle-side or end-facing rack columns (or to the floor in front of them) to minimize the damage caused by a forklift impact. For operations wishing to preserve the maximum amount of aisle clearance, however, there are a number of options available for safeguarding the rack uprights for impact. These impact protection modifications can be implemented with either structural or roll-form rack systems, as both are used in high lift traffic warehouse applications.

Outlined in RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks, none of these design enhancements will prevent the rack from failing due to a major collision, nor should they be considered a replacement for proper and ongoing forklift driver training and management. Nevertheless, they greatly reduce the chances that a minor, day-to-day impact will cause a collapse. And, in the instance of an impact causing significant damage, they may extend the time needed to safely unload the rack and remove it from commission until it can be inspected and repaired by a certified rack engineer.

Depending on the application, one or more of these design enhancements may be added to a system. They are most frequently deployed on the aisle-facing columns of interior uprights or to both columns in end-of-row or tunnel-bay cross-over uprights, where collisions are more likely to occur.

  1. Double Columns. In structural and roll-formed rack applications, a second column may be welded to the front column. The additional column reinforces and strengthens the upright. It also provides some redundancy by redistributing the load stress if the front column is damaged due to impact.
  2. Column Inserts or Reinforcement. Reinforcement sections can be added externally or internally to increase the impact strength and load capacity of the column. These sections can be made from various materials, such as steel or wood. Further, they can be placed inside racking columns to provide added protection against impact damage.
  3. Heavy-Duty Bracing. Implementing heavier horizontal and diagonal bracing within the rack upright, particularly in the lower impact regions, can also help the upright resist damage caused by a forklift impact.
  4. External Column Protectors. There are many other column devices that can be added to provide some level of impact protection. Included are steel guards bolted to the floor, steel guards bolted or welded to the column, snap-on plastic and rubber shock absorbing devices, guard rails, floor rails, and more.
  5. Beam Uplift Protection. Most roll-formed rack beams are installed with studded-type or formed steel connectors with beams clicking into place with spring-type locking devices or clips. Should a forklift driver miscalculate the clearance of a pallet load opening and impact the beam above the load, the resulting contact can create an excessive upward force. This may exceed the spring lock capacity and potentially cause the beam to dislodge. For additional protection against beam uplift, secondary items—such as bolts and J-pins—can be added, locking the beam connections to provide enhanced restraint.

Again, when correctly assembled, maintained and used in an environment where properly trained forklift drivers operate with caution and care, the vast majority of steel storage racks designed to RMI standards will deliver a long, safe service life. For operations wishing to further protect their racking structure, however, these modifications can enhance its resistance to forklift impacts.

Looking for more rack protection accessories? Section 3.4.2 of RMI’s publication, “Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks,” offers a detailed review of the options.

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RMI Seminar At ProMat To Address Rack Safety In The Age Of E-Commerce

With the holiday shopping season officially starting a week ago on Black Friday (or—in some cases—a week or two prior, as retailers offered special discounts ahead of Thanksgiving to get a jump on the competition for consumers’ dollars), the popularity of online shopping further cemented itself. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) , multi-channel shopping jumped nearly 40% over the same period in 2017. More than 165 million Americans shopped in stores or online. Further, more than 89 million people shopped via a combination of both (order online/pickup at store; order at store kiosk/deliver to home; order via mobile device/ship to store; and so on). In all, the NRF says multi-channel shoppers outspent single-channel shoppers by an average of $93.

What does this have to do with the safe use of industrial steel storage racks? A lot. Because the changes in how people shop directly impacts the breadth, variety, unit sizes and volumes of inventory stored on and picked from rack in warehouses and distribution centers (DCs). And those changes in inventory and orders for it—a transition from bulk shipments to replenish retail stores to a profusion of individual items shipped to unique consumers in significantly smaller unit sizes—will fundamentally change the design and installation of racking systems in both existing and planned facilities.

The topic will be explored in depth during RMI’s free, on-floor seminar, “Warehouse Racking Systems for the E-Commerce World,” presented during ProMat 2019. The 45-minute session will be held on Wednesday, April 10, from 2:15 to 3:00 p.m. in Theater B—located in the back right-hand corner of McCormick Place’s South exhibit hall.

Via the presentation, prospective and current end users and owners of industrial steel storage racks will tour a variety of different rack styles and designs created to meet the requirements of the e-commerce and multi-channel retail world. The session will explain some of the key design points to consider when determining which racking style is both the best and safest solution for a given facility.

Included will be an overview of the various types of rack available and the types of e-commerce inventory storage and picking processes for which each is more ideally suited. The presentation will also detail multiple types of rack configurations, highlighting their degree of storage density, notable features and operation, and potential areas of concern when accessing loads. Included are discussions of:

  • Selective rack
  • Selective double deep rack
  • Drive-in and drive-thru racks
  • Double pallet drive-in rack
  • Push back rack
  • Pallet flow rack
  • Carton flow rack
  • Automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) rack
  • Pallet shuttle systems
  • Cantilever rack

The session also features mezzanine-supporting racks utilized for optimizing overhead space, plus pick modules and multi-level storage systems. Unable to attend the session in person? The presentation and its accompanying audio will be recorded and shared online after ProMat concludes.

Want to learn more about selecting industrial storage rack system for e-commerce or other applications? RMI offers Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks, a best practices guide for warehouse operators looking to implement such a system.

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Hour-Long RMI Webinar Overviews Rack Safety 101

Several members of RMI recently hosted an online learning session to educate participants on the fundamentals of rack assembly, installation, operator training, inspections and maintenance. The “Rack Safety 101” webinar—available for free—highlights the best practices in industrial steel storage rack construction and utilization as an overview for viewers of the most critical aspects for consideration.

The webinar begins with an explanation of RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks. It also reviews the R-Mark Certification program for manufacturers of industrial steel storage racks and of welded wire rack decking. Companies that have earned the R-Mark license have shown—via independent assessment—that the rack frame, beam and decking capacities calculated in the design’s load table were done so in accordance with the RMI/ANSI MH16.1-2012 specification.

Additionally, a tour of the multiple factors taken under consideration when calculating a rack design is presented. This portion of the webinar touches on details about the type of pallet to be used within the system, the clearances around the loads, the maximum pallet load height, the spacing between racks, the maximum reach height of material handling equipment intended to interface with the racks, and more. Other design and installation points include warehouse fire sprinkler systems, building codes, permitting processes, and seismic design considerations.

Operator training is another key section of the webinar. The presentation notes that all associates working around the racking and utilizing material handling equipment—such as forklifts—that interfaces with the racking must be trained on proper and safe use of the vehicles. Those working from order pickers at elevated heights must be trained in fall protection safety. Further, a list of the types of documentation and compliance required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also presented.

To ensure that a racking system continues to function as it did on the day of installation, routine inspections of a number of areas throughout the structure are recommended—because a damaged rack, regardless of the degree of damage, will have reduced capacity. If damaged rack is not immediately unloaded and taken out of commission until it’s properly repaired, the risk of a collapse is significantly increased. Additional details are included in RMI’s Guideline for the Assessment and Repair or Replacement of Damaged Rack.

Finally, the webinar offers guidelines for facilities considering changing the configuration of their existing rack. Highlights include why to avoid mixing different brands of components, the importance of testing and documenting a new configuration, and why it’s critical that a qualified rack engineer is involved in the process. It closes with a 20-minute question-and-answer session taken from queries submitted by the webinar’s original participants.

Interested in learning more? Watch the full Rack Safety 101 webinar, here.

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Learn More About Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes And How They Impact Rack Design

As RMI’s representative on the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 13 committee that’s tasked with the creation and revision of national standards specific to the safe design of sprinkler systems, member Gary Smith knows warehouse fire sprinkler codes. He shared some of his insights about sprinkler system design approaches, system installation, and component options to prevent fire deaths and property loss during MODEX 2018, in the free, on-floor seminar “Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes and Impact on Storage Racks,” last April. (For those who were unable to participate in the 45-minute session—or who wish to review its content—the presentation and its accompanying audio have been recorded.)

The seminar overviews some of the most current warehouse fire statistics (1,200-plus annually in the U.S.), the associated direct property damages (an annual average of $155 million), and the two leading causes of warehouse fires (arson and electrical). It also walks through the evolution of the current warehouse fire sprinkler design and building codes that resulted from six separate, significant facility fires that occurred in the last two decades.

With 84% of warehouse structure fires being suppressed by wet pipe sprinkler systems, the method has proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce potential damage and deaths. Yet, to ensure its proper operation, a sprinkler system’s in-rack design must allow the water to flow through the storage system in the most optimal manner. That’s why the presentation discusses three pertinent warehouse fire sprinkler design and building codes recommended by RMI:

Further, the seminar dives into the three areas that need to be considered by a fire protection engineer when determining which rules need to be followed when designing a warehouse’s fire suppression system: the type of items being stored (non-combustibles, plastics, furniture, paper and wood products, and more); the type and density of the rack and the pallets upon which the products are being stored; and heights of both the racks and the building.

Additionally, the presentation reviews some of the devices and accessories that can be added into a rack structure to ensure that the water flows through designated flue spaces, overhead clearances to prevent blocked water spray, and considerations for the location of in-rack sprinkler heads so as to avoid impacts from forklifts.

Looking for more information about fire suppression systems and their impact on rack design? Further details can be found in the “Building Departments and Fire Codes” section of RMI’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) page.

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