The Necessity of Fire Safety and Fire Sprinkler Systems
By Tom Pedersen | Fire Protection Engineering
Fires are a potential risk to large retail companies. With hundreds
of thousands of visitors at their premises every day, life safety is, of
course, a primary concern for all responsible retailers, but the risk
of property loss and damage to the brand value are also major concerns.
experienced two major fires in 1970 and 1984, and both cases led to a
total loss of large retail stores. Luckily, no persons were injured. As a
consequence of these fires, IKEA decided that fire safety was a top
priority, and developed a tough minimum standard for an internal fire
consists of five elements: a fully addressable fire detection and alarm
system, an emergency evacuation system, a fire sprinkler system, a smoke
management system, and an internal fire response team.
first priority is to detect a fire at a very early stage, and, if
possible, to extinguish it with the internal response team. If that is
not possible, the fire sprinkler system is the first line of defense,
and must be able to suppress the fire in case the fire brigade is
delayed. Consequently, IKEA is focused on having fire sprinkler systems
of high quality that are able to overcome possible fires in the products
carried, and with a safety margin to allow for changes in the product
range experienced over time.
concept has proven to be very efficient. Every year a number of fire
incidents occur. Most are detected and dealt with at an early stage, but
some develop and activate the fire sprinklers. Since the new fire
protection concept was introduced more than 30 years ago, the automatic
fire sprinkler systems have overcome all the fires when they have been
activated, and in all cases with a good margin.
an international retailer, IKEA had to adapt its own fire safety
concept to many different local fire codes. Some countries have advanced
fire codes but not all countries have fire protection criteria in their
codes, which reflect the situation IKEA experiences in large retail
stores with several thousand visitors in combined retail and storage
areas. Not all codes acknowledge the need for strong fire sprinkler
systems in such environments.
few of the major fire protection codes are broadly accepted
internationally. NFPA 13 is, without a doubt, the most widely accepted
fire sprinkler standard worldwide; therefore, it is important for
companies such as IKEA that NFPA maintains an international focus.
recent years, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has been leading a
test program aimed at developing an Early Suppression Fast Response
(ESFR) sprinkler protection criteria for exposed, expanded plastics in
rack storage. This program was initiated to fill a gap in NFPA 13.
Today, there is no protection criteria using ESFR only to protect
exposed, expanded plastics in warehouse racking. With the amount of
plastics increasing in the product range of many retailers, there is a
greater need for this new protection criteria.
recent testing has introduced vertical barriers in the racking. The
barriers were placed at the rack uprights to prevent fire spread in the
longitudinal direction. They proved to be efficient, and in most of the
tests, were successful in containing the fire between the two barriers
protecting the center of the main rack section.
adding the vertical barriers, it was possible to reduce the number of
active sprinklers in the new criteria, and consequently the amount of
water needed for the design. This has a positive impact on the cost of a
new fire sprinkler system. In many countries outside the U.S., it is
uncommon to have sufficient water pressure and volume in public mains,
and water tanks are often needed.
recent test program has focused on developing new criteria that makes
it easy to use internationally. One of the challenges on the
international scene is the number of different warehouse racking
systems. Both the depth of the racking and the distance between the rack
uprights can vary from country to country. The intention was to develop
protection criteria that can be accepted as-is, in as many countries
and for as many different rack configurations as possible.
solution was to define a protection area between the vertical barriers,
rather than indicate at which rack uprights the barriers should be
installed. By stating a maximum protection area between the barriers, it
will be possible to use racking with different depths and spacing
between the rack uprights as long as the total protection area between
the uprights is in accordance with the criteria.
this new protection criteria, IKEA will have a strong and cost
efficient fire sprinkler concept, which will protect its retail stores
and warehouse facilities in the years to come. However, building
configuration and product range will change over time. As a consequence,
IKEA will constantly review its fire safety systems, and if needed,
develop new and better ways of protecting its buildings against fires.
safety is and will continue to be a high priority at IKEA. Loss of
lives and substantial financial losses can be avoided by taking this