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Storage Sprinklers, is One Size Fit All?

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Common to warehouse applications, ESFR sprinklers offer comprehensive fire protection among various applications, making them an ideal choice for storage scenarios. How big of a deal are they? NFPA 13 has a subsection on ESFR sprinklers in 7 of 27 chapters.

Early suppression fast response sprinklers are an up and coming type of sprinkler head that has only been around since the late '80s. ESFR sprinklers are grandchildren of sorts, comprised of bits and pieces of other sprinkler types. The attributes from others are notably sensitive thermal elements and large drop heads. This combination allows ceiling-only protection even in buildings up to 55’-0”!

While the ceiling only design of ESFR sprinklers for storage can save owners money by eliminating the dreaded in-rack sprinklers, ESFR sprinklers carry their own set of rules, often overlooked by owners.

ESFR Common Rules

  • Minimum 8’ Spacing, Maximum 10’ Spacing
  • Limited Ceiling Slope to 2:12
  • Obstructions over 2’-0” must have protection below

To combat these rules here at Ahern, we take a holistic approach to the building. By verifying what is being stored and utilizing the newest version of the International Building Code and NFPA 13, we can often provide a similar level of fire protection utilizing CMSA (Control Mode Specific Application) Sprinklers. CMSA sprinklers have rules, similar to those of ESFR sprinklers but arguably less stringent.

CMSA Advantages

  • Minimum 8’ Spacing, Maximum 12’ Spacing
  • Obstructions over 4’-0” must have protection below

Both sprinkler options work for challenging fire scenarios related to storage, however, each sprinkler has its advantages and disadvantages. In warehouses with large cable trays, piping arrangements, and large equipment, ESFR sprinkler rules may dictate sprinklers below each obstruction. By utilizing CMSA sprinklers, Ahern can save you time and money on installation. Building type, operations, and storage commodity play a role in determining the best type of sprinkler to use. Call Ahern today and let us help you determine your storage sprinkler options before you break ground, during construction, and after your building is operational.