July 10, 2009 | | Comments 5
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NFPA reference that allows wall storage within 18 inches of sprinklers

Hi everyone, it’s Scott Wallask, and I was just on the ASHE e-mail group talking about 18-inch clearance requirements for sprinklers in storage areas. The question of storage along walls seems to come up a lot.

As many of you know, there is an exception for perimeter walls that allows you to forgo the 18-inch clearance between the top of storage shelves and the bottom of sprinkler pendants as long as the perimeter storage isn’t directly below a sprinkler.

The NFPA reference isn’t in the Life Safety Code, though — it’s in NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems. I’ll use the 1999 edition of NFPA 13 because it’s what The Joint Commission currently recognizes.

Under that edition, look at annex note A-5-6.6:

The 18-inch dimension is not intended to limit the height of shelving on a wall or shelving against a wall in accordance with 5-6.6. Where shelving is installed on a wall and is not directly below sprinklers, the shelves, including storage thereon, can extend above the level of a plane located 18 inches below ceiling sprinkler deflectors. Shelving, and any storage thereon, directly below the sprinklers cannot extend above a plane located 18 inches below the ceiling sprinkler deflectors.

Also, if you’re Joint Commission accredited, check out LS.02.01.35, EP 6, as this also mentions the perimeter exception. EP 6 notes section 5-8.5.2.1 as the reference in NFPA 13, which also talks about clearance below sprinklers but doesn’t directly mention wall storage.

The theory behind permitting wall storage to extend above the 18-inch plane is that the wall will already obstruct sprinkler spray discharge patterns, so shelving along a wall isn’t going to make that situation worse. In the center of a storage room, however, storage that is too close to a sprinkler pendant could indeed alter discharge patterns, thus the 18-inch clearance requirements.

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Filed Under: Life Safety Code

Scott Wallask About the Author: Scott Wallask is senior managing editor for HCPro's Hospital Safety Center (www.hospitalsafetycenter.com) and the award-winning newsletters, Briefings on Hospital Safety and Healthcare Life Safety Compliance. He has written about healthcare for HCPro since 1998, with a focus on occupational and building safety, emergency management, fire protection, and infection control. Prior to joining HCPro, he worked as a reporter for several newspapers in eastern Massachusetts. He holds a BA in print journalism, magna cum laude, from Northeastern University in Boston. Contact Scott at swallask@hcpro.com.

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  1. So if we have storage that the shelf and contents are below 18″, yet the posts to the shelving are less than 18″ clearnace, are the posts to the shelves considered in violation??

  2. I believe that it has to be a clear area below the sprinklers, and it seems that posts could still obstruct sprinkler discharge. My unofficial opinion would be that yes, the posts would be in violation unless they were against a perimeter wall. You could always ask the Joint Commission’s standards interpretations group for its take. Thanks…Scott Wallask, HCPro

  3. The California Uniform Fire Code does not mention any allowances for storage against the wall past the 18-inch plane. Does that mean the 18-inch plane applies throughout the room in California buildings? Thanks.

  4. 10’x10′ storage one sprinklerhead ,20’x 20′ two sprinkler heads.Product around perimeter .1″ vertically. This is ok ??
    Does the shelving have too beable to alow water to flow ?
    Or can they be solid
    application in retail enverioment
    thank you
    ED

  5. California Code says the following:
    *Title 24 California Fire Code (2010)
    SECTION 315 MISCELLANEOUS COMBUSTIBLE MATERIALS STORAGE

    315.2.1 Ceiling clearance. Storage shall be maintained 2 feet (610 mm) or more below the ceiling in nonsprinklered areas of buildings or a minimum of 18 inches (457 mm) below sprinkler head deflectors in sprinklered areas of buildings.
    (no exceptions noted). I enforce the requirement in our hospital

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