After a fire destroyed the Dick Cold Storage facility in August 2016, the company’s leadership decided quickly to rebuild—and dramatically enhance the structure’s fire protection equipment.
Dick Cold Storage opened a new state-of-the-art facility , which was designed by Tippmann Innovation, in June 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. Working with Tippmann Innovation, the new facility includes the latest in cold storage technology along with fire protection upgrades, including 18 custom-made smoke vents.
The custom-made smoke vents, manufactured by the BILCO Co. of Connecticut, include a quad-leaf design and allow for the escape of smoke, heat, and gases in a burning building. The vents also include a positive hold/release mechanism that ensures reliable operation when a fire occurs. It also automatically releases vent covers upon the melting of a 165 F (74 C) fusible link. Gas spring operators are designed to open the covers against snow and wind loads and include integral dampers to assure that the covers open at a controlled rate of speed.
“Two of the biggest challenges we face in fighting any fire are heat and smoke,’’ says Steve Martin, battalion chief for the Columbus Fire Department. “The heat of the fire radiates on everything surrounding it, causing the flames to spread and rapid degradation of structural elements.”
The building that went up in flames in 2016 was not equipped with smoke vents. While they would not have prevented the fire, they would have allowed firefighters to be more aggressive in fighting it. The scene was simply too dangerous to allow firefighters inside the building, so they had to let the fire burn itself out. “Buildings that do not lend themselves to ventilation, such as cold storage buildings, are especially dangerous to firefighters. If there is no known life-safety issue, firefighters will retreat to a defensive position and fight the fire from outside the building instead of going inside,’’ Martin says.
Regulations for smoke vents in commercial structures are outlined in NFPA 204, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting. NFPA 204 provides calculations to determine the required dimensions and spacing of heat vents. The number of smoke vents depends upon the size of the building or area protected, the height of the ceilings and depth of the expected smoke layer, according to Robert Solomon, Protection Engineer for the National Fire Protection Association.
“A cold storage facility may have a greater fuel load than a theater, which correlates to a design with a higher expected heat release rate, greater temperature outputs, and an increased smoke production rate, which may require larger, more closely spaced vents,’’ Solomon says. “The design fire influences the number, size, spacing, and activation requirements.”
The additional fire protection at the new facility include fire access doors, horns, strobes, pull stations at doors, and linear heat detection in freezers. Dick Cold Storage, which has been in business for nearly a century, is back to serving clients within a 550-mile radius of its Columbus location.
Click here to watch a short video on the theory behind automatic smoke ventilation.