Magazine article Risk Management

One Company's Success with HPR

Magazine article Risk Management

One Company's Success with HPR

Article excerpt

FOR TODAY'S RISK MANAGERS, the idea of effective sprinklers and non-flammable cardboard is something to be taken for granted. It seems inconceivable that there was once a time when companies protected warehouses against fire with no more than a fire extinguisher. In the early 1970s. however, when Digital Equipment Corp., a manufacturer of computers and components, was developing their highly protected risk (HPR) standards. the company found they were unusual in their concern for heightened warehouse fire safety. Digital's warehouses, up to 100,000 sq. ft. each, house stock valued at $100 million to $300 million - an obvious high risk in need of protection. The combination of highvalue plastics products with highly flammable foam packaging was a potential nightmare.

The nightmare became reality several years ago when a regional service center in London went up in flames. Digital was the sole tenant of that warehouse and they lost nearly $10 million. The company turned to Factory Mutual Research Center (FMRC) to secure HPR status with their insurer and protect their warehouses from destruction.

FMRC put together a fire test to determine how fast and how hard Digital's products could bum. They stacked 24 pallet loads of disc racks three tiers high and ignited them. Within two minutes, the flames were 25 ft. high. Within four minutes, they were 55 ft. high. FMRC repeated the test under standard sprinklers and amazingly the sprinklers did not effectively contain the fire. The flames were so hot and so high that they could have weakened a steel ceiling, leading to collapse.

Clearly there was a problem. Speaking at the 25th anniversary commemoration of FMRC's test center, Don Crowley, former Digital corporate loss prevention manager, explained how his company came to realize there was a problem. "We thought we could walk on water; the FMRC tests showed otherwise." FMRC determined that there were two possible solutions: Either Digital needed to improve sprinkler protection or reduce the flammability of its packaging materials.

In search of better sprinklers, Digital discovered that the sprinkler styles that were available were not prime options. Old-style in-rack sprinklers were cumbersome and prone to accidents; they inhibited the ability of warehouse employees to move stock because they were not flexible. …

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