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  • Writer's pictureRAN FPE

Legalized & Protected - Fire Protection for Cannabis Facilities

Times are changing. Cannabis facilities have shown rapid expansion since the legalization process continues across the United States. As of 2022, there are still several states in the US in which cannabis is completely illegal.

With the legalization of cannabis sweeping through New York State, licenses are being awarded for adult-use cannabis, whether that is for medical or recreational use. With that being said, cannabis facilities will begin to operate with proper licensing. This is a new process for most, and it is imperative to follow all codes and standards when it comes to the specific fire protection required within these facilities.

RAN has provided a wide range of services for cannabis facilities, each demanding a unique solution. The variety of extraction methods used by these facilities to manufacture their products causes different hazard classifications resulting in different requirements. Our engineers review the buildings to ensure compliance with NFPA standards and local building/fire codes and provide code consulting to make the facilities compliant.

Each cannabis facility type, stemming from growth, processing and production to extraction and distribution, all propose a unique fire hazard that requires a unique fire protection solution. Today, we're going to breakdown what each of these cannabis facilities entail and the risks that can occur.

  • The first facility types to analyze is a grow operation, which is typically done in a larger warehouse that may contain smaller rooms. These rooms are usually monitored closely in order to ensure optimal growing conditions, and to identify when the plant needs to be relocated to the appropriate stage room. These rooms often have hot lamps, electrical wires, and water, which can lead to a fire. Although the plants themselves do not propose the risk of a fire hazard, the CO2 enrichment process that is used presents a risk. This has the potential to be deadly if not properly protected with appropriate systems.

    • So, what systems should be used to protect grow facilities? That depends on a variety of factors, such as plant height, lighting, and rack systems. The higher the storage and plants, the different the requirements and design. Another factor is the fumigation and fertilizers that are used because they can react poorly with certain systems. They can cause corrosion and even cause the systems to malfunction. There is no one set system that can be used because every facility is different.

  • Next in line are processing facilities where the plants are turned into products for consumption. The most important process in this facility is the extraction process, which removes chemicals from plants for the products using a solvent. This process proposes a fire hazard because although manufacturers say this process is a "closed-loop system", they become open whenever a worker retrieves the oil extracted from the plant. This also can lead to off gassing during the extraction, which puts hazardous gases in the air. As a result, hazardous exhaust systems should be created to protect the workers from hazardous gases that are introduced into the air. These facilities should also be protected by fire suppression and gas detection system, which can alert operators of the hazards that aren't visible.

  • Lastly are the distribution centers where the cannabis is stored and then sent out to the dispensaries. Although fire hazards tend to be lower in this type of facility, the risks don't completely disappear. With cannabis being stored in warehouses, one spark can ignite the whole warehouse within minutes, as cannabis products can be highly flammable. Fire suppression and alarm systems are the best protection against a fire in these situations. There are also many codes and requirements that need to be followed throughout all cannabis facilities.

RAN has a team of qualified Fire Protection Engineers who are equipped to handle the unique methods and careful approach in order to achieve excellent Fire Protection and Life Safety Code solutions for all types of cannabis facilities. Our experience on these projects has aided us in developing a deeper knowledge in the market, as well as provide us with a better understanding of how to best help our cannabis clients.

Visit our markets page to learn more about detailed cannabis projects completed here.

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