Environmental monitoring important to prevent cold storage disasters
Friday, Jun 14th 2013

There have been numerous recent developments in cold storage that highlight the many important considerations that need to be made to ensure effective operations. In fact, cold storage as a whole is taking off considerably, which was demonstrated in a recent IDC study.

"As the perceived value of data increases, more data will be kept for longer periods of time, placing tremendous burden on IT infrastructures and budgets," said Dan Iacono, research director of storage at IDC. "The willingness to sacrifice online storage response times to a range of seconds, minutes or a few hours to dramatically reduce storage capacity cost has created a new and emerging cold storage market."

As more organizations adopt cold storage methods and solutions, it is important to note the importance of implementing proper controls to prevent disasters. One component of an effective cold storage facility is the implementation of environmental control systems, which monitors conditions to ensure continuity.

Potential cold storage disaster scenarios
There have been multiple recent reports of poorly operated cold storage facilities, including one from the Hartford Business Journal. The source detailed that Federal environmental authorities recently fined operators of a local cold storage warehouse, Connecticut Freezers. Sanctions totaled $210,000 for a dangerous ammonia release roughly two years ago.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require a $50,000 fine for the release of roughly 5,000 pounds of ammonia, in addition to $160,000 worth of work on environmental projects, HBJ reported. EPA indicated that this action supports an overall crackdown on ammonia refrigeration systems due to numerous concerns over poor safety conditions that emerged from a recent round of inspections. EPA has also said that it has issued six compliance orders to cold storage facilities located in the New England area, with two major penalty cases that both settled for more than $100,000.

Substantial fines like these highlight the consequences of not maintaining safe conditions in cold storage facilities. With the implementation of environmental monitoring, cold storage facilities can avoid receiving costly sanctions and rest assured that their operations are not threatening the public.

The Hindu also reported on a recent fire that broke out in a cold storage facility, destroying hundreds of tons of agricultural produce. I.F. Badabade, chief fire officer for Hubli, who supervised the recent fire-fighting operation at the facility, told The Hindu that buildings over 15 meters (or roughly 50 feet) are required to follow fire safety norms, and the building in question had not done so.

"It is mandatory to adhere to the fire safety norms and obtain no-objection certification from the Fire and Emergency Services Department," Badabade said. "But that was not done. We were forced to demolish the walls to douse the flames. We had to fight for over 12 hours to bring the fire under control."

There are 18 cold storage facilities that have not gotten those certifications yet, but Badabade told the source that these facilities will all be notified and inspected to ensure safety norms. While the cause of the fire was not revealed, proper controls such as temperature monitoring could have given advanced warning of changing conditions, enabling action to be taken quicker before it escalated out of control.