What to Know About Fire Safety for Intermodal Shipping Containers

by John Rediehs on May 9, 2016 No comments

Shipping containers, whether used as their intended purpose or as temporary/permanent buildings (as is becoming more and more common), have to meet certain guidelines when it come to fire hazard safety and fire prevention. Millions of shipping containers are used every year for transporting goods via truck, rain, and ship, and some of those containers end up as surplus, being used for other purposes. While these containers, since they are made of steel and sometimes have small vents on the ends at the top for air pressure, are naturally sturdy, they’re certainly not indestructible, and when using them, it’s essential to follow intermodal shipping container fire safety regulations to reduce the amount of hazard.

Best Fire Safety Measures for Intermodal Shipping Containers

There are a variety of fire hazards related to shipping containers. For instance, if flammable products or liquids are stored in them, nearby fires can ignite the interior of the shipping container and cause it to explode. There have been fatal, tragic accidents related to issues involving explosions, including one, which the container doors flew off, killing a fire captain. Another incident caused an explosion that destroyed the container, though luckily did not cause any injuries.

Key mitigation processes and strategies for preventing fire hazards surrounding intermodal shipping include regulating the use, allowed contents, and any fire risks associated with shipping containers. Additionally, weakening the structure of the container to prevent high-pressure build-up (i.e. installing explosion-relief panels, replacing doors with lightweight walls, or installing conventional doors and windows) can also help prevent fire hazards.

Perhaps the biggest help for intermodal shipping container fire safety, however, is simply communicating the fire safety hazards associated with shipping containers. Regulating the materials stored in shipping containers, providing information about how shipping containers can be modified to be safer, and introducing standard operating procedures that can be used by fire services should they have to deal with shipping container fires.

Fuels and Other Factors

Different fuels have different levels of flammability—for instance, methanol’s auto-ignition temperature (AIT) is significantly higher than that of gasoline, and gasoline’s combustion energy is greater than that of methanol as well.

Temperature also increases the amount of pressure within the container—the warmer the temperature, the higher the pressure. Naturally, fire increases the temperature, so it can end up being a big problem.

Very small amounts of fuel can cause an explosion, and when considering how to prevent fire hazards, consider how the container is used, as well.


Products That Pose Potential Problems

Some of the reason that intermodal shipping container fire safety is necessary is because of the variety of products that are shipped in them. These products include:

  • Fireworks
  • Flammable gases and liquids at construction sites
  • First aid products
  • Construction materials
  • Hunting ammunition
  • Electrical materials

Shipping Container Regulations

Regulations on what can be shipped in intermodal shipping containers will vary from city to city and state to state, but some regulations across North America include things like “Shipping containers used to store flammable or hazardous materials must be properly ventilated and placarded to identify the materials within,” and “Fire extinguishers must be installed in accordance with city code.”

To learn more about intermodal shipping container fire safety and regulations, contact Red Dog Logistics today. Our 3PL specialists will be able to discuss with you the various regulations you’ll need to follow if you are shipping products in these containers.

John RediehsWhat to Know About Fire Safety for Intermodal Shipping Containers

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