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Subject: Compact shelving and disasters

Compact shelving and disasters

From: David Wexler <david>
Date: Tuesday, December 1, 1998
Walter Henry <whenry [at] lindy__stanford__edu> writes

>This query has come up once or twice in the DistList, but no
>responses have been posted. Does anyone have any experience with the
>behaviour of compact shelving during floods, fires, or earthquakes?
>I'm especially interested in how people have handled the problem of
>getting access to the materials when the shelving fails to open
>either because of increased weight or distortion of the tracks (this
>happened to us during last winter's flood).

Here at Hollywood Vaults we use five large mobile shelving systems
in a two-story concrete building. Having lived through several good
size earthquakes here in Los Angeles (constructed in 1985) and we
have observed an interesting phenomenon. The mobile shelving that is
on wheels is able to move to some degree even when locked (several
inches on the tracks) and had absolutely no damage and nothing ended
up falling on the floor. The fixed shelving, at the end of each
mobile bank showed more abuse due to the fact that it could not move
during the shaking (they are bolted to the concrete floor).

We recently installed a new room full of mobile (3,000 sq ft) and we
put the fixed units up on wheels with wheel stops on the tracks, so
even the fixed units have a chance to move, albeit just of few
inches.  It increased the cost a bit but this movement seems to help
a great deal during a quake. I guess it is something akin to a wood
frame building being able to sway during a quake and surviving with
minimal damage.

During the Northridge California quake (1994--magnitude 6.7) I was
told that some mobile shelving systems near the epicenter had their
mobile shelving units move off their tracks out into the open aisle
of the room (perpendicular to the tracks!). We have not experienced
that here. One of the benefits of mobile shelving is that there are
fewer open aisles for stored materials to fall off the shelves into.
When the aisles are closed, it is like having doors on the fronts of
the shelves.

Most mobile shelving systems offer anti-tip systems either in the
tracks or overhead or both. The anti-tip devises installed down at
the tracks may also help keep the mobile carriages on the tracks and
the overhead devices may help keep the shelving from falling over.

To address one of your questions, since we have been lucky to
weather some large shakers with no damage we have not had to deal
with trying to access stored materials in a damaged system. We do
have standing by some tools which might be handy in that event.
Large pry bars, large wooden wheeled levers used to move heavy
machinery, sledge hammers, and of course gloves, flashlights, dust
masks and other emergency supplies, tools and materials. I hope we
never have to use them. Some pictures and videos of our mobile
shelving systems can be found on our web site at
<URL:> We have used both U.S. made
systems and Swiss made systems with flat metal and open wire
shelving on them.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:49
                Distributed: Wednesday, December 2, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-49-008
Received on Tuesday, 1 December, 1998

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