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Posted by Stephanie on November 17, 2016

The number of large public warehouse stores has grown significantly in the U.S. over the past decade, resulting in an increase in the use of pallet racking for retail applications. Earthquakes can pose serious danger to warehouses if a rack design isn’t built to withstand seismic activity and installed securely. Due to past accidents as a result of earthquakes, racking specifications and laws have been put in place, varying based on location and exposure to potential seismic activity.


Seismic Specifications

Pallet racking manufacturers are required to follow seismic specifications in order for racks to withstand earthquakes, and eliminate potential risks and danger in warehouse facilities. Who enforces this? Well, the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) and National Building Code (NBC) require that racks be designed and installed according to seismic codes, the same way building are. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also known as the Department of Homeland Security, works to prevent costly damages from natural disasters. According to FEMA, “the seismic design for new warehouse stores, including both the buildings and storage racks, is governed by the building code in force in the jurisdiction where a store is built.”


Potential Dangers

In the event of an earthquake, two main factors determine potential dangers: the structural performance of the building and the structural performance of the racks. If racks aren’t properly designed and installed, stored goods could fall or racking systems could collapse, posing great danger to anyone around them. Since racking system aisles are narrow, one row bending or collapsing can cause a domino effect throughout the entire warehouse. Below is a map showing areas that are most likely to experience seismic activity. If you are located in one of these areas, you should take extra cautionary measures to ensure safety around your racking system in case an earthquake happens.


Map of Seismic Design Categories

rack design


R-Marked Racking

Is your pallet racking R-marked? The RMI set this design standard for pallet racking. According to Steel King, “because the RMI’s is the only recognized U.S. specification for the design, testing, and utilization of industrial steel storage racks, responsible rack users will want to demonstrate that their racks meet this recognized standard for seismic design. RMI created the R-Mark Certification Program as a way for storage rack users and customers to clearly identify those rack manufacturers whose components and design are in accordance with the RMI Specifications.” If you’re racks are not R-marked, we highly suggest taking steps to meet specifications and make sure your racks are up to code—especially if you’re in an earthquake-prone area.


The QMH Permits Team is Here to Help

Our permits team works to ensure that all of your racking meets your local seismic specifications and that it’s design and installation are compliant with city codes. If you have more questions about the importance of racking safety, call us today to speak with one of our experts or visit the resources mentioned below to learn more.


Resources for Seismic Specifications

USGS Seismic Requirements Search Tool
Earthquake Shaking Potential for California


Learn more about Racking Systems
Talk to a QMH Racking Specialist

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With over 32 years of experience in material handling, QMH is committed to providing end-to-end solutions for companies with distribution, logistic and warehousing needs. From permit approval management to full-service execution from the ground up, QMH delivers unique solutions providing distinct value in record time.