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Innovative Fire Detection Solution for Woolworths Cold Storage Warehouses.

CLIENT: Woolworths Distribution Centres – Montague Gardens, Cape Town


Woolworths is one of the top 100 companies listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. Its core business focus is the provision of retail products and services to upper and middle income customers in the Southern Hemisphere. The food industry has become a large part of their business so food safety is critical. All their perishables are stored in a cold storage warehouse so that consumers are offered fresh goods at all times. In 2013 the Woolworths Distribution Centre in Montague Gardens, Cape Town, extended their existing freezer store, through converting an existing warehouse.

Woolworths Cold Storage Warehouses

FS-Systems was tasked with providing a Fire Detection Solution for their Cold Storage Warehouses. It can be difficult to imagine a fire starting in a cold store, however if one considers that you have conveyer belts, forklifts, wooden pallets and highly combustible packaging materials it becomes more likely that a fire will occur. Cold Stores are part of the production and delivery process and any fire damage can severely disrupt the business supply chain, not to mention the loss in revenue.


Conventional point type smoke detection would not work. In many cold storage environments temperatures dip to below -26 °C, and conventional point detectors only have an operational threshold of –20°C. Any condensing humid air would completely block the conventional detector, with no practical way to quickly defrost the detector. Due to the height of these warehouses it would take a very long time for smoke to reach and activate the conventional detector. In some cases smoke may not even reach the detector at all. Conventional smoke detectors also present a challenge during maintenance as one would require the use of hoisting equipment to service every smoke detector point.

Smoke stratifies at thermal equilibrium level.

The smaller the fire, the lower the level of stratification.

Beam detection is also not the correct solution. Structural movement allows the beam detectors to go out of line and create false alarms.

Cranes moving, forklifts and stacking would obstruct the beams causing false alarms and making the use of beams impossible.

Any condensing humid air will completely block the conventional detector, with no practical way to quickly defrosting the detector.


The correct solution was to install an Aspirating Smoke Detection System (ASD). The ASD consists of a central detection unit which continuously draws and samples the air through a network of pipes to detect smoke. The air in the space being monitored is sucked in for precise analysis by the scattered-light smoke detector located in the sampling chamber. If it detects smoke particles beyond a preset threshold, it triggers an immediate alarm, allowing the time needed to deal with the fire before it has time to break out and spread.

❶ Ceiling sampling

❷ Vertical sampling

Sampling pipe runs vertical to detect smoke at any level


Despite the harsh environmental conditions, the ASD provides reliable and efficient detection. The ASD units are a central point of maintenance and offer the lowest cost of total ownership. When servicing the ASD units there is no need for additional hosting equipment, and service and maintenance does not interrupt client operations.

FS-Systems has installed a total of 11 Aspirating smoke detection units, connected with 460+m of sampling pipe protecting in excess of 4200 m2 of cold storage facilities. Further phases and expansions are still being planned.

Thanks to our research and passion for providing our clients with the best solution that directly tailors to their needs. The Aspirating Smoke Detection System has now become a Woolworth’s standard for all their Cold Storage Facilities. Therefore, FS-Systems has retained their position as the Trusted Fire and Security Electronic Security provider for Woolworths mainly because we manage to continually deliver solutions based on their requirements and in accordance with SANS 10139.


“It has been a pleasure to work with FS-Systems with regards to the supply and installation of fire detections systems in the building service trade. Their experience and knowledge cannot be matched and always allows for us to install a successful and working system.

The installations that we have worked on together range from ordinary device installations (point devices such as smoke detectors, heat detectors etc.), server room fire detection systems (incorporating gas extinguishment) and right up to Vesda aspirating systems installations in cold room environments.

We have worked on two large building sites together to date and have completed both building sites with great success. I highly recommend FS-Stystems' service to anyone looking for a fire detection installation contractor and hope that we will have many more jobs together in the future.”

Kyle Cottle, Project Engineer


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