Increasingly more evidence is being collected from crime scenes. Often by legal mandate, forensic laboratories are required to store more evidence for longer periods of time, sometimes indefinitely. Other items of reference, be it weapons or slides, require more and more room. Space constraints, always one of the major issues in labs, continue to worsen. What options exist to better store items that not only provide more storage but also provide an economy of space? Depending on what is being stored there are a number of products to help facilitate that need.
High density storage is one such product that allows for the more efficient use of space than standard shelving. Fixed shelving requires a large amount of circulation space to access items. High density storage captures this lost space by compressing shelving units together. The shelves are mounted on a rail system with one circulation space. Either manually or with electronic controls, the shelves are moved along the rails to reposition this circulation space allowing access to the shelf you need.
The advantage of high density storage is clear; you can fit far more high density shelves in the same area as standard fixed shelves. Individual high density shelving units can be customized for specific needs. Common forensic examples would be weapons rests or barrel pegs for a weapons reference collection or small shelving specifically sized to store histology slides.
There are some disadvantages to high density storage. High density systems are more expensive than standard shelves. Because of the compressed nature of the shelves, only one shelf can be accessed at a time. This requires coordination if multiple people want to access evidence at the same time in different areas of the system. There are also special considerations for accommodating the rails on which the high density storage system travels. Because these rails are a few inches high, adding high density storage to an existing room may require ramps to access the system. If high density storage is incorporated during new construction or renovation it is important to plan for recessed areas in the concrete for rail placement.
Another space-saving shelf alternative is vertical carousel storage. Vertical carousel storage is a computerized system which stores files, books, or anything that is generally of a uniform size in vertical storage. The system assigns each item in storage with an identifier which allows it to electronically retrieve the item, rotating the storage unit until the item in question is at the access port.
The major advantage of vertical carousel storage is its ability to use the entire floor to ceiling space of its footprint, greatly increasing the amount of items that can be stored. This allows any size user to readily access items stored in the vertical carousel without having to either stoop or use a ladder. Also of note, because it is a computerized system, the system can generate a record of access to the items in storage.