Fighting kitchen fires without the chemicals

New water-based fire suppression systems are a fast-acting and effective way of dealing with a kitchen’s worst nightmare. It’s important that distributors know how they work to give customers the best possible advice when discussing safety practices, writes Derek Killaspy of Fireworks Fire Protection.

Fire remains the most damaging and disruptive event that any catering business has to face, potentially leading to huge losses and, in some cases, destroying the premises beyond repair.

Such events not only place people at risk but can result in loss of customers and orders for days, weeks or even years.

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The good news for catering equipment distributors that want to keep their customers safe from such pitfalls — or at least advise them of the steps they should take — is that there are new innovations on the market which save time and money in the event of a deep fat fryer or other item of equipment catching fire.

Restaurant fryer fire protection systems have traditionally employed either dry powder or wet chemical as a fire suppression medium. Following their use to fight fires, these systems leave large residues of fire suppression agent on the fryer and any adjacent equipment.

Both dry powder and wet chemical have minimal cooling properties resulting in prolonged closure of the kitchen while the oil is allowed to cool ‘naturally’ under the chemical layer. If the chemical layer is disturbed too early there is the potential for re-ignition of the fire. Further to that, dry powder and wet chemical can be hazardous to health if ingested.

One alternative is a water-based fire suppression system, such as the Hydramist 15AMPU, which has achieved LPS1223 accreditation from the Building Research Establishment (BRE). This required extensive fire testing to take place, along with various component function and durability testing.

The process of approval has even led to the re-writing of the LPS1223 standard as this particular system uses components and processes that differ from wet chemical and dry powder systems.

So what are the benefits of marketing and using this type of water-based solution?

Following testing it has been observed that the cooling action of the system, combined with an ability to prevent the spread of smoke, enables the kitchen to return quickly to an operational condition even after a fire. This is because the system uses only small amounts of fine water mist at high pressure to quickly and effectively suppress the fire.

There is a significantly reduced risk to people and the environment as only fresh water is used to fight the fire. Clean-up time required is minimal for the same reason. Typically a kitchen can be up and operational again within minutes of a water-based system being operated.

After extinguishing the fire, the fine mist continues to cool oil and hot surfaces to below ignition temperature in less than 30 seconds, preventing re-ignition of the fire.

A further advantage of this system is that it helps to stop smoke spreading throughout the kitchen and into other areas as the smoke particles from the fire are captured by the droplets and the smoke is washed out with the fire.

In a recent incident it was reported to us that the unit extinguished the fire within the deep fat fryer in the restaurant kitchen within seconds. There was no harm to any of the kitchen staff and the damage to the restaurant was confined to the deep fat fryer only.

The clean-up operation was carried out by the kitchen employees and they were able to bring the kitchen back into operation in less than 30 minutes. There was no smoke damage to the surrounding area and the restaurant area was not affected in any way. The drama in the kitchen was isolated to this area and no other parts of the establishment were affected.

This represents a very big advantage over a wet chemical system, particularly as the ability to keep downtime to a minimum is extremely important in the current economic climate.

Additionally, a wall-mounted pump that does not require a water storage tank can be used to eliminate storage space issues that might traditionally be associated with fire suppression equipment, which is another selling point that you can market to your customer.

Nobody likes to think about a fire breaking out in a kitchen, but in the event it does it is important for your customers to know that there are now solutions which prevent such a scenario turning into a disaster.

Derek Killaspy is Managing Director of Fireworks Fire Protection, a leading provider of fire protection systems and one of the UK’s approved installers of the Hydramist 15AMPU system. www.fireworks-ltd.com

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