Keeping kitchen fire under control

Johnson Controls’ Ansul R-102 fire suppression system can be connected
to external
control panels.Johnson Controls’ Ansul R-102 fire suppression system can be connected to external control panels.

A fire in a commercial kitchen is something no-one really wants to think too deeply on, but ensuring all safety precautions are taken should the worst happen is critical. Considering how and where to site fire suppression system control panels is arguably top of the list for kitchen design houses to consider when specifying catering areas.

Fire suppression system manufacturer Nobel Fire Systems has had control panels uppermost in its focus of late, as it has recently updated its offerings. According to MD Ian Bartle: “We have ensured constant progress is made in the way we interpret the needs of our clients and what they expect to see and interface with on a minute by minute basis.

“There are few people today that don’t live their lives around smartphones and smart technology. It’s therefore only fitting that we have produced a cutting-edge fire system interface that removes many of the immediate ‘human’ fears and reactions associated with fire suppression systems being activated. The new Nobel Avantis Ti panel is the first fire suppression ‘touch-screen’ control panel on the market and increases communication and usability regardless of a person’s ability to interpret technical information and then respond in the correct manner. Avantis is purpose-designed to be completely user-friendly.”

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He lauded the benefits of smart technology, saying: “People are now able to pick up a new device and within minutes of using it are familiar with and can control apps via visual icon-driven menus. The NFS Avantis range of fire control panels breaks down the barriers that existing fire systems currently have. There is no need for consulting manuals, looking up number codes or trying to interpret flashing lights or strange text. What you get is what you expect and what you will be familiar with. Clean, simple icons providing critical decision-making information.”

The Avantis Ti is the user interface that, once set up by the installation engineer for its individual surroundings, provides up to date real time system monitoring, flagging fire alarms, fault alarms and alerts users when a service is due.

Bartle signalled: “Nobel hasn’t stopped at this advanced interface. Later in the year there will be an enhancement and even more special interface with capabilities that will further revolutionise how kitchen fire systems are used and perceived.”

In terms of siting the control interface, he advised distributors: “The aesthetically designed control panel can be placed in a position that presents itself to a responsible person. Along with the expected and standard visual and audible alarms local to each protected cookline, the Avantis Ti with its advanced monitoring and reporting capability can be placed anywhere, be that on an escape route, the head chef’s office or even in the security lodge at a completely different location.

“The Avantis Ti can monitor up to eight cookline fire systems at any single time, so there are no compromises to be made. These are all important considerations when it comes to the siting of a fire suppression control panel.”

As fire suppression systems can cross many industries, are there any special considerations for the catering environment? According to Bartle: “It is vitally important that fuel supplies are isolated in the event of a fire. If you don’t shut off gas and electric to the cooking appliances then they continue to provide the fuel to produce heat, a basic element in the fire triangle.

“Current standards say that a method of initiating a shut-down must be provided, but it doesn’t go far enough to state that the interface must be made. Competitors’ systems have switches for the purpose but they are rarely used. However, Nobel panels have all the connections and we always install full interconnecting shut downs. In other words, we go one step further.”

Furthermore he advised that best practice would be to shut down the extract system, detailing: “While Nobel’s fire systems are tested with the extract on and off, fire-fighting success is better achieved without the challenge of fresh air being supplied to the fire and hot fire and grease-laden air being drawn deep into the extract system.

“The Avantis range of control panels provides these critical interfaces and all are connected during a fire system installation. Clients should expect and demand nothing less. Not to connect into these is a dereliction of the installing companies’ duty of care to their clients.”

Standards that kitchen fire suppression systems can meet are available at several levels. The oldest is the US market-driven standard UL 300, while the youngest, and more aimed at European standards, is that produced by BRE/LPCB (British Research Establishment/ Loss Prevention Council) LPS 1223. Bartle commented: “Both provide a security that a client is making the correct choice of system. Both standards establish the ability of a fire system to extinguish a fire and any installation should adhere to the manufacturer’s design and installation manuals. However, neither of those standards address electrical controls in any detail. The standard for electrical fire suppression release control panels is BS EN 12094 -1 and any control panel should be designed to this standard and meet the CE requirements, EMC and LV directives.”

Furthermore he believes that service and maintenance regimes are pertinent to any fire system, post-installation. “In order for a system to provide the protection it offered on day one, owners of that system should carry out the service as outlined in the manufacturer’s manual. Failure to do so could render the system ineffective and could endanger not only staff and facilities but insurance cover may well become a challenge,” he warned.

“Therefore, intelligent customer interfaces in the form of user-friendly, simplified instruction provides real time function monitoring and gives clients an enormous advantage over outdated mechanical systems.”

Over at Johnson Controls, which merged with Tyco last year, it now numbers the Ansul brand of kitchen fire suppression systems in its portfolio, including the R-102 and Piranha products, which are well known solutions in single- and dual-agent restaurant fire suppression.

According to Jan Waldow, product manager for pre-engineered systems EMEA at Johnson Controls, both the Ansul R-102 and Piranha systems connect to external control panels, where required and depending on the installation. “As the systems are mechanical and consequently do not require either power or battery backup, no control panel or interface is needed to operate the system in the event of a kitchen fire,” he said.

Regarding standards, he added: “Where required, it is advisable to connect a control panel tested to UL 300 with a similarly certified fire suppression system, as these are the most thoroughly tested systems. Simply considering the specific standards of the control panel does not provide a complete representation of the total system – the control panel can only support the fire suppression system, and if used, needs to be tested holistically as a combined solution.”

Chris Prideaux, head of sales for Ansul restaurant systems, Europe and Africa, confirmed that the R-102 and Piranha comply with the US National Fire Protection Association requirements. Sections 13 and 17a of these standards specifically stipulate that ‘upon activation of any fire-extinguishing system for a cooking operation, all sources of fuel and electric power that produce heat to all equipment requiring protection by that system shall automatically shut off’.

Prideaux detailed: “Therefore snap-action switches are installed inside the Regulated Release Assembly (RRA). These switches are intended for use with electrical gas valves, alarms, contactors, lights and other electrical devices that are designed to shut-off or turn on when the fire suppression system is activated.

“Both the Ansul R-102 and Piranha restaurant fire suppression systems have been tested and listed by UL as pre-engineered systems. These comply with UL300, which considers cooking appliance design; cooking agent ignition characteristics and ‘worst case’ fire suppression scenarios as part of the testing protocol. A UL300 approved restaurant fire suppression system has specific pipe sizes with maximum number of fittings and also includes maximum and minimum pipe lengths, numbers of fittings, temperatures, discharge heights, and number and types of nozzles needed for each hazard.”

He advised distributors: “Therefore, the positioning of the ‘control panel’ or in the case of Ansul systems, RRAs, is determined by the manufacturer’s design, installation, recharge and maintenance manual limitations. Clearly, common sense must prevail when considering exact position of the RRAs in terms of health and safety, and safe working practices.”

Elsewhere, Stuart Dale, who looks after kitchen fire suppression systems globally for Amerex Corporation, explained that the manufacturer’s Cobra kitchen fire suppression system utilises the Strike ECS (Electronic Control System) for detection, actuation and notification. “The Strike ECS is a standalone system that does not connect to building power, but rather uses two lithium ion batteries to power and back up the system,” he said.

“This system has dual detection and release circuits for allowing flexibility of protecting multiple restaurant hazards, either simultaneously or separately. The system has a history log that can be used to troubleshoot or to verify proper service and maintenance, and it also supervises all key functions to ensure proper operation. Any malfunctions are reported back to the building control or fire alarm systems immediately.”

Dale feels there are no special considerations for fire suppression control systems and interfaces in catering kitchens specifically, but underlined: “I would say that many of the features of an ECS can benefit a catering operation in the same way that it benefits a regular commercial kitchen. It addresses all the safety concerns that a traditional system does not, by monitoring essential functions such as cartridge pressure and detection circuit integrity. These are two of the more common fail points for traditional mechanical systems.”

Backing the UL300 standard as “the only real testing standard for kitchen fire suppression systems”, Dale added: “Any system worth selling will have that listing. Within the UL300 listing, UL tests the electronic control systems to the UL 864 standard for control units and accessories for fire alarm systems. Amerex Corporation has decided to take the conservative path of using Underwriters Laboratories as its nationally recognised test laboratory for reviewing the Cobra and Strike ECS products.

“In this business, there is no room for shortcuts in the product development world. There are other testing agencies that may say they test to the UL300 standard, but if the product hasn’t actually been through the review of an actual UL investigator, then that listing is considered inferior.”

For distributors deciding where to site control panels, he urged: “The Strike ECS is pretty versatile and can be mounted up to 100’ from the agent tanks, so you could install it in the chef’s office. Or in more sensitive situations like a catering kitchen in a large arena it could be mounted in the guard’s post to be monitored manually.

“It is important to acquire wall space for the panel that is visible and easily accessible for the kitchen staff and technicians, and it is equally as important to allocate that space early in the process as wall space can be a premium in a kitchen. The panels have visual indicators that need to be seen and it must be connected to a lap top for programming and to access the history log.”

Dale concluded: “The ECS should be mounted outside of the hood, but right next to it. It should be close enough to make an easy install, but far enough away to keep it out of the hazard.”

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