Barely a week goes by without some report of a commercial kitchen fire doing significant damage to a restaurant. And many of these premises can subsequently close if the repair costs become prohibitive. So is there anything that catering equipment dealers can do to improve the situation at the kitchen design stage?
The specification of a site’s fire suppression system should be taken seriously by distributors, according to John Hunt, Johnson Controls’ Ansul Restaurant Fire Suppression Systems territory manager for the UK, Ireland and Channel Islands. “Fires in commercial kitchens can be serious, possibly leading to personal injury, property loss, and irrevocable damage to business reputation and/or closure. It is therefore essential that clear safeguards are put in place to ensure people remain safe and business interruption is kept to an absolute minimum.
“Increasingly, professionals within the foodservice industry are recognising these risks and follow the British Standard EN 16282-7 (Equipment for commercial kitchens. Components for ventilation in commercial kitchens. Installation and use of fixed fire suppression systems). This standard addresses fire hazards that exist with grease vapour producing appliances and provides industry-leading guidance on effective protection. Catering equipment dealers, who are accountable to select equipment, follow these standards to ensure the safest environment as possible for their valued customers.”
British Standard EN 16282-7 provides the foodservice industry with guidance on how to source a commercial kitchen fire suppression solution. Hunt believes that to ensure proper protection, this should include: hazard analysis, system design, system hardware installation and maintenance.
Hunt advised: “Following BS EN 16282-7 means that distributors select an appropriate fire suppression system which has been third party tested. It assures protection of different grease vapour-producing appliances and not just deep fat fryers. The fire hazard in commercial kitchens has increased over recent times, with appliances often requiring different levels of protection. Assuming they are all are the same increases the risk of incomplete protection.”
He continued: “With that in mind, it is important to use a standard with a test protocol that addresses the unique challenges associated with each type of cooking appliance. A fryer for example requires a different fire suppression solution to that of a griddle or a broiler that might utilise natural charcoal as a fuel source, which then leads onto another critical factor: ‘automatic fuel shut-off’. When a fire suppression system is activated, be it manually or automatically, it must have the capability of shutting off the fuel supply, something you cannot do when protecting an appliance fuelled by charcoal.”
Nevertheless, dealers should note that the UL300 test standard is said to be the only standard that demands performance testing across multiple grease vapour producing appliances, factoring in longer pre-burn test times together with higher and prolonged temperatures to simulate worst-case scenarios.
Hunt underlined: “It is key to take temperature readings above each appliance and behind the filter to determine the correct detection rating and volume of suppressant required. Incorrect selection of the temperature rated fusible link, linear single detection temperature cable or pneumatic detection tube could potentially lead to insufficient agent being discharged from the tanks, resulting in the fire not being brought below re-ignition temperature.
“As an example, a fryer fire with a pre-burn time of 2 minutes requires multiple times the amount of suppressing agent than that of a 1-minute, and if the detection is not fast enough, it could be that there is insufficient agent available once that one minute is exceeded. This risk is exasperated even further if only one temperature rating, usually the highest, is installed, prolonging the overall detection time.”
He further added: “Ansul employs the largest global network of factory trained installation and service partners and has decades of experience in safely and reliably supressing commercial cooking fires. Together with its factory trained and certified distributor engineers, it meets both EN 16282-7 and UL300 standards.”
At fellow fire suppression system manufacturer, Amerex, UK MD Steven Evans warned dealers: “Open flames, electrical wiring, grease and improperly stored flammable materials all pose hazards in a commercial kitchen. The right system can quickly stop the source of electricity and flames that would further fuel the fire, while at the same time immediately releasing chemicals to suppress the fire. You can save lives and reduce the loss of property by installing a correctly approved and specified fire suppression system.”
Evans believes that Amerex can help guide dealers towards the most suitable system specification, emphasising: “Amerex provides a wide variety of data sheets and product information on our website, with detailed specifications and instructions that allow you to select the best system for your area.
“Choosing a system with the correct approval meeting requirements for the appropriate authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and the suite of equipment requiring protection is critical. The manufacturer can certainly advise on the specifics of the equipment covered and the approval that applies to their system.”
But should dealers employ their own specialist fire and safety personnel to assist with fire suppression system installation? Johnson Controls’ Hunt doesn’t believe so: “Rather than having their own workforce trained, it is usual for dealers to employ specialist kitchen fire suppression companies.
“BS EN 16282-7 requires that all design, installation, service and maintenance work on a kitchen fire suppression system be carried out by factory trained and fully certificated engineers. Each engineer must be capable of identifying the inherent risks found in a commercial kitchen, have complete knowledge and understanding of the fire suppression system’s design, its functionality and need for full compliancy. The standard also calls for engineers to provide evidence of their valid certification as proof they have successfully completed the system manufacturer’s training course.”
Hunt analysed: “It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to only sell material to authorised installation and service companies (partners) who in turn will undertake the design and installation of the system. It is also their responsibility to routinely inspect, service and maintain at regular intervals the system, all strictly in accordance with the manufacturers’ guidelines.”
On the same topic, Amerex’s Evans responded: “Personnel with knowledge of these systems will certainly help any dealer in advising their clients on the best system for each individual kitchen arrangement. A good knowledge of the systems needed by their client at the early stages of a project will help in the project management, delivery and budgeting.
“Amerex provides intense training to our distributors to equip their technicians with the expertise needed to install our kitchen systems. The Amerex training program has received high marks from dealers all over the world. At the end of the training, dealers will receive certification to service and install Amerex Kitchen Protection (KP) systems. These intense training classes have been redesigned so that dealers can receive training online.”
Finally, what information about kitchen fire suppression do the manufacturers feel is vital for dealers to pass on to operators?
According to Hunt: “Installation and service companies should provide onsite training on how the suppression system works, how to conduct routine inspections and what to do in the event of a fire. Following BS EN 16282-7, each system should be accompanied by a system log book and owner’s guide.”
While Evans asserted: “Quality and maintenance information should be central to the handover information passed on to the operators.
“Quality is key when selecting a system. Amerex tests and retests every system and uses the best in materials to ensure that our customers are protected from dangerous situations. We provide a variety of options of coverage, as well as detection and release selections to meet customer’s needs. Each of these options utilize the same UL-tested and certified tank and nozzle network.
“Our newest offering, the STRIKE Electronic Detection and Control package, accomplishes the detection through a linear heat detection wire that makes a connection at the setpoint of the temperature and immediately activates the system. It also monitors and supervises the health of the system to ensure all systems are functioning correctly.”
He concluded: “All systems require checks and maintenance. High quality maintenance is critical to ensuring the system continues to operate perfectly year after year, and is kept up to date with evolving kitchen arrangements. Systems will have simple daily operator checks to ensure everything on the system is running fine.
“In addition to this there will be deeper periodic maintenance conducted by trained technicians. The frequency of this maintenance period is set by the AHJ and the manufacturer. Full details of all these daily checks and periodic maintenance can be found in the product manual.”