When it comes to fire, commercial kitchens operate in a very high-risk environment. According to the most recent data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire in eating and drinking establishments resulted in 110 civilian injuries and $165 million in direct property damage. Many of the affected businesses never recovered and had to close their doors for good.
Equipped with any number and combination of ranges, broilers, fryers and ovens operating at very high temperatures in close contact with fats, cooking oils, and other combustibles, commercial kitchens provide an ideal environment for fire. Not surprisingly, cooking equipment was responsible for more than 60 percent of the fires studied by the NFPA, underscoring the importance of following all fire extinguishing equipment requirements for the hoods, ducts, and cooking appliances used in commercial kitchens.
The NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations provides the requirements to help minimize fire risk and keep your employees and customers safe if a fire breaks out. The standards cover both automatic fire-extinguishing systems that provide primary protection as well as the portable fire extinguishers that provide secondary backup protection. Wet chemical systems are the most common type of automatic fire suppression system used in commercial kitchens today and are recognized by the fire protection industry as the most effective fire suppression system for commercial kitchens available.
This 4 part series will address 4 major areas associated with commercial kitchen fire safety regulations:
- Class “K” Portable Fire Extinguishers are Required
- Wet Chemical Fire Suppression Systems in Commercial Kitchens
- Installation and Operational Requirements
- Things to Know if You Modify Your Kitchen Set-up
Part 1 addressed the requirement for Class “K” portable fire extinguishers. Part 2 addressed Wet Chemical Fire Suppression Systems. This Part 3 will address Installation and Operational Requirements for Wet Chemical Fire Suppression Systems. Part 4 will address requirements that must be satisfied if you modify your commercial kitchen set-up.
Installation and Operational Requirements
Wet chemical fire suppression systems use a suppression tank, which holds the chemical, and fixed piping with nozzles to discharge the chemical agent in the ductwork, plenum space, and cooking surfaces. It is critical that your system be designed for your unique kitchen and installed by contractors who have been certified by the system’s manufacturer. In some jurisdictions, the design may need to be submitted for approval prior to installation. When the work is complete, the installer must provide certification that the system was installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and all relevant codes.
There are several operational requirements that must be considered during the design and installation. For example, when two or more hazards could be simultaneously involved in a fire based on their proximity, they are considered a single hazard area, and all fire suppression systems for each hazard must be set up to automatically operate simultaneously if any one of them is activated.
Generally, hoods installed end to end, back to back, or both, or those sharing a common ductwork with one or more grease-producing appliances located under any of them, are considered a single hazard area. In these cases, your fire suppression systems for each hood must be set to operate all at once if any one of them is activated to minimize the potential for fire to spread from one hood to another. The only exception to this is where the hoods do not share a common exhaust, are separated by a wall, or have some other means to ensure that grease-laden vapors from one hood cannot exhaust to another.
If properly installed, your wet chemical fire suppression system will provide the means for manual activation and will automatically shut off all sources of fuel and electrical power to the equipment protected by that system, including any gas appliance whether protected or not. Your means of manual activation can be mechanical or rely on electric power but must:
- Be readily accessible in the event of a fire and located in a path of egress
- Clearly identify the hazard protected
- Not require more than 40 pounds of force or have a pull movement greater than 14 inches (if using a cable pull device)
- Have a source of standby power (if using an electrical device)
In addition, you must have at least one manual actuation device between 10-20 feet from the protected appliances within the path of egress, and all manual activation devices must be separate from your system’s automatic means of activation so that failure of one will not prevent the function of the other.
The fact that the automatic fire suppression systems required in commercial kitchens include a manual component, underscores the need for training. It is critically important that your employees understand all the fire hazards that might be present in your kitchen. NFPA 96 requires all employees to be provided training on the proper use of portable fire extinguishers and how to manually activate your fire suppression system in the event of a fire.
Generally, wet chemical fire suppression systems also must include a supervisory alarm with a reserve power supply to notify you if there’s a problem with the system. In addition, for establishments in which the kitchen is exposed to the dining area, the fire suppression system must also be connected to the fire alarm signaling system to alert your customers in the event of a fire.
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