Inspection Requirements For Commercial Kitchen Fire Suppression Systems

Travis Jolliff

In order to ensure that your commercial kitchen fire suppression system operates properly when needed, federal certification as well as state licensure require facilities to properly inspect, test and maintain the exhaust hoods, filters and fire-extinguishing equipment making up their commercial kitchen fire suppression systems relied upon to protect their commercial kitchen cooking equipment.

Applicable standards

NFPA 101(12), Sec. 9.2.3 requires that commercial cooking equipment be in accordance with NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations. NFPA 96, in turn, references four other NFPA standards applicable to automatic fire-extinguishing systems installed to protect kitchen hood systems and cooking equipment. Specifically:

  • NFPA 96(11), Sec. 10.2.6, NFPA 12(11), Standard on Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 13(10), Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems
  • NFPA 17(09), Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 17A(09), Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems

Exhaust system

The entire exhaust system (hood, grease removal devices, fans and ducts) for kitchen cooking equipment needs to be thoroughly inspected for grease build-up at least every 6 months. When the amount of cooking that produces grease-laden vapors is minimal, the inspection frequency may be extended to every 12 months instead of every 6 months. Justification for such an extension is typically, based on semiannual inspections over an extended period of time showing very limited build-up of grease in the exhaust system. Only a company or person properly trained and qualified to perform such a service may perform the required inspection. If the inspection reveals an accumulation of grease deposits, the contaminated portion(s) of the exhaust system must be cleaned by a properly trained and qualified person. Components of the commercial kitchen fire suppression systems protecting the kitchen cooking equipment cannot be rendered inoperable during the cleaning process unless they are being serviced by a properly trained and qualified person.  In addition, flammable solvents or other flammable cleaning aids are not allowed to be used for cleaning. When the cleaning process is completed:

  • All electrical switches and system components must be returned to an operable state,
  • All access panels and cover plates must be replaced.
  • Dampers and diffusers must be positioned for proper airflow.

Kitchen hood fire-extinguishing system

Inspection and maintenance requirements of the extinguishing system standards, as well as system installation and maintenance manuals and service bulletins, must be followed. The standards applicable to automatic dry- or wet-chemical commercial kitchen fire suppression systems protecting kitchen cooking equipment require that such systems be inspected monthly. This inspection is a way to help ensure that:

  • The extinguishing system is in the armed/ready condition
  • Manual actuators are unobstructed
  • Tamper indicators and seals are intact
  • The maintenance tag or certificate is in place
  • There is no obvious physical damage
  • Pressure gauges, if provided, are in operable range
  • Nozzle blow off caps, if provided, are in place, intact and undamaged
  • It is not uncommon during fire/life safety surveys to find that access to the kitchen portable fire extinguisher(s) is found blocked by carts. A prudent standard of care would be to add this item to the monthly inspection checklist.

In addition to monthly inspections, the commercial kitchen fire suppression system is required to be serviced by properly trained and qualified persons at least every 6 months. This service must include a test of all actuation and control components, including remote manual pull stations, mechanical and electrical devices, detectors and actuators to ensure that they are in operable condition. A visual inspection of fire alarm interconnect switches is also required. Fusible links of the metal alloy type and automatic sprinkler heads of the metal alloy type are required to be replaced at least semiannually. Fusible links of other than the metal alloy type and bulb-type automatic sprinkler heads are required to be examined and cleaned or replaced at least annually.

Fire alarm interconnect switches are required to be tested annually by mechanically or electrically operating the switch to verify receipt of a signal at the fire alarm control panel. This testing should be performed as part of the annual test conducted of the building fire alarm system.

The standards applicable to automatic dry- or wet-chemical fire-extinguishing systems also contain cylinder inspection and testing requirements. Cylinders for dry chemical kitchen hood extinguishing systems must be:

  • Examined every 6 years to check for caking, and
  • Hydrostatically tested every 12 years.

Cylinders for wet chemical kitchen hood extinguishing systems must be hydrostatically tested every 12 years.

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