Fire protection

About a third of all restaurant fires originate in the kitchen and are usually flash fires on cooking products. Prevention of these incidents requires two essential steps: control of flammable sources and control of combustible materials. The most typical source of kitchen fire is fat, a natural by-product of many cooking processes.

When fats are heated, they change from solid to liquid. They are then discharged in the form of oil, or they become atomized particles in the air, propelled upwards by the thermal currents of the cooking process. Cooking at a low temperature creates more liquid fat; cooking at a high temperature produces much more fat-laden vapor.

The vapor is drawn into the extractor hood, where it settles on surfaces during cooling and poses a fire hazard within the extractor program. If the kitchen staff is properly trained and the correct safety products are available, the fire on the stove can be extinguished in a matter of moments. If not, it can quickly expand in the pipework and reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit because it comes into contact with extremely flammable grease and lint particles.

That is why an automatic fire safety program is a necessity. In fact, most state insurance departments require a fire safety inspection from a range hood expert before insurance coverage companies can issue commercial fire insurance. As we mentioned, the site usually needs to be re-inspected every six months to maintain current insurance coverage.

Even if the six-month rule doesn’t apply in your area, it’s still a good idea to have your program professionally cleaned and checked twice a year. The National Fire Safety Association (NFPA) is the authority on this issue and sets strict regulations for installations in commercial kitchens. Most awning manufacturers offer fire safety methods as part of their package, including installation, but you can also hire an independent installer.

An automatic fire protection system consists of nozzles located above each piece of outside (not ovens) cooking products around the hotline. You will find very specific rules about the number of nozzles and their locations: Range tops require 1 nozzle for every 48 linear inches. Griddles need 1 nozzle for every six feet of linear space. Open broilers (gas, electric or charcoal) require one nozzle for every 48 inches of broiler area.

Tilting frying pans require one nozzle for an area 48 inches wide. Deep fryers require 1 nozzle each or 1 nozzle for every 20 inches of fryer surface. Nozzles are placed between 24 and 42 inches above the top of the equipment. (This varies depending on the type of appliance.) The nozzles immediately activate to shoot water or a liquid fire retardant at the cooking area when the temperature reaches 280 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heat detector can be located in the ductwork or in the extractor hood. There is also an internal fire protection system inside the pipework – a fuse or perhaps a separate thermostat is wired to instantly close a fire damper at the ends of each section of the pipework. The exhaust fan is switched off and a jet of water or liquid fire retardant is released into the interior. Other similar systems can be operated manually rather than directly.

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Some run the exhaust fan to help remove smoke during a fire. In addition to the fire protection of the exhaust system, several portable fire extinguishers must be mounted on the kitchen walls and employees must know how to use them. The automated program, when activated, is so thorough that you have to close the kitchen and begin a major cleanup, so often a hand fire extinguisher is sufficient for minor flare-ups, and much less messy.

Today, most insurance coverage requires K-type fire extinguishers in commercial kitchens. The NFPA classifies fires based on the type of material burning; “K” (for “kitchen”) was added to the list in 1998. These fire extinguishers work on the principle of saponification, the term for applying an alkaline mixture (e.g. potassium acetate, potassium carbonate or potassium citrate) to a burning cooking oil or fat.

The combination creates a soapy lather that extinguishes the fire. Finally, just like any other public facility, ceiling sprinkler methods are also worth investigating simply because their installation can reduce your insurance coverage costs significantly. There is a typical misconception that if it detects even one wayward flame, the entire sprinkler program will extinguish the entire production, but this is generally not the case.

In fact, most restaurant sprinkler systems have heads that only activate when a fire is detected directly below them. Ask your local fire department for suggestions and fire safety training tips for employees. And please continue with those fire inspections. In recent years, insurance companies have challenged kitchen fire claims, and courts are finding that the restorer has defaulted — and can’t collect the insurance money for fire damage — when routine maintenance and cleaning isn’t done.