Fire suppression systems for commercial kitchens prevent the spread of an already burning fire. Suppression systems use a combination of dry chemicals and wetting agents to suppress cooking equipment fires. Wetting agents are a form of concentrate added to water contained in the system. They improve the fire suppression performance of water by reducing its surface tension. This increases the water’s ability to penetrate and spread. Wetting agents may also provide enhanced cooling, emulsification, and foaming properties that help put out fires. Properly installing and using a fire suppression system helps control damages and loss to equipment in the event of a fire.
The Emulsification Process
An emulsifier is a chemical or mixture of chemicals that creates the formation of an emulsion. An emulsion consists of a small droplet of the hydrocarbon fuel surrounded by water and the emulsifying agent. In effect, the process of emulsification separates the fire’s fuel into water droplets surrounded by the chemicals in the wetting agent. This renders the host fuel less flammable and therefore more benign. For example, Class K fire extinguishers form a crust on the surface of cooking oil fires. This crust-like product is called saponification.
NFPA 96 Standards and Regulations
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 96, fire extinguishing equipment for the protection of grease removal devices, hood exhaust plenums, exhaust duct systems, and cooking equipment are required to be a part of the full kitchen exhaust system. This includes the need for an automatic fire suppression system as the primary form of protection and then accessible and portable fire extinguishers as a backup.
All portable fire extinguishers must be accompanied by signage that demonstrates how to use them. All automatic fire extinguishing systems must comply with standard UL300: Fire Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Restaurant Cooking Areas or an equivalent standard. Fire suppression systems should always be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and should also comply with the following standards where applicable:
- NFPA 12: Standard on Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems
- NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems
- NFPA 17: Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems
- NFPA 17A: Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems
Generally, fire suppression systems detect fires through heat sensors, wiring, or manual detection (depending on the system). Upon activation of the fire suppression system, all sources of fuel or electrical power should automatically shut down. The only exceptions to this are steam supplied or solid fuel cooking operations. Shutoff switches should always have a manual reset. An audible alarm or some type of visual indicator should also be triggered at this time to inform those nearby.
Inspectors will test and review your fire suppression systems as part of their full fire safety inspection of your commercial kitchen. It is expected that you have your fire-extinguishing system serviced by properly trained and qualified technicians at least every 6 months to ensure they’re working correctly. As a commercial kitchen or facility manager, you should be inspecting your own systems monthly. The following is a list of items to check when conducting your own inspection:
- The suppression system is in the readied position
- Manual actuators are not obstructed in any way
- All tamper seal indicators are intact, and no seals are broken
- Maintenance tag or certificate is in place
- There is no obvious physical damage
- Pressure gauges (if applicable) are in operable range
- Nozzle blow caps (if applicable) are in place, intact, and undamaged
This minor inspection can be conducted by any commercial kitchen manager and should be a regular part of your kitchen’s fire safety routines.
It’s About Safety
Keep your commercial kitchen safe from fires by ensuring a properly working fire suppression system. Automatic fire extinguishing systems are proven to reduce the damage that fires cause to cooking equipment. If you’re concerned about the safety of your kitchen, consider calling up your local Bare Metal Standard. We offer FREE inspections of your kitchen exhaust system and let you know what can be improved and how!