Commercial Kitchens Fire Protection Fundamentals

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Commercial Kitchens Fire Protection Fundamentals

Commercial kitchens, cooking equipment, and related exhaust systems are common sources of many fires. Cooking hoods are required to exhaust the smoke and grease-laden vapors away from the cooking equipment. Fires in commercial kitchens are a common occurrence.  Fires can rapidly spread if suppression systems are not installed, not maintained or are intensified by grease accumulated inside the exhaust hoods and ducts. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment causes approximately 61% of restaurant fires and cost $165 million in property damage over a four-year period from 2010 to 2014.¹

To help prevent fire and water damage within a commercial cooking/kitchen areas, the following safety tips can be considered:
 

  • Ensure the fire suppression system installed over a commercial cooking areas (such as a flat grill, open flame cooktop, deep fat fryers, etc.) is UL 300 listed and complies with the UL 300 standard and/or AS 3772 “engineered fire protection systems for cooking”. The suppression system should cover all cooking equipment under the exhaust hood and where hot oil frying and grease laden vapors are present.
  • Check to ensure the activation of the automatic extinguishing system protecting a kitchen cooking equipment is tied to an approved central monitoring station company.
  • Confirm that the fire suppression discharge nozzles are properly positioned toward the cooktops, oftentimes these nozzles get bumped around by equipment. If the nozzles look like they have been inadvertently moved, have a qualified fire suppression contractor conduct a review to position them correctly, providing full and adequate fire protection coverage.
  • Check that each nozzle associated with the fire suppression system has the approved rubber protector/cap on at all times to prevent grease buildup within the pipes and nozzle.
  • Ensure employees are competently trained on how to activate the system manually in the event of a fire and how to use nearby hand-held fire blanket and extinguishers. The pull station for the system should be near the cooking equipment (but not close enough to render it inaccessible in the event of a fire) and on the escape route leading away from the cooking equipment.
  • Ensure exhaust systems and fire protection systems are operable whenever cooking is taking place. Cooking while exhaust or fire suppression systems are disabled has led to severe fires.
  • Ensure filter-equipped exhaust systems have clean filters installed whenever cooking appliances are operational.
  • Maintenance and inspection of the fire suppression system should be made by trained, qualified, and insured contractors at least every six months. Check if the last inspection report shows any critical deficiencies, issues, or concerns.

Considerations to Avoid Kitchen Fires

Commercial kitchen fires can be destructive and dangerous. There are several ways you can help prevent a fire in commercial kitchen area. Some of the most common problems areas include the deep fat fryer equipment installation, having the wrong type of fire extinguishers and/or fixed fire suppression and having inadequate inspection and cleaning measures.

 

Equipment - Deep Fat Fryers

Deep fat fryers have been a primary culprit for many kitchen fires. Deep fryers were involved in one of five fires (21%), according to the NFPA. They contain hot, ignitable liquid and can easily turn a small fire into a much more severe one. To help prevent fires due to deep fat fryers consider the following recommendations:

  • Keep at least 40 cm of clear space between the deep fat fryer and any adjacent open flame equipment unless a 20 cm tall steel or tempered glass baffle plate is installed between them.
  • Equip the deep fat fryer with a high- temperature limit control device designed to shut down the fryer heat source when the fat temperature reaches 246◦C) at 2.5 cm below the oil/fat surface. Ensure it is periodically tested and maintained.

 

Extinguishers and Fire Suppression

Many kitchens do not have enough or the correct type of portable fire extinguishers installed. They are the first line of manual firefighting attacks against these cooking/ kitchen fires. It is important to ensure that commercial kitchens are equipped with the following extinguishers:

  • All commercial kitchens should have Wet Chemical fire extinguishers and fire blanket located within 9 m of the cooking oil areas. Wet Chemical fire extinguishers are designed for use on cooking oil fires.
  • Wet Chemical fire extinguishers can be used in conjunction with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 300 listed and/or AS 3772 compliant suppression systems. In the event of a fire, the primary automatic suppression system should activate first, followed by manual operation of the Wet Chemical fire extinguisher.

 

Hoods and Exhaust Ducts

According to the NFPA, the majority of restaurant fires originate on the kitchen cooking appliance and flare into the kitchen exhaust system. Often, these fires travel up inside long interior lengths of ductwork and are very difficult to extinguish, spreading smoke and heat quickly up the duct.

Commercial cooking hoods must be sized and configured to capture and remove grease-laden vapors. These hoods should be protected using a UL 300- and/or AS 3772 compliant extinguishing system.

 

Cleaning and Inspection

Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment specifies that a properly trained, qualified, and certified company or individual inspects restaurant kitchen exhaust systems for grease buildup.

The primary focus of this inspection for cleanliness is to establish whether the volume of grease buildup within the exhaust system warrants cleaning.

If cooking equipment is not cleaned properly, grease residue can build up, creating a fire hazard inside the hood, ductwork, and exhaust fan. To reduce or even eliminate this risk, proper cleanup procedures should take place to remove grease deposits.

At a minimum, AS1851 requires monthly routine service checks and cleaning of filters, hoods and gutters. However, in many cases more frequent inspection and cleaning may be warranted if the kitchen is utilised intensively or if cooking processes such as deep fat frying are a frequent occurrence.

Similarly, exhaust ductwork should be inspected and cleaned at regular intervals. AS1851 stipulates yearly inspections and cleaning of ductwork for accumulated grease, however in many cases more frequent inspection and cleaning may be warranted particularly in the circumstances noted above. The priority areas to inspect are at the exhaust hoods and at any change of direction within the ductwork.

Specialist cleaning personnel should clean the inside of the hoods, filters and ductwork to bare metal ensuring all accumulated grease, oils, fats, etc. are removed.

Action Required

Frequency

Inspection and cleaning of kitchen hoods, filters and gutters.

 

Complete monthly routine service to AS 1851 requirements.

Monthly (more frequent if required).

Inspect and clean the kitchen exhaust duct for accumulated grease.

 

Complete yearly routine service to AS 1851 requirements.

Annually (more frequent if required).

 

The Importance of Workplace Controls in Commercial Cooking

Commercial cooking can create significant hazards, particularly if restaurant owners fail to implement the proper workplace controls. By installing properly designed equipment—including hoods, ducts, and fixed automatic extinguishing systems—businesses can reduce their fire hazard risk and focus on providing excellent service.
 

References

AS1851 Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment. 

AS 3772-Pre-engineered fire protection systems for cooking equipment. 
 

Connect With Us

For more information about protecting your business and employees, contact your local Chubb Risk Engineer, email us at: Risk.Engineering.au@Chubb.com, or visit us at: www.chubb.com/au-en/business/risk-engineering services.

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