By Ashley Hickling, Fire Sales Manager at STANLEY Security
Food and drink premises, including hotels, are regarded as one of the more high-risk categories when it comes to fire because of the hazards associated with kitchens.
According to The Home Office Fire statistics data tables, based on incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services, primary fires in food and drink premises represented just over 10.5% of all non-domestic dwelling fires in 2017/18. Primary fires are classified as more serious fires that harm people and / or cause damage to property.
Fires not only have the potential to cause harm to people and property, but they can put a permanent end to your business: The Association of British Insurers reports that around 60% of private businesses never recover from a fire.
Commercial kitchen fires can arise in numerous ways, including defective or damaged heating controls, unattended devices, burners overheating and grease / dirt residue build- up. When it comes to protecting your commercial kitchen against fire, suppression systems can help stave off the fire before it develops and takes hold, neutralising the environment effectively to ensure flames won’t spread.
What is a Fire Suppression System?
Prevention, as they say, is better than cure and fire suppression systems are very much in this vein, preventing the spread of fire rather than leaving you to deal with the consequences of a large fire.
Fire suppression systems can refer to any number of automatic systems designed to control and neutralise fires without the need for human intervention. Rather than ‘putting the fire out’, as you would get with a sprinkler system (which can cause extensive damage in itself), most suppression systems are designed to starve the fire of oxygen; without oxygen, the fire cannot take hold.
Kitchen Fire Suppression Systems
There are several different makes of suppression systems readily available, each utilising a different approach to fire suppression but all with the same aim of ‘saponification’ of the fire. Saponification is a process that involves the conversion of fat or oil into soap and alcohol by the action of heat in the presence of a low pH liquid agent, usually a potassium carbonate based solution. When the wet chemical hits the liquid grease, a soapy layer is formed at the surface preventing oxygen from reaching it and feeding the fire further.
This wet chemical based type of suppression system is ideal for kitchens as it not only extinguishes the fire by cooling but prevents re-ignition – a genuine issue in kitchens where liquids are heated to autoignition temperature and extinguishing the fire and removing the heat source may not be enough to cool the liquid down below its auto- ignition temperature. It’s also far easier to clean up than a dry powder and, as the wet chemical is discharged as fine droplets, damage to cooking appliances through thermal shock and potentially dangerous splashes of hot grease are avoided.
The systems come in two different designs: appliance-specific and overlapping. The appliance-specific design aims the nozzles at the specific hazard areas of each appliance. With the overlapping design, the nozzles are arranged to overlap and provide a “fire-free zone” throughout a group of appliances.
Whichever system you opt for, it’s essential it is LPS 1223 approved, which is the Loss Prevention Standard for ‘Requirements and Testing Procedures for the LPCB Certification and Listing of Fixed Fire Extinguishing Systems for Catering Equipment’.
A Safe System
Designing and installing a fire suppression system is a skilled job that must be undertaken by an approved and qualified company (BAFE SP206 or equivalent) to the BS EN 16282-7 standard. It might also be the case that if a fire suppression system is installed by a none certified contractor, it will invalidate your insurance.
Look for only approved installers as these have been given independent assessment of competency for this skilled service and will be able to issue you with a certificate of compliance, much like an MOT, to show the installation is fit for purpose on an ongoing basis.
Ongoing system service and maintenance is also essential, especially bearing in mind kitchens have a lot of airborne grease which can impede the performance of the system, clogging up the hole of a nozzle for example. You have your part to play in ensuring a regular scheduled cleaning cycle of your kitchen is implemented. A full-service restaurant using multiple fryers or works may need to be cleaned monthly, while a low-volume kitchen like that in a care home only requires cleaning annually. The fire suppression system also needs to be maintained by a professional company, usually twice yearly, but this depends on the type of system installed.
Finally, remember that if you do undergo any kitchen modification or changes, ensure all appliances are covered by the fire suppression system at the point of change. Leaving it to the next system service to make changes is not acceptable.
Whilst fire suppression systems in a commercial kitchen are not a specified legal requirement, in England and Wales you have a duty to minimise fire liability under the Regulatory Reform Order 2005. The named ‘responsible person’ in your organisation must be responsible for undertaking a fire risk assessment of the premises upon which the fire protection measures are based. The Enforcing Authority – normally the fire brigade, but it may be the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or the local authority – has the power to ensure that this responsibility is met and, if it is not, to penalise the offender, either financially or by imprisonment.
What’s more, to secure suitable buildings and business insurance, commercial kitchen fire suppression systems are now being specified more by organisations as they recognise that a kitchen in a hospitality based business is one of the major sources of fire and represents a potentially costly claim. Some insurance providers even offer benefits to policy terms if such systems are installed.
STANLEY Security is a leading provider of security and life safety systems in the UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org