Consultant Q&A with Phil Maurizzi, president of ABC Fire & Safety, Inc., Beloit, Wis.
FE&S: What is the most important thing foodservice operators should be aware of when purchasing fire-suppression equipment?
PM: The main thing is they want to make sure the system they’re purchasing is UL 300 listed. This designation came about 20 years ago due to the change in cooking oil. Restaurants used to use animal fat, which caught fire more easily but was put out quickly with dry chemical systems. Now, with the prevalence of vegetable, corn and canola oils, kitchen fires tend to burn at higher temperatures and are more difficult to put out. This is why fire-suppression equipment now utilizes wet chemicals.
FE&S: What are the considerations for this equipment with different applications and cook line configurations?
PM: Depending on the operation, there are a number of system types out there. Some are specifically for certain appliances under the hood. Those are the most common in foodservice. Some manufacturers have come out with total flood systems. If a restaurant owner or chef moves appliances around under the hood, they would be best served with this type of system. This way, they don’t need to call the fire equipment distributor to retype the hood since it covers all equipment, no matter where the location. Some appliances, such as back-shelf salamanders, require a total flood fire-suppression system with dedicated nozzles.
FE&S: What type of solution is used to put out the fire with these systems?
PM: All fire-suppression equipment uses a wet chemical that handles grease fires. This creates a layer of foam and prohibits air from coming back to the appliance, which keeps the fire below the flash point.
FE&S: What are the considerations with installation of fire-suppression equipment?
PM: Some units are easier to install than others as certain systems have more leeway in terms of positioning. Traditional systems are designed to break at a certain temperature. Plates over the appliances behind the filter will be held by a bracket and placed under the hood by the exhaust. There are temperature-sensitive wells between two pieces of material. Newer designs utilize a pressurized plastic tube that can withstand high temperatures. With these continuous detection units, if the tube melts anywhere, the system is fast-acting. Electrical fire-detection systems use a thermal probe in the hood that detects the rise and fall of temperatures. If the temperature rises too quickly, it will trip the fire-suppression system.
FE&S: What’s involved with maintaining this equipment?
PM: At a minimum, fire-suppression systems should be inspected every six months by a qualified service technician. The unit will go through different checks, and it will be tested to ensure it’s working as it should. The restaurant operator needs to keep filters clean with a regular maintenance program. Also, there is some type of cap for each nozzle, and these need to be kept in place to block grease buildup. Every six months, operators should have the ventilation hoods and ducts professionally steam cleaned. This will ensure that grease buildup is removed properly and the exhaust is working as it is supposed to.