Hood Boss has put together this introduction to your Kitchen Exhaust System. This video walks you through the different components that make up your Kitchen Exhaust System. It also walks you through the cleaning process and maintenance involved between services. As a courtesy we have thrown in a few trouble shooting tips for your exhaust fan if it stops working. We feel its important to educate yourself and your staff on how you vent hood works, how to trouble shoot issues with your system, and what to maintain between services. Please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns. Hood Boss would be happy to help provide information and/or give an in person orientation to your staff. Follow this link to learn more.
The president of the NFPA released a few thoughts on the recent fires that have occurred in the last few weeks. He stresses the importance of staying vigilant in our awareness of fire codes. Business owners should hold themselves accountable and not become complacent in regards to fire codes that are in place to protect human life and property. Here’s a video of Jim Pauley’s statement.
In this article by Robert Fiorito, he discusses the importance of day to day awareness in the kitchen. During daily operations, the threat of fire can be a fleeting thought when the restaurant is slammed busy or even in the slower down times. These lapses in awareness allow for the possibility of kitchen fires. Minimizing these lapses comes down to proper training, preventative maintenance, and proper inspection/cleaning schedules. All kitchen fires can be prevented with the proper systems in place. Follow this link to learn more.
What to Expect from your Annual Fire Inspection
Annual inspections by the fire department are performed to assess and eliminate potential fire and life safety hazards in your facility. Local authorities perform inspections to ensure that the codes and standards in place are being adhered to. NFPA 101, Intl. Fire Code, and NFPA 96 are standards that were created through a consensus process by industry representatives, such as code officials, manufacturers, system installers, and other specialists in the field. As a business owner/operator, it is good practice to be as knowledgeable as possible on these codes and standards in order to stay compliant.
While many people look at the fire and life safety inspection process negatively, these inspections benefit the business owners/operators by offering:
- A safe working environment for you and your employees.
- A safe facility for guests in an unfamiliar environment.
- Peace of mind for the owner operator of the facility or business. Around 80 percent of all small businesses that experience a large fire never reopen; affecting the owner/operator, employees, and valued clients. The businesses that do reopen, lose much of their customer base due to prolonged absence of production or service.
- A higher resale value may result from a well maintained facility. It is commonplace for buyers to hire a company to inspect the building prior to purchase to identify potential hidden costs related to fire and life safety.
- Many insurance carriers give businesses premium reductions for properly installed and maintained fire-protection systems.
Preparing for Your Fire Inspection
Preparing for your annual inspection is key to developing a good working relationship with the fire inspector and gaining positive results. Always make sure that any issues from previous inspections have been resolved and have reports from all inspections documented and accessible. The inspection is typically unscheduled or unannounced, so in the case it’s inconvenient for you, or you’re unprepared – it’s acceptable to ask that the fire inspector reschedule the inspection. Make sure to accompany the fire inspector with keys to all areas, and take notes even though the inspector will likely give you a report when the inspection has been completed. These notes may give you additional insight into the inspector’s thought process, and they may provide valuable information for future inspections.
Areas the Fire Marshal will be Inspecting
Maintaining means of egress or exits, is critical to providing proper life and fire safety in your facility. Making sure all exit doors are accessible, well lit, properly identified, and in working order will be key components of the inspection. Security of your facility can be a major concern because of theft or unauthorized access from both outside and within a business. Securing doors with unapproved locks, chaining doors, covering doors so they’re not readily discernible by building occupants, etc. and may not comply with the inspector’s means of egress standards. Talk with your fire inspector to resolve these issues so your building is both safe and secure.
Storage of combustible materials must be maintained in an orderly fashion, away from flame-producing appliances, and at least 18-inches below the fire sprinklers. Any combustible or flammable liquids must be in approved containers and storage cabinets. There are specific limits on the amount of combustible and flammable liquids by type of occupancy as well as specific storage arrangements. Cleanliness and orderliness are crucial to increasing fire protection: the fire marshal will check that your facility is clean and organized.
Typically, the fire marshal will look for exposed wiring or un-insulated wiring which are often associated with fire. Other electrical-related issues, such as making sure all electrical receptacles have cover plates should also be addressed. It’s required that circuits be properly labeled on all electrical panels and that clear access of 30 inches must be maintained in front of all electrical panels. Extension cords are not allowed except when used for temporary power. All extension cords must be heavy duty, in good condition, and only used for small appliances. Extension cords are required to be grounded, and if multiple items need to be plugged in, power strips with built-in circuit breakers are to be used, and they must be plugged directly into a permanent receptacle.
Fire-Protection/Suppression and Fire-alarm systems
In the event of a fire, what are the systems you have in place to stop it or slow its pace long enough for the fire department to arrive. Fire extinguishers should be evenly distributed throughout your building and should be fully operative when tested. Sprinklers, suppression systems, and kitchen exhaust hood systems will be checked as well. Give the fire inspector copies of all of your system or equipment inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) reports. Review these reports with the inspector and let the inspector know that any issues noted previously have been corrected. Fire-protection systems’ ITM and results reports are required by all the national codes and standards and likely by your insurance carrier.
Concluding the Inspection
Stress your concerns about making the facility as safe as possible by working positively with the fire department to achieve compliance. Ask questions and make sure you fully understand all issues. If there are corrections required, identify who is responsible for making them. In many cases the building owner is different than the business owner, so the responsibility must be determined for each item. In many cases, the building owner and business owner are responsible by lease agreement.
If there are costly items requiring attention, discuss alternatives and compliance time-frames with the inspector. Fire inspectors are most interested in gaining compliance and making your facility safer without causing you financial difficulties. They are usually willing to negotiate a fair amount of time for you to make this happen. In most cases, compliance items are easily corrected on site and will not cost a great deal of money or require a great deal of effort to do so.
10 Fire and Safety Concerns in your Commercial Kitchen
A food service establishment is subject to hidden and illusive safety concerns that, if not addressed may impact its survival, the safety of its staff, and the safety of its guests. There is a lot that can go wrong in a kitchen, and cooking equipment is responsible for 57 percent of disastrous restaurant fires. Meant as a follow up to “What to Expect from Your Annual Fire Inspection,” here are a few safety concerns to address in your commercial kitchen:
- Inadequate separation between open flame appliances and fryers. In order to be compliant, there must be a 16 inch area of separation between cooking appliances, or a 16 inch vertical non-combustible metal divider must be place. Without adequate separation, oil can splash or splatter into open flames, causing a fire risk. Always consult your fire suppression company when making any changes in your kitchen equipment layout.
- Combustible construction within 18 inches of hood. Combustible materials around the kitchen hood and cooking area may aid in the spread of fire. Incombustible materials such as mineral wool pad (or equivalent), provide a barrier that creates a break in the fire’s path.
- Fire suppression system/ fire extinguisher tags out of date.When a kitchen suppression system is serviced, a tag should be left by the servicing company indicating the service date. An out-of-date tag indicates that the system is not being serviced regularly. Suppression systems should be inspected every 6 months and extinguishers annually.
- The fire suppression system is not UL300 Listed.The UL300 Standard for Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for the Protection of Restaurant Cooking Surfaces was introduced in November of 1994. The new standard was set to address changes that were happening in cooking styles, processes, and equipment that were resulting in kitchen fires that had become increasingly difficult to contain. With the widespread transition from animal fat to vegetable oil use in deep fat fryers, dry chemical systems are no longer able to control the higher temperature, longer burning fires produced by vegetable oils. A UL300 Listed system is specifically designed to handle these intense fires, contain them longer, and prevent splashing of hot oil during the fire.
- Suppression nozzle covers missing or not in place.When the nozzles of a suppression system are not kept covered, grease laden vapors can clog the hole. This may impede or prevent operation of the suppression system. Remember to check the nozzles that are inside duct collars and duct work.
- Suppression nozzles not aimed properly.If a nozzle is not properly aimed to deposit the extinguishing chemicals on the source of the fire, it will be less effective. If you move kitchen appliances around on your cooking line, consult your suppression company first. They will need to make necessary adjustments to your system to make sure you remain compliant.
- Inadequate cleaning cycle kitchen exhaust system.Exhaust systems that are not kept clean will accumulate grease and pose a serious threat of fire. Cleaning schedules can vary and are based on the volume of cooking, type of cooking, and facility type. A full service restaurant using solid fuel cooking appliances or woks may need to be cleaned monthly, while a low-volume kitchens like that in a daycare or senior center only require cleaning semi-annually. A certified exhaust cleaning company must provide you with a certificate of performance stating the date of completion and an expiration date.
- Hood or suppression system does not cover all appliances.You exhaust and fire suppression system should cover all of your cooking equipment. If a fire occurs in or on an appliance that is not covered by the hood or suppression system, it cannot be adequately controlled by the system.
- Lights not covered with explosion-proof covers.All light covers must be able to contain any explosion originating within its housing and prevent sparks from within its housing from igniting vapors, gases, dust, or fibers in the air surrounding it. Explosion-proof light covers are generally required in areas involving high heat and high fire risk such as you kitchen exhaust hood.
- Baffle filter panels installed wrong or not installed at all. Filter panels are specifically designed to collect grease. They also create a fire barrier between the cooking surfaces and the interior of the hood. If they aren’t properly installed, dirty, or not in use an increased risk of fire is created. Filters should also fill up the entire opening of you exhaust system with no gaps existing in between them.
Taking proper steps to mitigate these safety concerns is ultimately the responsibility of the business owner/operator. The impact of not following these guidelines can be far reaching and lead a business to catastrophe. Having proper inspection procedures in place and following life and safety codes will create a safer environment for everyone in your food service establishment.