The presence of fire suppression equipment is favourably viewed by insurers when it comes to setting premiums for commercial kitchens, small and large. How favourably will depend to some degree on proof of equipment performance, prompting a strong reliance on third party approved systems. Sarah Colwell of BRE Global reveals the three main points that should be considered when assessing the third party approval declared for a fire suppression system.
1) What functions does the certification test and cover?
In providing kitchen protection, a fire suppression system should ideally incorporate a fully integrated package that detects the fire, alerts users that the system has activated and extinguishes the fire. The suppression system should protect the cooking appliance and extractor hood as well as detecting and extinguishing fire in both.
Extinguishing systems also need to isolate and shut-down the cooking units while also alerting the fire alarm system to the event. Not all approval schemes cover all these points and, so it is vital to check the scope of the certification and that all systems are compatible with each other, i.e. the alarm signal from the suppression system can be recognised by the fire alarm panel.
2) Does it guarantee the user has the information they need to operate and maintain the system?
Kitchen fire suppression systems are bespoke assemblies. They provide fire protection to an array of kitchen equipment in an ever evolving environment. In order for end-users to maintain and manage the systems as part of their fire risk strategy they need to have full documentation including details of the installation configurations in order to understand the physical assembly. They also need to understand how changes in layout may impact on the protection strategy for the kitchen. The certification scheme should therefore require the manufacturer to provide a manual with full instructions for system design, installation, operation, recharge and maintenance.
3) Who’s vetting installation?
As with all fire safety systems, kitchen suppression systems should be installed and maintained by fully-trained and competent engineers to ensure the system performs as intended. End-users should make sure that this key element is part of the approval of the system that they are buying.
Having identified fire as part of the ongoing risk assessment within the catering operation, it is vital that installed equipment is supported by suitable training of staff. They need to be fully aware of the operation of the system and also the critical importance of not altering equipment layout without reference to the system suppliers or their agents. Simply, if the equipment is no longer located below the extinguishing nozzles, it will no longer be protected.