SPECIAL REPORT: How touchscreen technology is keeping kitchens safe from the threat of fire

fire

Touchscreen technology is a common sight on catering equipment appliances, and it’s now extending itself to fire suppression solutions. FEJ explores how the next generation of control panels can make kitchens even safer.

A fire in a commercial kitchen is something that no operator wants to think too deeply about, but ensuring all safety precautions are taken should the worst happen is a responsibility that can’t be ignored. Considering how and where to site fire suppression system control panels is arguably top of the list for companies to consider when specifying catering areas.

Fire suppression system manufacturer Nobel Fire Systems has had control panels uppermost in its focus of late after updating its offering. Managing director, Ian Bartle, says that it has ensured constant progress is made in the way it interprets the needs of its clients and what they expect to see and interface with on a minute by minute basis.

“There are few people today that don’t live their lives around smartphones and smart technology. It’s therefore only fitting that we have produced a cutting-edge fire system interface that removes many of the immediate ‘human’ fears and reactions associated with fire suppression systems being activated,” he explains.

“The new Nobel Avantis Ti panel is the first fire suppression ‘touchscreen’ control panel on the market and increases communication and usability regardless of a person’s ability to interpret technical information and then respond in the correct manner. Avantis is purpose-designed to be completely user-friendly.”

The Avantis Ti is a user interface that once set up by the installation engineer for its individual surroundings provides up-to-date real time system monitoring, flagging fire alarms, fault alarms and alerts users when a service is due. Clean, simple icons are designed to provide critical decision-making information.

“Nobel hasn’t stopped at this advanced interface. Later in the year there will be an enhancement and even more special interface with capabilities that will further revolutionise how kitchen fire systems are used and perceived,” he says.

The Avantis Ti can monitor up to eight cookline fire systems at any single time, so there are no compromises to be made. These are all important considerations when it comes to the siting of fire suppression control panels. As fire suppression systems can cross many industries, are there any special considerations for the catering environment? According to Bartle, current standards say that a method of initiating a shut-down must be provided but doesn’t go far enough to state that the interface must be made.

“Competitors’ systems have switches for the purpose but they are rarely used. However, Nobel panels have all the connections and we always install full interconnecting shut downs. In other words, we go one step further.”

Fire Supression

Standards that kitchen fire suppression systems can meet are available at several levels. The oldest is the US market-driven standard UL 300, while the youngest, and more aimed at European standards, is that produced by the British Research Establishment/ Loss Prevention Council LPS 1223.

Bartle comments: “Both standards establish the ability of a fire system to extinguish a fire and any installation should adhere to the manufacturer’s design and installation manuals. However, neither of those standards address electrical controls in any detail. The standard for electrical fire suppression release control panels is BS EN 12094 -1 and any control panel should be designed to this standard and meet the CE requirements, EMC and LV directives.”

“The system has dual detection and release circuits for allowing flexibility of protecting multiple restaurant hazards”

Furthermore, he believes that service and maintenance regimes are pertinent to any fire system, post-installation. “In order for a system to provide the protection offered on day one, owners of that system should carry out the service as outlined in the manufacturer’s manual. Failure to do follow this process could render the system ineffective and not only endanger staff and facilities but lead to insurance cover becoming a challenge,” he warns.

This, he says, means that intelligent customer interfaces in the form of user-friendly, simplified instructions provide real-time function monitoring and give clients an enormous advantage over outdated mechanical systems.

Johnson Controls, which merged with Tyco last year, now numbers the Ansul brand of kitchen fire suppression systems in its portfolio, including the R-102 and Piranha products, which are well known solutions in single- and dual-agent restaurant fire suppression.

According to Jan Waldow, product manager for pre-engineered systems EMEA at Johnson Controls, both the Ansul R-102 and Piranha systems connect to external control panels where required and depending on the installation. “As the systems are mechanical and consequently do not require either power or battery back-up, no control panel or interface is needed to operate the system in the event of a kitchen fire,” he says.

Fire Supression

Regarding standards, he remarks: “Where required, it is advisable to connect a control panel tested to UL 300 with a similarly certified fire suppression system, as these are the most thoroughly tested systems. Simply considering the specific standards of the control panel does not provide a complete representation of the total system — the control panel can only support the fire suppression system and, if used, needs to be tested holistically as a combined solution.”

Chris Prideaux, head of sales for Ansul restaurant systems EMEA, confirms that the R-102 and Piranha comply with the US National Fire Protection Association requirements. Sections 13 and 17a of these standards specifically stipulate that ‘upon activation of any fire-extinguishing system for a cooking operation, all sources of fuel and electric power that produce heat to all equipment requiring protection by that system shall automatically shut off’. Prideaux details:“Therefore snap-action switches are installed inside the Regulated Release Assembly (RRA). These switches are intended for use with electrical gas valves, alarms, contactors, lights and other electrical devices that are designed to shut-off or turn on when the fire suppression system is activated.

“Both the Ansul R-102 and Piranha restaurant fire suppression systems have been tested and listed by UL as pre-engineered systems. These comply with UL300, which considers cooking appliance design, cooking agent ignition characteristics and ‘worst case’ fire suppression scenarios as part of the testing protocol. A UL300 approved restaurant fire suppression system has specific pipe sizes with a maximum number of fittings and also includes maximum and minimum pipe lengths, numbers of fittings, temperatures, discharge heights, and number and types of nozzles needed for each hazard.”

The positioning of the ‘control panel’ or in the case of Ansul systems, RRAs, is determined by the supplier’s design, installation, recharge and maintenance manual limitations. Clearly, common sense must prevail when considering the exact position of the RRAs in terms of health and safety, and safe working practices, says Prideaux.

Elsewhere, Stuart Dale, who looks after kitchen fire suppression systems globally for Amerex Corporation, explains that the manufacturer’s Cobra kitchen fire suppression system utilises the Strike ECS (Electronic Control System) for detection, actuation and notification. “The Strike ECS is a standalone system that does not connect to building power, but rather uses two lithium ion batteries to power and back up the system,” he said.

“Simply considering the specific standards of the control panel does not provide a complete representation of the total system”

“This system has dual detection and release circuits for allowing flexibility of protecting multiple restaurant hazards, either simultaneously or separately. The system has a history log that can be used to troubleshoot or to verify proper service and maintenance, and it also supervises all key functions to ensure proper operation. Any malfunctions are reported back to the building control or fire alarm systems immediately.”

Dale feels there are no special considerations for fire suppression control systems and interfaces in catering kitchens specifically, but underlines: “I would say that many of the features of an ECS can benefit a catering operation in the same way that it benefits a regular commercial kitchen. It addresses all the safety concerns that a traditional system does not, by monitoring essential functions such as cartridge pressure and detection circuit integrity. These are two of the more common fail points for traditional mechanical systems.”

Fire Supression

Backing the UL300 standard as “the only real testing standard for kitchen fire suppression systems”, Dale adds: “Any system worth selling will have that listing. Within the UL300 listing, UL tests the electronic control systems to the UL 864 standard for control units and accessories for fire alarm systems. Amerex Corporation has decided to take the conservative path of using Underwriters Laboratories as its nationally-recognised test laboratory for reviewing the Cobra and Strike ECS products.

“In this business, there is no room for shortcuts in the product development world. There are other testing agencies that may say they test to the UL300 standard, but if the product hasn’t actually been through the review of an actual UL investigator, then that listing is considered inferior.” The Strike ECS can be mounted a considerable distance from the agent tanks, so it could be installed in a chef’s office. Or in more sensitive situations, like a catering kitchen in a large arena, it could be mounted in the guard’s post to be monitored manually. “It is important to acquire wall space for the panel that is visible and easily accessible for the kitchen staff and technicians, and it is equally as important to allocate that space early in the process as wall space can be a premium in a kitchen. The panels have visual indicators that need to be seen and it must be connected to a laptop for programming and to access the history log. The ECS should be mounted outside of the hood, but not right next to it. It should be close enough to make an easy install, but far enough away to keep it out of the hazard.”

With manufacturers rising to the challenge of making their control panels more user-friendly, operators can trade safely in the knowledge that their kitchens are well-equipped to deal with the fall-out should disaster strike.

Nobel: Fast flame knockdown for professional kitchens

Fire Supression

Nobel’s K-Series systems are installed in commercial kitchens throughout the UK. FEJ caught up with MD, Ian Bartle, to find out why operators need to pay close attention to how they protect their kitchens.

What are the USPs of the K-Series solution?

K-Series is the only fire suppression system that is electronically controlled with no outdated mechanical moving parts. A highly effective F class wet chemical liquid contained in stainless steel cylinders is designed specifically for fast flame knock down and fire suppression. The low, near neutral pH value of the liquids ensures there is no damage to appliances and that there are minimal clean-up requirements following discharge.

What’s the number one factor that operators should bear in mind when choosing a fire suppression solution?

Choice of system should never be made on just one point of argument, it’s the system as a whole that needs to be considered, with the sum of parts including fire suppression and post-fire security capability, post-discharge clean-up, environmental impact, ease of installation and service, longevity, cost and aesthetics. In our experience, the vast majority of businesses require individual solutions to match their exact needs.

“A fire system is only ever as good as the day it was installed”

It is vital that fuel supplies are isolated in the event of a fire. If you don’t shut off gas and electric to the cooking appliances then you continue to provide the fuel to produce heat. It isn’t sufficient to just provide contacts for this purpose, it’s critical that the system has the capability to immediately achieve fast and successful extinguishment by automatically isolating fuel supplies on activation. All Nobel fire systems installed include this, however that isn’t the case on lower quality installations.

What’s the biggest misconception when it comes to fire suppression systems?

That all fire suppression systems and all installations are the same. While we have common standards that provide a base level performance of the system, each manufacturer’s equipment and what they offer the customer are very different. System intelligence plays an enormous part in providing a customer with up-to-date system conditions. Some systems have completely unmonitored fire detection systems, so if it is impaired in any way you won’t know until the system fails to operate.

The Nobel system provides real-time monitoring of all critical functions and gives you audible and visual indications of both fire and fault conditions as they arise. A fire system is only ever as good as the day it was installed. Just fitting a fire suppression system doesn’t absolve the owner of further responsibilities. The service and maintenance regime post-installation is critical to ongoing security and any new cooking appliances or even a change around of the cookline can render a system less efficient. www.nobel-fire-systems.com

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