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How to Avoid Fire Suppression System Failures in Restaurants

How to Avoid Fire Suppression System Failures in Restaurants

Restaurant safety is perhaps the first factor restaurant owners should think about and do anything necessary to avoid fire suppression system failures.

Fire suppression systems play a central role in restaurant fire safety but even the best system can fail if it is not installed, maintained, and operated properly. So, there are some common mistakes that can lead to such system failures, and understanding them is essential for all the staff, managers, and owners.

To help you avoid these mistakes in fire suppression systems, we are going to discuss them one by one in this article and offer some insights to enhance your restaurant’s safety. At the end, we will answer some of the most common questions about restaurant fire protection.

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How Important Are Fire Suppression Systems for Restaurant Safety?

Restaurant, especially the kitchen area, is one of the places that are most prone to fire incidents. The open flames, the heat, the hot equipment, the crowd, and the haste to serve the customers quickly all raise the likelihood of fire.

In such an environment, a decent fire suppression system can safeguard the staff, customers, and the place from injuries and damage by

  • Detecting and suppressing the fire rapidly,
  • Providing time for the safe evacuation of the customers and staff,
  • Preventing the spread of fire,
  • And, protecting the valuable assets and the property.

Except for these, installing a quality fire suppression system and upgrading it regularly is crucial to comply with restaurant fire safety regulations and maintain a good reputation among customers.

What Mistakes Can Lead to Fire Suppression System Failures?

Now, let’s go over some of the most common mistakes happening in restaurant settings that lead to fire suppression system failures. The following tips and advice can help you identify the problems and address them properly.

  • Making Mistakes in Fire Suppression System Installation

Installing a fire suppression system, or any other fire protection equipment, requires knowledge and experience. Otherwise, even the best system cannot work effectively. That is why you should always hire a professional installer from a reputable company to ensure the system will function properly.

Here are some of the primary mistakes during fire suppression system installation that you should look out for.

Inadequate System Design

This is one of the main causes of fire suppression system failures. Before installation, the installer has to accurately assess the hazards and the layout of the space to determine the best design for the system.

Needless to say, it is different for each restaurant because of their specific cooking appliances, style of cooking, the layout of the kitchen, etc. If the preinstallation assessment is insufficient, the system will be under-designed or mismatched.

A poorly designed system,

  • may not detect fires at the right time which leads to the growth and spread of fire as well as delayed responses on the part of the staff.
  • cannot handle the potential fire hazards effectively due to inadequate suppression capacity.
  • may not match the specific fire risks of your place (for example, using the wrong types of extinguishing agent).
  • does not properly integrate with other fire protection systems of the place, such as gas shut-off valves and ventilation systems.
  • may stop functioning after a single point of failure due to a lack of redundancy and reliability features. Incorporating a backup power supply or multiple suppression mechanisms is essential to ensure the fail-safe operation of the system.

Incorrect Placement of Suppression Equipment

If the fire suppression equipment is not placed appropriately, the system cannot work effectively. For example, if the sprinkler heads, heat sensors, and smoke detectors are not installed in high-risk zones, in case of fire, they cannot detect and suppress it properly. Or, they may cause false alarms and activations.

Therefore, during installation,

  • the suppression devices must not be placed too far away or too close to cooking appliances.
  • the extinguishing agents must be distributed efficiently and sufficiently.
  • future layout changes should be considered.

Inadequate Coverage and/or Capacity

To avoid restaurant fire suppression system failures, sufficient coverage and capacity are needed.

The installers must make sure the whole area is covered by the appropriate number and type of detection devices without leaving any blind spots and obstructions. Sufficient coverage is crucial for prompt detection and suppression of fire to prevent it from spreading.

Also, there has to be adequate

  • water supply for sprinklers,
  • amount of the right types of extinguishing agents,
  • and suppression devices (in terms of quantity and size).

Ignoring Manufacturer’s Guidelines, Fire Codes and Regulations

Usually, the manufacturer provides the necessary guidelines and standards for the installation of a specific fire suppression system. Following these instructions are required to guarantee the appropriate performance and function of the system.

In addition, all residential and commercial areas must comply with the local fire codes and regulations to minimize the risk of fire accidents. So, when a fire suppression system does not meet these codes and regulations, it means it lacks the essential features and coverage.

What’s more, ignoring the manufacturer’s guidelines and/or the local fire codes not only compromises the insurance coverage in case of fire but also may lead to legal implications and penalties.

  • Lack of Maintenance, Proper Inspections and Testing

To make sure a fire inspection system functions normally when you need it to, you have to maintain, inspect, and test it regularly and properly. Otherwise, the following problems may arise that will lead to system failure.

The System Components Will Malfunction

Various components of the system can develop issues over time which cause fire suppression system failures in restaurant settings. For example, the valves, detectors, nozzles, or sensors may start malfunctioning due to normal wear and tear.

Therefore, having a schedule for regular maintenance of the system is vital to keep the equipment in tip-top condition and perform thorough inspections and tests to detect faults and deal with them as soon as possible.

Debris and Dust Will Accumulate

The accumulation of debris, dirt, and dust, particularly in a commercial kitchen, is very common if there is no plan for periodic cleaning and maintenance.

For instance, sprinkler heads or nuzzles can get clogged by debris and in case of fire they fail to discharge extinguishing agents well.

The Suppressant Agents May Expire or Be Inadequate

The extinguishing agents can expire over time. So, you should regularly inspect them to see if they are still within their expiration dates. Additionally, the amount of the agents may be inadequate and need to be replenished.

The System Will Perform Inaccurately or Slowly

To ensure the optimal performance of a system, a big part of its maintenance is accurate calibration and testing.

For example, the smoke detectors and heat sensors must be calibrated regularly and accurately to prevent delay or inaccuracy in detection.

  • Improper Staff Training

Apart from the quality of the system and its performance in emergencies, the staff members need to be trained to make sure they can operate the fire suppression system correctly and successfully.

During training, they should learn

  • how and when to activate and initiate the system.
  • to recognize and understand its alarms and warnings and how to respond to them.
  • how to use fire fighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers, correctly and effectively (Read more about Different Types of Fire Extinguishers).
  • not to obstruct or interfere with the suppression system (for example, blocking the sprinkler heads or the access to fire extinguishers).
  • how to follow the fire safety procedures in a restaurant setting (for instance, how to store inflammable materials safely).

So, a lack of emergency preparedness and response plans can cause delays in system activation, inappropriate responses, panic and lack of communication, confusion, and increased risk of damage and injuries.

  • Neglecting System Upgrades and Improvements

Upgrading and improving the fire suppression system is essential because

  • the technology is constantly improving and advancing and an obsolete system is not reliable.
  • as technology advances, the standards and regulations also change and you should make sure your system is compliant with the new standards.
  • commercial kitchens and restaurants undergo a lot of changes, like expansions, renovations, new cooking styles and appliances, etc. So, the fire protection system must be improved to adapt to the changes.

Consulting with a fire protection professional and assessing the system’s performance and compatibility regularly can guarantee your restaurant fire suppression system remains up-to-date, standard, and effective. 

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To sum up, fire protection system failures usually occur due to improper installation, lack of a suitable plan for maintenance and inspection of various system components, ignoring the guidelines and standards, outdated system equipment, and untrained staff.

As a result, seeking professional help and training is necessary to safeguard people’s lives and your property.

FAQs about Restaurant Fire Protection

Restaurant fire safety is of utmost importance and that is why we usually get a lot of questions from our clients. Here, we try to answer some of your most frequently asked questions briefly.

What Are the Common Fire Suppression Systems Used in Restaurants?

The most common types of fire suppression systems in commercial kitchens and restaurants typically include:

  • Wet chemical systems to suppress grease fires,
  • Water-base sprinkler systems,
  • dry chemical systems,
  • CO2 or FM-200 suppression systems.

How Often Should I Maintain and Inspect My Restaurant Fire Suppression Systems?

It depends on the type of system, local regulations, and even the type of restaurant. However, the whole system should be maintained and inspected thoroughly by professionals at least once a year. Please note that some sensitive parts, like sensors and detectors, require more frequent maintenance and inspections. Consulting with a fire protection professional is highly recommended to decide the best schedule.

 Why Restaurant Staff Members’ Fire Safety Training Is Important?

Because the likelihood of fire incidents is very high in commercial kitchens, the staff members must be trained to minimize damage and injuries in case of fire. They need to learn

  • fire safety protocols,
  • safe evacuation and emergency response procedures,
  • and how to operate the fire protection systems properly.

What Should Restaurant Staff Do in Case of Fire Suppression System Failures During Emergency?

During training, they need to learn how to respond to emergencies. The most crucial matter under such circumstances is the safety of customers and staff members themselves. So, they need to have a specific plan for how to perform the evacuation first and then contact the emergency services.

Hire Us for Professional Fire Suppression Systems Installation and Maintenance

We have covered the main pitfalls in a restaurant setting regarding fire suppression system failures. We also discussed how to enhance fire safety to prevent potential disasters.

Now, it is time to act. If you are a restaurant owner/manager in Colorado and Utah, you can count on us to install, upgrade, inspect, and maintain your restaurant fire suppression systems. Nationwide Fire Protection Company has been around for years. With our experienced experts, you can ensure your restaurant’s fire safety.

Give us a call at 800-750-7313 or fill in the contact form to discuss your project with our team.