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Post-Fire Smoke Purge Systems: What They Are and Why Your Business Needs One

Anyone who has ever experienced a building fire knows that putrid smoke, soot, and other debris can linger, sometimes for days afterward.

For a commercial kitchen business that has caught fire, this remaining smoke and debris can make your business uninhabitable for much longer than a few days, and sometimes even weeks or months.

To help clear the air following a fire, many local and federal codes mandate that your business has in place a post-fire smoke purge system.

What is a Post-Fire Smoke Purge System?

These systems are defined as natural or mechanical ventilation systems that are designed to make the air cleaner and more easily breathable following the outbreak of fire.

While these systems don’t do anything to fight live fires, the systems kick on after the fire has been extinguished. With the use of one of these systems, your restaurant business could manage to resume regular activities very soon after the fire has been controlled.

Where are Post-Fire Smoke Purge Systems Used?

Many buildings and fire codes state that these systems must be present in high-rise buildings, locations with high-piled stock or rack storage containing combustible materials, and buildings with spaces located one-hundred feet from natural ventilation openings, just to use some examples.

Some restaurants, too, are required to have post-fire smoke purge systems, which are designed to exhaust the air outside the building, where it will be kept away from staff and customers.

If your commercial kitchen business has proper ventilation, a smoke purge system may not be necessary. For instance, many fire codes state that as long as your establishment has openable windows in every habitable room and windows 30 inches above the finished floor, post-fire smoke systems are not required. Speak to your local coding agencies and fire inspector to determine if one of these systems is necessary to keep your business safe and code-compliant.

If you are required to install a post-fire smoke purge system, the code requirements will tell you how those systems should operate.

Design Requirements for Smoke Purge Systems

These post-fire systems are not intended to save lives and so they’re not held to the same standards as fire extinguishers and other fire protection systems. Instead, these systems use dedicated equipment that is used in conjunction with your HVAC system and make-up air systems to draw out dangerous and non-breathable smoke and air from any areas occupied by customers and staff.

The systems only work on cold smoke after the fire has been extinguished. Whether you employ a mechanical or natural ventilation system, the smoke purge apparatus sucks in all the cold smoke and pushes it outside where it cannot be recirculated into your restaurant’s clean air supply.

Your Smoke Purge System Exhaust Capability

Your local code and fire agencies will inform you of the proper exhaust capability for your post-fire smoke purge system. For example, some code requirements demand that the system has an air supply and exhaust capability that offers three air changes every hour. These systems are designed to remove smoke so that the air contains less than 5% concentration within a single hour of the smoke purge system’s operation.

How are Smoke Purge Systems Operated?

Some smoke purge systems are automatic while others are operated manually. If you have a manually-operated post-fire smoke purge system, you’ll need to provide access to the fire department along with an approved control diagram. The location of your smoke purge system will also need to be approved before it is installed.

When a fire breaks out, commercial kitchen fire suppression and fire protection systems will jump into action.

At the first sign of smoke, your restaurant’s smoke alarm should start going off, alerting everyone inside that there is a high risk of fire. Commercial kitchens are environments where fire is often at high-risk due to all the grease, heat, and sparks that come with the regular kitchen operation.

When the fire alarms go off, evacuation of your restaurant should go into place immediately. Hopefully, you have worked out with staff a safe and efficient evacuation plan that sees everyone to safety before a fire can do any damage or cause any harm.

Once the smoke alarms go off, your fire suppression systems will go into action.

This combination of devices may involve a sprinkler system or chemical restaurant fire suppression system. These devices are designed to detect high amounts of heat and then discharge at the source of the fire, extinguishing it immediately.

Even if the fire was a small one, there still may be a heavy amount of smoke left behind. All of this smoke and the resulting soot residue will have to be removed if your restaurant is going to be habitable once more.

This instance is where your post-fire smoke purge system becomes activated. All of the smoke that was produced by the fire gets whisked away into the air outside. By code standards, the smoke must be exhausted so that it doesn’t enter any other building and that it doesn’t become recirculated with your business’s clean air.

The smoke purge system will be used until the air is considered scrubbed of any harmful or carcinogenic smoke or other particles.

To ensure that your smoke purge system is always operational, the local fire department may require that you have your system inspected and tested on a yearly basis.

Following a fire, you may have to have your sprinkler and other fire suppression systems recharged, inspected, and tested regularly as well. This includes handheld fire extinguishers, which can also be used to extinguish common commercial kitchen fires.

When Your Smoke Purge System Has Done the Job

The moments following a restaurant fire are often devastating to business owners and staff. With adrenaline flowing, you’ll be doing your best to assess any damage done and to look for good signs that your business can be salvaged.

The fire department will use your smoke purge system to remove all the excess smoke, but that’s only part of the job. Depending on the severity of the fire, you likely still have strong odors and a soot-covered environment.

Cleaning this mess will be no small feat, but it can be done.

How to Clean Your Restaurant After a Fire

The fire happened and was extinguished, either by your fire suppression systems or the fire department. Now, the cleanup project begins. This will be a major undertaking, no matter how large or small your fire happens to be. There are so many places that smoke and soot particles can hide. In fact, some businesses who have experienced fire find soot in the unlikeliest of places and even months or years later. For your business to pass a fire inspection and to reopen for business, you’ll need to ensure that you clean every nook and cranny.

It’s not recommended that you do this cleanup work all on your own. Even if you gather all your staff together and attempt to make your restaurant spotless for a grand re-opening, chances are you will leave unhealthy and possibly carcinogenic agents behind. Not only could this prevent you from passing inspection, but you could end up doing harm to your customers in the off-chance that your inspection passed and you reopened without issue.

Instead, it’s recommended that you hire the services of a professional fire restoration company. These are individuals and professionals who have vast experience cleaning up commercial buildings following the outbreak of fire. Using years of training and the proper high-pressure tools, a professional commercial kitchen cleaning crew and fire restoration service will ensure your business passes inspection and re-opens by the date you’ve scheduled.

Here are some considerations a professional service will make as they go about cleaning your commercial kitchen business after a fire has done at least some amount of damage.

Clean All Porous Materials

Whether you hire a fire restoration company or you have your staff doing the cleanup job, make sure all furniture, carpeting, upholstery, and clothing are thoroughly cleaned. When a fire breaks out, these porous materials contain threads that expand. When the fire becomes extinguished, the threads cool and contract, trapping stinky smoke and nasty soot in every pore.

You may find that a fire restoration service that offers foam and wet cleaning techniques can be effective for removing all that trapped smoke and soot.

Thorough Cleaning of Non-Porous Materials

Now it’s time to clean all the metal, glass, rubber, and ceramic that was affected by the smoke. In many cases, these items have narrow crevices and blind holes that can hide soot and smoke. A professional fire restoration business will help to remove these residues so you can once more open for business.

Clean Your Air Ducts & HVAC System

Once again, your post-fire smoke purge system will work in conjunction with your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. When all that smoke flooded your restaurant during the fire breakout, it’s inevitable that the smoke wafted outside got into your air ducts and HVAC. For that reason, these systems should be pressure washed by professional commercial kitchen cleaning services. Only these businesses have the fire restoration capabilities and equipment to scrub your ducts and HVAC to remove smoke, soot, water, and to prevent the growth of mold.

Only when these systems are cleaned can air quality improve enough for your restaurant doors to reopen.

Scrub the Air

Your post-fire smoke purge system managed to remove a heavy amount of smoke and non-breathable air, but that’s only part of the job. Once all the porous and non-porous materials have been cleaned of smoke and soot residue, air filtration devices like ozone generators will often be used to eliminate any lingering smoke smells.

Ozone reacts with foul odors by attracting and neutralizing them, making your restaurant environment clean and breathable once more.

 

Conclusion

Your commercial kitchen business may be required to employ a post-fire smoke purge system, but not always. In some cases, natural ventilation, if adequate, can prevent you from having to design and install one of these elaborate smoke exhaust apparatuses in your business.

Your restaurant may have a mechanical ventilation system, which can also provide effective smoke control. With the use of powerful fans and make-up air systems, the smoke will be exhausted post-fire so that it can’t be breathed in by customers or staff.

If your business requires a post-fire smoke purge system, you will need to have your design and installation approved by the local fire code authorities. These systems will be operated by the fire company and will allow individuals to evacuate the building without the risk of breathing in harmful soot or smoke.

When these systems kick on and begin exhausting the smoke outside, they make the jobs of fire personnel easier. With less smoke, the fire personnel can see much more effectively, allowing them to put out any fires that were missed by your fire suppression systems.

With most deaths by fire caused by smoke inhalation, you might want to install one of these post-fire smoke exhaust systems in your own business.

For post-fire smoke purge systems, fire suppression systems like sprinkles, fire extinguishers, and Ansul fire safety systems, along with fire restoration services that will have your restaurant smelling fresh and looking its best following a fire, you owe it to yourself to find professionals with experience and training.

Nationwide Fire Protection can install the latest brands and types of fire suppression and smoke purge systems while providing you with fire protection and fire restoration you can always trust.

In Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California, contact Nationwide Fire Protection for a free quote.