Commercial kitchens pose one of the greatest risks for fires. Your restaurant is full of industrial, high-heat equipment that often comes into contact with cooking oils and grease, all of which present a significant fire hazard. Protecting your kitchen staff and the equipment within your kitchen is paramount, but can be tricky. Fire extinguishers are cumbersome and not conducive to the cooking environment, and water only makes grease fires worse. This is why your restaurant fire suppression system is so important. 

A restaurant fire protection system provides the safe, efficient solution your kitchen needs to quickly extinguish any fire hazard, directly at the source of most kitchen fires — the cooking surface. 

If you’re new to the restaurant industry, or if you’re looking for a new restaurant fire suppression system, this basic guide to restaurant fire suppression systems will help you learn how restaurant fire suppression systems work and how you maintain them to ensure your commercial kitchen is as safe as possible. We’ll start with a quick overview of the basic components of a restaurant fire suppression system. 

The Basic Components of a Restaurant Fire Suppression System

While there are a number of restaurant fire suppression systems on the market, they all feature many of the same basic components to protect your commercial kitchen in the event of a fire. Most restaurant fire suppression systems are connected to your cooking station in two key places: 

  • The hood over your cooking station
  • The gas line running through the cooking station

These two connections make up the most important components of your restaurant fire suppression system — the part that cuts the fuel, and the part that applies the chemical fire suppressant. Let’s take a closer look at how these two components work to stop an actual kitchen fire. 

How Does A Restaurant Fire Suppression System Work?

In the event of a fire, this is how your restaurant fire suppression system will respond: 

  • If the system is tripped, it will automatically shut off the gas line. This kills the fuel source of the fire.
  • Many kitchen fires, like grease fires, can continue to burn and spread even after the gas has been shut off. This is why restaurant fire suppression systems have that second component — a series of nozzles installed in the hood over your cooking station. 
  • When this second element of the system is tripped, those nozzles discharge a wet chemical fire suppressant. This suppressant is specially developed to suppress grease fires and prevent them from re-igniting. 
  • Finally, the kitchen hood will also kick on to help remove smoke from your kitchen. 

When actuated quickly, these systems are exceptionally efficient and can put out commercial kitchen fires in seconds. The speed of a restaurant fire suppression system is necessary to ensure that the fire doesn’t spread, protecting your staff and other important components of your kitchen.  

Restaurant Fire Suppression Systems with Manual Options

Today’s restaurant fire suppression systems actuate automatically. While there are a number of types of systems, most are automatically tripped when they sense flames, or when they sense heat over a certain accepted temperature. While automatic actuation is necessary, it’s also important to consider investing in a system that offers a manual actuation option as well. 

Why is manual actuation necessary? Kitchen fires, especially grease fires, are unpredictable and can spread quickly. If a sprinkler system is present in your commercial kitchen but isn’t immediately activated, the nozzle system might not turn on until the fire has begun to spread beyond the cooking surface. To prevent this spread, a manual activation option enables an operator to turn on the suppression system, killing the flames quickly. It’s another level of protection that ensures you’re keeping your kitchen as safe as possible. 

When Does a Kitchen Need a Restaurant Fire Suppression System?

A restaurant fire suppression system is necessary for any type of commercial kitchen, from a traditional sit-down restaurant to a hospital kitchen, or even a seasonal kitchen at an event stadium. Kitchen fires are fast, and can easily burn out of control, which is why any commercial kitchen with a cooking surface should have a system in place to control and suppress the fire. 

How Do I Maintain My Kitchen’s Restaurant Fire Suppression System?

Like any fire suppression system, your kitchen’s system will require some regular maintenance. In general, you should have your restaurant fire suppression system inspected and serviced every six months, and any time you make a change to your cooking line. Check out our article Kitchen Hood Fire Suppression System Inspection: What to Expect, for more information on preparing for those regular inspections and service calls. 

It’s also important to clean your kitchen hood regularly, to ensure your restaurant fire suppression system is able to perform as it is intended. 

How often should I clean my kitchen hood?

Your kitchen is a hot, humid place, full of all kinds of cooking oils and grease. Your kitchen hood works every day to pull out dirty, smoky air from your kitchen. As it does this, grease and oils collect in the hood, which can cause a fire hazard in its own right if you’re not regularly cleaning it. 

We mentioned earlier that one of the key components of a restaurant fire suppression system is its ability to shut off the gas that’s fueling a kitchen fire. If your kitchen hood isn’t regularly cleaned, it’s a significant source of grease and oil that can contribute to the spread of a kitchen fire. Even if your system shuts off the gas, all of that grease and oil that’s built up on your kitchen hood can add more fuel to a kitchen fire, which can have devastating results. 

To ensure your kitchen is as safe as possible from fire hazards, it’s important to keep your kitchen hood on a regular cleaning schedule. Here are a few guidelines to help you determine how often to clean that kitchen hood: 

  • Monthly — For 24-hour restaurants, fast-food establishments, and kitchens with wood or charcoal-burning stoves. 
  • Quarterly — for high to average volumes and kitchens on 24-hour schedules. 
  • Semi-Annually — for pizza restaurants, sit-down restaurants, and kitchens with an average volume
  • Annually — for kitchens hoods over non-grease appliances, for kitchens that produce low volumes of food, and for kitchens that operate only occasionally or seasonally.

Whether you’re looking for a new restaurant fire suppression system, or you’re just looking for help finding someone to service your system or clean your kitchen hood, the Vanguard Fire & Security team is here to help. We can help design and install the ideal restaurant fire suppression system for your commercial kitchen, and we provide professional inspection and maintenance services as well. For more information, give us a call at 800-444-8719 or contact us online today.

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