This guide is intended for those looking at opening a new restaurant and the fire protection issues and options that you will come across.
- Before you even open the door
- How to stay fire-protection legal moving forward
- What will happen during a restaurant fire suppression inspection?
- How do you choose the right fire protection company?
- Where is restaurant fire suppression heading in the future
It all starts with an idea. For example, you decide you would like to sell Italian food in Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque is growing in population – and you love Italian food!
First Things First
The very first step is to hire an engineer or architect to help you develop the blueprints for your new business.
The architect can perform a site investigation to check the soil is ok and that you have no ecological issues, and develop the general structure of the building, including:
- Plumbing and Fire Protection
They will then submit their findings to the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) which could be an independent person and will depend on your location. For example, you may have your plans submitted to the county if you are building in a small town with no building department. Failing this, your review is conducted by the state of New Mexico.
The architect will also determine:
- Whether you need a sprinkler system
- How many fire extinguishers you will need?
They will also advise on your option regarding the brand of fire suppression system you want to use, which may include:
- Range Guard
The AHJ require a licensed fire protection company to submit the drawings of your entire fire suppression system, including fire alarms, fire sprinklers and hood suppression system among others.
How much will a restaurant fire suppression system cost?
The cost is approximately $3500, made up as follows:
- The complete hood suppression system
- Hand Portables
- Installation of the hood suppression system
- The acceptance tests
Permits are extremely variable in price. For example, a fire permit in Albuquerque will be in the vicinity of $25, however the same permit could be quite different in various New Mexico cities and counties.
Not all fire protection companies include tax when they quote and with a difference of up to 8%, it’s very wise to remember there could be quite a difference. Make sure you know whether your quote is inclusive or exclusive of tax.
They also may not include the costs of the acceptance test in their quote, so make sure you know what the test costs and whether your chosen fire protection company includes it or not.
Before you open your doors, the acceptance test is the last task you’ll need to complete. This is because you need to have everything up and running before you can pass the acceptance test. You need to be aware that some contractors may try and speed up the process of passing the fire systems acceptance test for various reasons.
NFPA 96 says your kitchen hood must be inspected every 6 months by a licensed fire protection company. Why is this?
One of the most insidious risks of fire comes from grease build-up. If your fusible links that accept the heat and activate the fire suppression system are caked up with grease, they won’t work. So, it’s imperative to keep up to date with your 6 monthly checks by a professional so you know your fire suppression system will work when needed.
What happens during a restaurant fire suppression inspection?
- Nozzles are inspected for build-up of the extinguishing
- Replacement of nozzle caps
- The extinguishing lines will have air run through them to ensure there are no blockages.
The air test is a newly-acceptable test when – prior to this becoming the case – fire marshals required a full dump test.” This meant that you had to run the extinguishing agent through the pipes.
Obviously, this wasn’t a good idea as running liquid through black iron will inevitably result in rust build-up. Eventually, the resultant rust would form a blockage in the pipes.
- The inspector will ensure the pull station activates the fire suppression system and make sure the fans are running correctly.
- See if your system still activates by cutting the fusible links (simulating the melting of the metal due to excessive heat.)
The raise in temperature caused by grease on a fusible link is quite substantial. A fusible link that is set to fuse at 450 degrees could fuse at 500 degrees if subjected to grease build-up. This causes the fire to last longer and spread further.
To take this to the ultimate degree, if the grease build-up is substantial, the links will not allow the metal to “fuse”, and this would stop the fire suppression process completely.
- Install new links and date stamp them so you have proof for the fire marshal upon inspection.
- Install new links…with the date stamped on them (for proof when the fire marshal inspects)
- Check that the gas and electrics shuts off upon activation of the fire suppression system
Originally – back in the 80’s – it was recommended that you use a K-guard fire extinguisher before the fire suppression system is activated. They reasoned that it was an easier clean-up if you just used the fire extinguisher because dry chemical systems made such a mess.
This is not the case now though, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s now recommended that the #1 option is to let the fire suppression system do what it’s meant to do. Then, if necessary, the K-guard was the next step.
Why? If you hit an open wire with a liquid, the electricity will travel through the liquid through the extinguisher, and shock whoever is holding the fire extinguisher.
What happens if you refuse an inspection?
If a fire marshal has not conducted an inspection within 6 months of the previous inspection, you’ll be given a deadline to have one completed. Missing the deadline would mean regular visits from the fire marshal, with the end result of having to pay fines. Even worse, you could be forced to shut down your restaurant.
Does insurance play a role in not keeping up with fire inspections?
It sure does, but there are two sides to the story.
Scenario #1 – It’s in the best interests of your property insurance provider to care about fire safety. Some providers may even ask that you provide receipts for inspections and hood cleaning. Seeing as prevention is better than cure, they want to be assured that your building is protected as much as possible.
Scenario #2 – This is where your property insurance provider isn’t interested in fire safety. While in most cases the probably do, they may not make it a priority. Scenario #2 insurance providers will turn a blind eye to the lack of fire safety maintenance because for your policy to be valid, this is a requirement. So, once you miss a 6-monthly inspection, the insurance provider is no longer liable in the event of fire.
It’s always best to err on the side of safety and keep up to date with hood cleaning and fire protection inspections. With your number one priority being making great food for satisfied customers, you don’t want the added stress of wondering if your restaurant is safe, and that you’ve taken all measures possible to ensure that safety. Plus, I doubt you would want the fire marshal hanging around anymore than necessary!