It's been almost 30 years since UL 300 redefined the rules for commercial kitchens to account for modern cooking techniques. But despite the advancements in fire protection technology required by the UL 300 standards, many restaurants have yet to fully protect their business by upgrading to a modern suppression system.
Here's what you need to know about UL 300, and why it matters more than ever for protecting your restaurant.
What is UL 300?
In 1994, Underwriters Laboratories released "Fire Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Restaurant Cooking Areas;" also known as UL 300. The standard outlines specific guidelines that fire protection equipment manufacturers must meet in order for systems to receive a UL 300 label. Each manufacturer must submit their system to Underwriters Laboratories for testing which includes real world fire testing on actual commercial cooking equipment used in today’s restaurants.
Systems that meet the UL 300 standard are significantly more effective at controlling kitchen fires than systems designed to meet previous standards.
Standards written by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and adopted by most states as a part of their fire code, require all kitchen systems to be UL 300-compliant. Additionally, most insurance companies also require compliance with this standard as a prerequisite to coverage.
Why does UL 300 matter for your restaurant?
Theoretically, the only reason your commercial kitchen would not already have a UL 300-compliant fire suppression system is if you haven’t moved or upgraded your cooking equipment since the standard was created in the early 90s.
Unfortunately, the adoption of these standards has been inconsistent, and there are many restaurants that still haven't taken steps toward becoming complaint.
Here’s why it's imperative that you make sure your suppression system meets these standards.
The fire hazards in your kitchen today are different than they were twenty years ago. Before UL 300, most commercial cooking involved animal fat. Deep fryers were poorly insulated which made cooking temperatures inconsistent. The extinguishing systems which protected those kitchens used a dry chemical that provides little or no cooling.
Today, deep fryers have excellent heat retention and are well insulated. Restaurants today also typically use vegetable oils for cooking, not animal fats. But that means that dry chemical and older wet chemical systems are no longer capable of extinguishing and/or sustaining that extinguishment. The lack of cooling associated with dry chemical and the lesser amounts of wet chemical use in non-UL 300 systems were found to lead to a high occurrence of extinguishment failure or re-ignition, sometime resulting in catastrophic losses.
So, unless you have a UL 300-compliant suppression system, chances are that your restaurant is not as protected as you may think it is. The cooking equipment and methods we use today simply make non-UL 300 suppression systems obsolete.
What are the requirements for a UL 300 system?
Fire suppression systems that are UL 300-compliant must use a wet chemical agent. Wet chemicals smother (suppress flammable vapors) the fire, but they also cool the source so it can’t reignite. Keep in mind that although a system may be labeled as “wet chemical,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it is UL 300-compliant.
In addition to using a wet chemical agent, UL 300 systems must also include:
- Nozzles located in the hood and duct
- Nozzles located over each grease generating cooking appliance
- A manual pull station
- An automatic fire detection system
- Automatic fuel shut-offs for gas and electric
- Hood and duct maintenance and cleaning semi-annually by an authorized licensed service company
- Wet chemical system serviced semi-annually by an authorized licensed service company
Having UL 300-compliant fire suppression systems is more than simply a requirement for your restaurant. It’s a critical step in protecting your employees, your customers, and your livelihood.