Restaurants and hotels are dotted with fire hazards at every nook and cranny. From huge parking lots to open flames, cooking oils, electrical connections, and paper products in the same vicinity, one tiny spark has the potential to spiral out of control and claim lives as well as cause collateral damage.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, over 8000 eateries report a fire annually in the US alone. In spite of the US being a first world nation with stringent safety rules and regulations, fires in restaurants and bars still account for an average of $246 million in damages. Moreover, 57% of fires in restaurant kitchens are traced back to electric malfunctions in cooking equipment, so human error is not the only cause of fires which is the scary part. Even if the staff of the establishment has a perfect track record, there is still scope for a fire caused by errors in machinery. In December 2017, a horrific fire in a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai claimed 14 lives.The fire prompted DNA India to conduct a survey on the preparedness of restaurants to deal with fires. The results were that over 90% of restaurants in Mumbai don’t comply with the fire safety norms! This raises the question, are patrons really safe in restaurants and hotels? While we don’t have the answer to this question, we do have the solutions to make restaurants and hotels safer in terms of detecting, eliminating and suppressing fire hazards.
So how does one prepare for the worst? There are various steps that restaurants and hotels can take for ensuring the safety of their patrons, here are a few:
Depending on your needs, there are a variety of gas detectors available in the market which are designed to cater to different purposes. For restaurant and hotel kitchens, a gas leak detector to detect LPG, PNG, and CNG leaks in commercial establishments is an absolute must. This is the most common type of fire in large kitchens that can do immense damage, but detecting the gas in time can save a lot of trouble. For the cold storage, you need a refrigerant gas leak detector which will sound of an alarm in case of a gas leak. For hotels and larger restaurants, the parking lots always have higher carbon monoxide levels by default, being a closed space with numerous cars that give out emissions. A carbon monoxide gas leak detector is a must for car parking lots. For hotels, there is always a risk of a hydrogen gas leak in the battery rooms, so one must have a detector for hydrogen installed in every battery room. By default, look for systems which are dust and splash proof, since they will be exposed to a lot of both in a kitchen. Also look for systems with the lowest possible response time. You should look for systems with a response time of 1-2 seconds, which means that they should be able to detect a gas leak before it is anywhere close to being a threat, giving the residents ample of time to evacuate the premises and call for help.
Smoke/Fire Alarm Systems
This is an emergency measure for fire detection and should be stationed in every room of a hotel or restaurant. You never know what can set off a fire, from cigarettes to electrical malfunctions and accidental fires, a smoke detection system will help the establishment to nip the problem in the bud. Automated systems are more desirable since they will automatically sound off in the entire establishment if necessary, some can also set off sprinklers indoors as well as outdoors.
Door Release Systems
To make sure that no one is injured, quick evacuation is a must. However, in large hotels, many doors are often pressure sealed, and when people begin to panic, they will try existing from every location possible. To ensure proper evacuation, an active fire protection system must include door release systems which will de-energise the magnetic hold on the fire doors, and will also open servo-actuated vents in stairways. This ensures smooth and panic-free evacuation.
The role of fire suppressants in an active fire protection system is to extinguish the fire. This is done manually by means the brave firefighters or it’s an automated process. Ideally, there should be a combination of both, because fire suppressants play an important role in containing fires and preventing them from spreading until assistance reaches you. There are many methods of fire suppression, manual ones include fire extinguishers and standpipe systems, automated suppression systems include sprinkler systems, the automatic release of fire retardant gases, introducing a foam which fights fires. Commercial kitchens must always have automated systems because the chances of the fire spiraling out of control are much higher.
These systems should be installed indoors as well as outdoors. The indoor ones usually encompass ceiling level sprinklers that are triggered by heat, so they have their own detection methods which release water from the sprinkler when activated. The purpose of these systems is not necessarily to put out the fire completely, but rather to contain it and prevent it from spreading. A good sprinkler system will also help in minimising collateral damage.
Oxygen Reduction Systems
Also known as hypoxic air fire prevention systems, these nifty devices contain fires and prevent them from spreading by reducing the oxygen concentration so that the ignition process of the fire is curbed. Hypoxic air systems can be automated to be released in time to even prevent a fire.
In conclusion, we firmly believe that having active fire protection solutions in place is essential and imperative for the safety of everyone. It is important for restaurants and hotels to source all their equipment from verified and reputed manufacturers, and establish annual maintenance contracts with them so that the equipment are serviced and maintained from time to time. It’s also important to make sure that all the systems are up and running like they’re supposed to so that there is no risk of malfunctions. Training for staff members should be a given. Performing and conducting fire safety drills from time to time goes a long way, in case of an actual accident, order, and logic prevail over panic so that the crisis may be averted intelligently.
Nitin Joshi (MD)
Vighnaharta Technologies Pvt. Ltd.