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Fire prevention

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

Fire suppression systems, which put out pan fires before they’ve even had a chance to get started, can prevent the risk of injury, business interruption and property damage, as Chris Prideaux, head of sales for Ansul Restaurant Systems, Europe and Africa, explains

How common are fish and chip shop fires in comparison to other sectors of the market?

Ansul is the leader in restaurant fire suppression system technology globally. We developed the first system over 50 years ago yet to gather any statistics outside of the United States is extremely difficult for any commercial sector, let alone the fish and chip sector. Generally you tend to hear of incidences either when it is reported in the national/local news or via social media. We receive alerts every week of oil related fires in fish and chip shops, they are that common, which invariably occur inside the cooking/frying range.

What tends to be the main cause of chip pan fires?

The main cause tends to be either through faulty safety switches/thermostats or during the “melting process”, when oil is poured into the frying pans at the beginning of the shift and heated up. If the oil is below the level of the pan’s thermostat, a false reading can occur, allowing the oil temperature to increase to a point when the hot oil vapour ignites. This often occurs when the frier is going about their everyday duties, leaving the range unattended. It is then that you have a major incident on your hands.

What affect can a fire have on a shop?

Depending on the extent of the fire, a shop can be closed for days, weeks or even months if they have to wait for the insurer to pay out, resulting in thousands of pounds in lost revenue. Previous experience shows that some insurers and their appointed loss adjusters will try to find any reason not to pay the claims using clauses in their insurance policy entirely inappropriate to the fish and chip shop industry. One such example being, “No-one was in attendance of the frying range at the time when the fire broke out”. The reality is that in many cases friers were doing their morning prep, no more than a few feet from the frying range when the fire occurred, but in the opinion of the insurer they were not “in attendance”. Consideration should also be given to the possibility of damage to neighbouring properties and the consequential loss of business when entire roads are cordoned off whilst the fire brigade are attending the incident.

There’s a quote from the insurance industry that I use on a regular basis and that’s that 80% of all businesses that are affected by a fire either never re-open or close within 18 months.

What duties does a fish and chip shop owner have when it comes to fire safety?

All fish and chip shop owners need to comply with Fire Safety in the Work Place, which involves having an appointed person who needs to carry out a fire risk assessment, informing and training the staff of the risks identified, putting in appropriate fire safety measures, having a plan for any emergencies and providing fire safety training. It’s a responsible job and many shops overlook it. They probably have a fire blanket, they will probably have a fire extinguisher, but do they really know how to operate these things?

Are fire extinguishers and blankets not an effective method of protection?

People don’t appreciate until it happens how quickly a fire can spread. Would you want to hang around and put a blanket over a raging fire? You’ve got to have access to the fire blanket, you’ve got to know exactly how to apply it and you’ve got to act quickly. Your best bet is to call 999 and get your staff and yourself out into a safe area. It’s arguable if fire blankets actually work and, in fact, they have been outlawed in Germany. Fire extinguishers are really only a secondary method of protecting a shop, the first is having a fully tested and approved fire suppression system.

How common is it for fish and chip shops to have a fire suppression system?

At this moment in time it is very rare to see a fire suppression system fitted inside a fish and chip range, due mainly to this particular industry sector being unaware of the dangers of cooking oil related fires.

How does your fire suppression system work?

It’s called an Ansul R102 system and it’s fitted inside the range, with discharge nozzles covering each fry pan and the extract ventilation system. The basic system consists of an Automan regulated release assembly, which includes a regulated release mechanism and a wet chemical storage tank housed within a single enclosure either inside or adjacent to the range. The detection portion of the fire suppression system allows for automatic detection by means of specific temperature-rated alloy type fusible links, which separate when the temperature exceeds the rating of the link, allowing a regulated release to actuate, discharging a wet chemical over the hot or burning oil. The system is capable of automatic detection and actuation as well as remote manual actuation. Additional equipment is available for fire alarm panel connections, electrical shutdown and/or interface, and mechanical or electrical gas line shut-off applications.

What about range fires that don’t occur in the pan, will the system kick in then?

Yes, sometimes fires can emanate from the extract ventilation system, which is behind the pans, and once the fire gets into that area that’s when you really do have a serious fire. You certainly won’t reach that with a fire extinguisher, it really is too late, and your only concern then is to safely evacuate the building and call the fire brigade. The Ansul R102 system has a manual pull station that is always sited near the exit point and it is this that you activate when leaving the building.

What happens after the system has activated?

Our priority is to have the shop back up and running as quickly as possible, usually within three to four hours. All that is required is to wipe down the stainless steel surfaces (the wet chemical discharged is non-hazardous and non-corrosive so doesn’t impact on the range or neighbouring appliances), change the oil and re-arm the fire suppression system. We have a nationwide network of fully authorised Ansul distributors on-hand 24 hours a day.  Understanding the root cause of what caused the fire and the corrective measures needed may add additional time to reopen.

Does the suppression system require regular maintenance?

Yes, at a minimum, semi-annual maintenance is required on the system, which comprises of a thorough inspection and functional test.

Does the system have to be retrofitted or can it be specified at the time of purchasing a range?

Ideally systems would be installed at the time of purchasing, inside the range manufacturer’s premises, however, more often than not they are retrofitted in the shop late at night or first thing in the morning when the range is not in use and not hot.

How much does the Ansul fire suppression system cost?

The system costs £3,500 regardless of the number of pans on a range, but if a shop ties in with Ryan’s Insurance, which offers a policy specifically for the fish and chip shop industry called Wrapped, they receive a 25% discount on the installation. Alternatively, a shop that already has an Ansul fire suppression system in place will get a discount on their insurance premium with Wrapped.

Can the system be leased?

Yes, for the small high street guys where the pound is king, we appreciate that they’ve got to sell a lot of chips to cover the cost so we’ve introduced a lease opportunity, giving shops the opportunity to spread the cost over three or five years, which makes it very reasonable.

Why isn’t it a legal requirement for shops to have a fire suppression system in place?

A fish and chip shop can be identified as being a significant fire risk in any risk assessment that is conducted. Although currently there is no legal requirement to have fire suppression systems installed in either these shops or any commercial kitchen in the UK, business owners can be prosecuted if they fail to follow UK Fire Safety Regulations, which specify owners must implement and maintain appropriate fire safety measures.

Ansul Restaurant Systems 03452 160 300

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