UL 300 - What does this mean?
Cooking operations are what makes any restaurant or food service operation successful. If the cooking process involves the creation of grease laden vapors, a hood with grease extraction and a fire suppression system is required. These requirements have been in place for more than 40 years. In 1989 the standards for the fire suppression systems changed and the new standard for cooking protection was UL 300. We see recommendations from insurance carriers to restaurants and food service facilities to make this upgrade. We want to provide some background on why this is necessary upgrade.
Why did the standard change?
The changes in cooking materials, specifically the shift to vegetable oils meant that grease fires burned at a higher temperature. Many older dry chemical systems relied on a chemical reaction with animal fats that converted the fat to a soap type solution. This did not happen with vegetable oils, so fires were not being controlled.
Changes in cooking equipment, making the equipment more energy efficient caused a difference in fire behavior. Keeping the oils and metal cooking surfaces hotter for a longer time made the fires more difficult to control. Dry chemical systems did not cool the surface or the fuel effectively.
A trend in uncontrolled restaurant fires was observed. In 1989 UL addressed these uncontrolled fires by publishing the UL 300 standard. This standard was then adopted by reference into NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations. The International Fire Coded (IFC) also adopted UL 300 by reference. Wet chemical suppression systems became the rule. Dry chemical systems were considered obsolete.
Did fire codes require upgrades?
Each state has adopted a different approach to this question.
In Ohio and Indiana — the system must be upgraded if it can no longer be serviced or there are changes in the system fuel, cooking equipment or layout that require extinguishing system changes. If you have an existing system, make no changes, and can find a service firm to maintain the system, it does not have to be upgraded. This left obsolete dry chemical systems in service.
Kentucky — has left the question up to local code enforcement agencies. The application of the code has been inconsistent.
A challenge for code enforcers is that there were wet chemical systems in place before UL 300 was adopted. These systems can be upgraded with additional agent and changes in nozzles, and after retrofit they can be UL 300 compliant. Identifying non compliant wet chemical systems has caused some enforcement confusion.
The insurance company response
Most insurance companies have an underwriting requirement that cooking is protected by UL 300 systems. This has been the most consistent driver in requiring the upgrades. Non-compliant systems are generally either require upgrading or have their insurance placed in high risk and higher cost programs.
As fire losses occurred in facilities with non-compliant protection systems, there was a tightening f insurance for the service firms. Many service firms discontinued servicing systems that did not meet NFPA 300 for their own risk management decisions.
The Driehaus Difference
We understand the history and necessity of this fire protection system requirement. We can help you evaluate your system for compliance and assist you with any needed upgrades. If you have risk control recommendations from your insurer, we can help you investigate and respond to those recommendations. Call us at 513-977-6860 or contact us on via our website www.driehausins.com