The nitty gritty of periodic testing.


Six year recharge

Most businesses are familiar with the requirement of periodic inspections. The end result is a current tag on your system, extinguisher, alarm panel or sprinkler riser. As a fire protection company, our primary job is to act as the middle man between the business owner and the Authority Having Jurisdiction(AHJ). Their job is to make sure your tags are up to date, our job is to make sure your equipment meets the requirements for that current tag. Ultimately we work for and with the business owner to help mitigate issues that my arise with the AHJ. I often hear”but the fire department said it was good”. My job is to make sure they can say that honestly next time as well.

All cylinders in my industry require periodic testing and recharging. The testing intervals are mandated by NFPA, DOT, manufacturers and the local AHJ. Whether it is an internal inspection, recharging, or hydrostatic testing, it is all required to be done.  The intervals differ depending on chemical used, type of cylinder, application and many other factors. This is often the opportunity for manufacturers to implement recalls and fixes. It is also often times used as the “drop dead” date on obsolete equipment; most famously the switching of the steel Ansul system red tanks to stainless steel.

As a technician, it is my chance to see that everything is working as it should. Over the years I’ve found debris in cylinders, tools, dysfunctional gauges, corrosion, incorrect chemicals and much more during this testing. Most things can be easily fixed, but sometimes cylinders need to be removed from service and replaced.

Ultimately all testing requirements exist for a reason. Most code changes are due to a failure or an improvement in the industry. A good technician will keep you apprised of changes in code and testing dates that will have a financial impact on your business. All of these dates are listed in the code they got their license based on and aren’t a mystery. If this communication isn’t happening, the technician working for you is likely only interested in your wallet and not your well being.

System hydro code




Fire system overview. The myth of the grandfather clause.

Restaurant fire systems is a big subject, with a relatively short history. It is where I am rooted, and the basis for what I do, and what I’ve done. When I first started doing this in the 90’s there were still dry chemical systems in service. The manufacturers were moving towards wet chemical, but the UL 300 testing standard was barely a thing and had not become a mandatory requirement. For perspective, NFPA 96 was when UL300 was introduced, and I started in the industry in 1997. It wasn’t until much later, the early 2000’s that they started instituting drop dead dates for kitchen fire systems in Utah, effectively killing any grandfather clauses.

So what changed and why the new code? Kitchen systems work through the process of saponification. Basically the fire suppression systems drop chemicals on to the cooking media, which is fat, and renders the fat into soap. The soap then suppresses the fire.  The restaurant industry moved away from rendered lard, and towards vegetable oils in their cooking processes. The difference is the flash point of animal oils is 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit.  Vegetable oils at 685 degrees plus. The UL300 wet chemical added a cooling element. The old dry chem systems were dumping and the fryers were reigniting. Systems are a one shot wonder and buildings were burning down due to re-ignition. There are no UL-300 listed dry chemical suppression systems. Contrary to popular belief, there are no grandfathered fire systems that meet code.  Saying a system is grandfathered does not change the nature of fire, isn’t worth the lives of your employees, and definitely not worth my livelihood or freedom.

How do they work? All restaurant systems are equipped with two methods of actuation. They have a manual release(pull station) and automatic detection in the form of a heat detector or fusible link.  At the time either of these devices are activated a few things happen.

The biggest thing that happens is the chemical is released onto the cooking media. This is a mess, but not like the dry chem, sodium bicarbonate days. The wet chemical, potassium carbonate, is very focused and only dumps on the cooking appliances and near vicinity. The dry chem of yore used to go everywhere.  The whole restaurant wound up in a cloud.

All sources of fuel are eliminated. Whether cooking with gas or electricity, the system shuts it down.

Building alarms are triggered.  That is right.  Not just the kitchen but the entire building.  Gotta get folks out of there.

Unlike the dry systems, generally the fans stay on. The idea is to suck the chemical up the duct to put out the fire.  On the old dry chem systems they didn’t want the chemical sucked out.

Make up air is up for debate locally.  Some AHJ’s want it on some want it off.  As always, the locals hold the final say regardless of the way the code is written.

There are many other options like gas reset relays, but this is the most basic of overviews.

There is nothing fun about a system discharge, but they do happen and are required for the saving of lives and property. I’ll get into system dump stories in future posts.