A new standard for foodservice fire safety

EN 17446 standard raises the bar for testing and certification of commercial kitchen fire suppression systems

In commercial kitchens, 16% of fires start between midnight and 6:00 a.m., which accounts for 25% of the entire day and a time when kitchens are often left unattended. These fires are typically caused by appliances that are not completely turned off.[1] Whether life, property or business continuity, the resulting loss can be devastating.

Preventing this scenario requires an automatic fire suppression system that can be trusted to operate as expected, even in unattended kitchens. To ensure proper functionality, it’s critical to protect people and property with an automatic fire suppression system that is extensively tested and approved by an independent, third-party approval body. This type of testing can help ensure the system operates reliably if and when it is needed.

Because of this, it is critical for business owners, kitchen designers, fire officers and insurance providers to specify and select a suppression system that has been fully tested to European Standards. The challenge is, even though UL 300 has existed for several decades, there has been no broadly established European testing process that fire protection system manufacturers needed to follow – until recently.

Originally published in 2017, the European Standard EN 16282-7 for commercial kitchen fire protection requires suppression systems to be properly tested, but it does not outline specific criteria of the testing process. While this ensures the installation is compliant, it doesn’t ensure the system layout hardware itself has been tested following the same requirements.

To address this need for a testing standard, EN 17446 was published in 2021. This standard provides a set of requirements for testing automatic fire suppression systems in 34 European countries. EN 17446 is now the most comprehensive European standard for fire suppression systems in commercial kitchens, covering system design, documentation and testing requirements.

Although it was introduced in 2021, EN 17446 adoption has so far been relatively low. This is often the case when a new standard is introduced, due in part to the complexity of the process and general lack of awareness. Even so, it is important for restaurant and commercial foodservice business owners, kitchen designers, fire officers and insurance providers to fully understand what EN 17446 is and how it helps ensure safe, profitable kitchen operations.

Understanding EN 17446

The first common testing standard of its kind across Europe for the testing of commercial kitchen fire suppression, EN 17446 covers cooking appliances, plenum and air extract ducts. Many of its requirements are similar to those of UL 300. However, EN 17446 goes beyond what would be seen in a commercial kitchen under normal circumstances. For example, EN 17446 has strict requirements, like allowing a free burn to happen for up to two minutes before suppression can begin, and ensuring sufficient post-fire wait time (up to 20 minutes) where no reignition is allowed.

Meeting EN 17446 is a necessary but rigorous and time-consuming process. It also requires third-party witnessed testing and validation to prove compliance. In addition, EN 17446 requires testing on all types of appliances, not just deep-fat fryers. This is important because, in many previous cases, manufacturers would only test the fryer, which is critical but only represents one type of hazard.

The certification must include a list of the specific appliances that were tested. Under EN 17446, manufacturers must perform testing for each appliance that their system is intended to protect. These individual appliances could include:

  • Range top – pan fire test
  • Range top – pot fire test
  • Griddle fire test
  • Gas-radiant char broiler fire test
  • Fryer fire test

Other requirements manufacturers must meet include factory audits and detailed reviews of manufacturing drawings and quality procedures. Testing and third-party verification are necessary for compliance, along with the need to provide each tested design in a certified manual. Testing should be conducted by an independent testing laboratory accredited to EN ISO/IEC 17025. Once properly and fully tested to the EN 17446 standard, the third-party institute provides certification to make it easier for buyers to identify which system has been properly tested.

Buyers can also review an automatic fire suppression system’s manual for visibility into whether the system has been tested and can also find information about its certified layouts. Even if compliance is claimed, this proof should always be provided. If the manual does not provide that information, buyers should request supporting documentation to ensure that the system has been tested and certified by an accredited third party.

Enhancing value with rigorous testing

The EN 17446 standard helps ensure an automatic fire suppression system will consistently perform. From a risk analysis standpoint, numerous stakeholders benefit from systems that meet these standards. For example, a designer who understands which systems are compliant can help inform end users about which system should be specified for the kitchen. Certified testing also helps fire safety professionals, insurers and even business owners understand the risks and opportunities a particular system offers.

Testing offers another important benefit: it helps fire suppression system manufacturers find efficiencies in their products, which can then be passed along to end users. For instance, testing determines the optimum quantity of agent used on certain appliances while still providing effective protection. This allows designers to consider overlapping, area-based protection or appliance-dedicated protection. This alternative to providing protection for specific appliances provides an overlapping approach that protects areas more broadly while providing the versatility to move or replace appliances.

Designers can also leverage different tested layouts and select the most suitable solution for their installation. By adjusting nozzle height or location, a designer can get the widest array possible to optimize ease of installation and nozzle placement.

One leading fire suppression system, ANSUL® R-102, has performed over 150 tests for initial EN 17446 approval. The evaluation included multiple appliances, with each test following EN 17446 protocol step by step.

Building safer commercial kitchens

All stakeholders should ask for a system that is EN 17446 certified by an accredited third party and ask for evidence of that certification, including confirmation that the test body is accredited to EN ISO/IEC 17025.

Decision makers who select a system that’s been tested and proven can have greater confidence that, in the event of a fire, it will perform as expected. When selecting an automatic fire suppression system, be sure to partner with a third party-accredited fire suppression manufacturer. Also look for service companies that are fully authorized and carry valid, up-to-date certification to ensure they remain aware of any change in guidelines or design changes, understand the equipment being protected and have knowledge of the requirements for new standards, such as EN 17446 and EN 16282-7.

By choosing a fire suppression system that complies with the new standard, business owners, designers, fire safety professionals and other stakeholders can better protect people, assets and revenue.

Further details

To see videos of a fire suppression system being tested to EN 17446 standards on numerous grease-vapor-producing appliances, click here.

[1] https://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/reports/where-fires-occur/snapshot-restaurant.html#