Everything You Need To Know About UL 300

I hope you were able to ready the article “6 Tips to Improve Fire Safety and Reduce Cost”. The 6th tip was to upgrade your fire suppression system to the UL 300 Standard if you have not already. We will examine this topic in depth in this article.

Automatic fire suppression systems for restaurants were first introduced in the 1960s. These systems were charged with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). If you ever saw one of these systems discharge, they created quite a mess! The baking soda worked by reacting with the cooking oil to saponify (fancy word for creating soap). This “soap” served as a blanket that smothered the fire.

Eventually a superior agent come to the market in the 1980s which is still the agent used today. It is a potassium based liquid that works through saponification like baking soda, but also works by cooling the fire.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the cooking media and appliances began to change. Restaurants began substituting vegetable oils in place of lard. Cooking equipment insulation improved. The result was a much more dangerous fire that was capable of reigniting after the fire was initially extinguished. When an oil remains above its auto-ignition temperature and the “soap blanket” breaks down, the fire can re-ignite on its own!

A new standard in fire suppression was needed, and after extensive fire testing the UL 300 standard was developed in 1994. Testing revealed that more agent and higher flow rates were needed to extinguish many fires. In some circumstances 3-4 times the amount of agent was needed.

Fire codes adopted the UL 300 standard in 1998 requiring all new system installations to conform. For existing systems, fire code stated “When changes in the cooking media, positioning, or replacement of cooking equipment occur, the fire protection shall comply” with UL 300.

This all changed in 2014. On January 1st 2014, fire code (NFPA 96) required all systems to be upgraded.

With UL 300 incorporated into the code for over 20 years, and being a mandate under all circumstances in the last year and a half, one would think that every restaurant has upgraded to UL 300 by this point, but surprisingly this is not the case.

There are 2 primary authorities that enforce this requirement, one being fire departments and the other being insurance companies. Since the January 1st, 2014 we have seen stricter enforcement from both of these groups.

While I am not a restaurant insurance expert, I would encourage restaurant owners to check if their insurance company requires complying with the UL 300 standard. If the insurance policy requires this and you knowingly or unknowingly don’t comply, you could be putting yourself in a precarious situation if a fire loss were to occur.

Another reason to consult your insurance company is to inquire about potential premium savings if you conform to the UL 300 Standard.

Your fire protection company who performs your semi-annual inspections should be telling you if you comply or not. At Silco we document UL 300 conformance or non-conformance on every inspection report and also provide a handout that explains UL 300. We also provide free assessments and quotations for anyone wanting to have their system evaluated.

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