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Keeping Commercial Exhaust Fans Clean and Safe

The National Fire Protection Association issued a report a couple of years back saying that most fires in restaurants started in or on cooking appliances in the kitchen that wind up spreading into the kitchen exhaust system. From there, it�s only a matter of time before a small grease fire on a cooking surface can spread to other parts of the structure housing the restaurant.

One way to defend against such hazards is to perform regular maintenance on your restaurant�s kitchen exhaust system. Like any other system that removes hazardous vapors from a living or working area, materials can build up in filters or other working parts, making it harder to safely remove smoke, grease and other cooking odors.

And this isn�t just a matter of keeping the kitchen sparkling clean: In August 2007, two Boston firefighters were killed while battling a restaurant fire. Turns out that grease had accumulated in a false ceiling area of the one-story establishment. The cause of the fire and resulting tragedy, which also injured ten firefighters and a paramedic, was that the exhaust system had not been properly maintained or cleaned by a certified exhaust system cleaning outfit.

Here are a few items to consider when keeping your exhaust system safe:

Ensure that grease filters are installed properly, as they are often the first line of defense against a fire. Flames in restaurant kitchens, due to various culinary techniques, can sometimes rise to within inches of the grease filters. These items must be properly maintained and cleaned or be subject to a filter exchange program to prevent intermittent buildup.

In order to keep sparks from entering the ductwork of the range hood and exhaust system, filters must be installed at a 45-degree angle, with no gaps between or surrounding them. All filters must be a minimum of 18� above all cooking equipment.

Adequate exhaust fans are a must, as they remove three particularly troublesome gases: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

The plenum area above the filter system must be cleaned regularly. Failure to do so could result in a fire; in the case of a plenum with grease buildup, the fire suppression system might not work.

And be sure to allow for adequate access panels along the ductwork so that these areas can be properly maintained, as well.

These are just a few items to consider when installing and maintaining an exhaust system that keeps your restaurant operating well�and, in turn, keeping others who enter your establishment safe.

Questions about exhaust systems? Ask one of our safety experts today!

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