A RECENT NFPA 101®, LIFE SAFETY CODE®, committee meeting for health care occupancies included a discussion about when cooking operations should be required to be protected. The conversation was triggered by a proposal for the 2015 edition of the code that would allow portable cooking devices in certain areas in nursing homes.
In a larger sense, the discussion was a continuation of the many changes made to the 2012 Life Safety Code that allow health care occupancies, particularly nursing homes, to become more residential, or homelike, for residents. The changes included allowing limited items in corridors, allowing residential or commercial cooking for 30 or fewer persons to be open to the corridor, and other major amendments. The new proposed changes include allowing devices such as microwave ovens, hot plates, and electric skillets for reheating and limited cooking.
Subsection 9.2.3 of the Life Safety Code covers commercial cooking equipment and references NFPA 96, Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Equipment. It is important to note that both documents use the term “commercial cooking equipment.”
The scope of NFPA 96 states that it applies to both public and private cooking operations, including residential cooking equipment used for commercial purposes, though it does not apply to cooking equipment located in a single dwelling unit. The scope also excludes cooking where only residential equipment is used, a fire extinguisher is located in the kitchen, the facility is not an assembly occupancy, and the authority having jurisdiction has approved the installation. An annex note to the scope further states that the judgment should include consideration of the items being cooked, the type of cooking — for example, deep fat frying versus oven baking — and frequency of cooking.
The annex also states that this standard applies to “… all other auxiliary or ancillary components or systems that are involved in the capture, containment, and control of grease-laden cooking effluent” and includes examples of operations that may not require compliance with NFPA 96, such as day care centers that warm bottles and lunches, therapy cooking in health care occupancies, and others.
The Life Safety Code also allows limited cooking in certain occupancies. Typically, the limitations are that the equipment be a residential type and that it only be used for food warming or limited cooking. Such provisions are found in Chapters 15 and 16 for new and existing day care facilities, and Chapters 20 and 21 for new and existing ambulatory health care. For other occupancies, the code includes provisions permitting cooking operations that are not protected in accordance with NFPA 96 where it is outdoor equipment, portable equipment that is not flue-connected, or equipment that is used only to warm food.
The bottom line is that not all cooking operations require protection in accordance with NFPA 96, which does not address cooking equipment but rather the quantity of grease-laden vapors produced and whether that quantity is sufficient to warrant protection. If the requirements of NFPA 96 do apply to cooking operations producing grease-laden effluent, then the Type I (liquid tight) hood and exhaust duct and the fixed extinguishing system are required. However, there are many cases where only food warming or limited cooking are done, and NFPA 96 requirements are not applicable.
For more information on proposed changes relating to expansion of portable cooking allowances in nursing homes in the 2015 edition of the Life Safety Code, visit the document information page at nfpa.org/101.
Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy.