Whether adding a much-appreciated level of variety to your lunch break or providing good food for pub-goers or at festivals, food trucks have become almost ubiquitous overnight.
Growing astonishingly fast from one desperate attempt by an unemployed, California chef in 2008, to becoming a $2.7 billion industry by 2017, food trucks are here to stay.
But while they may present a “DIY entrepreneur” feel, their safety needs certainly are not “DIY.”
It requires little imagination to recognize that a kitchen stocked full with gas, oils, and heating implements, touted around inside a clunky gas-powered vehicle is a fire-hazard on wheels.
Which is why fire suppression systems are so important for these popular food carriers, and why many local and state governments are starting to crack down on them.
But protecting these food trucks is no easy feat.
The Unique Challenges Posed by Food Trucks
As friendly and fun as food trucks are, they deliver all of the same hazards of any commercial kitchen, plus additional unique risks, right to the upward reaching hands of their hungry customers.
Between their unique fire safety concerns, along with their distinctive space limitations and customized nature, food trucks pose a serious challenge for fire safety and suppression:
Unique Fire Hazards
With a food truck, you have the same combination of fire hazards as any restaurant kitchen – high efficiency appliances and temperatures combined with cooking oils and possible human error.
However, there are some added risk factors as a natural result of a mobile kitchen:
- Propane tanks, cooking sprays and oils, and those high efficiency appliances are all being rumbled around and jostled about by a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Even with sturdy, properly sealed containers, if things are not secured firmly within the truck, there could be a lot of sliding and falling during transit. Items could be damaged or seals compromised, resulting in leaks or other hazards, unbeknownst to the cooks — a possibility with explosive consequences.
- While in most restaurants, the kitchen is kept behind the scenes and away from guests, the food truck kitchen is right in the midst of the customers and passers-by. The potential immediate impact of a fire or explosion is therefore much greater.
- Finally, of course, is the added risk factor of the truck’s actual gasoline tank, adding literal fuel to any fire that gets out of hand.
Unique Space Restrictions
Further complicating the above concerns, both in terms of fire prevention and suppression, is the compact size of the food truck kitchen.
With such a small space, flammable and explosive items, such as LP gas tanks, cannot be kept at the typical safe distances that they would be in another setting – they will have to be in close and potentially dangerous proximity.
Additionally, the cramped conditions also make finding the best fire suppression equipment and installing it properly a challenge as well. Some of the more popular fire suppression brands do not offer systems small enough to service a food truck and alternatives must be found.
Every Food Truck is Different
A further challenge to handling fire safety concerns in food trucks is that no two are the same. Each one will be as different as the food being prepared in them. Furthermore, each truck will be operating in different locations with different local regulations. Thus, standardization is nearly impossible.
Lack of Regulations
A final issue complicating fire protection for food trucks and their patrons is the lack of laws or codes regulating them. However, especially as their popularity has taken off, so have the concerns of local governments.
While food-truck regulations may be lacking, most states require at least the same inspections and level of fire safety as they would of regular restaurants.
However, some cities are beginning to implement food truck-specific codes and requirements, and many are even requiring permits.
Fire safety is often a key concern for cities trying to determine if and how to regulate food trucks, such as in Chicago. For many areas, such as one city in Wisconsin, a fire inspection will be a requirement for all food trucks before they will be permitted to operate at all.
It does appear that the National Fire Protection Agency will be working toward further developing codes for food trucks specifically. They did in fact implement NFPA 1, Section 50.7 last fall, offering the first fire safety code specifically aimed at mobile and/or temporary kitchens. It impacts many aspects of installation and beyond, such as inspection, maintenance and testing, installation of containers, and the storage, use and transport of LP gases.
But all that to say, installing fire suppression systems in food trucks is not a standardized, one-size-fits-all ordeal.
Koorsen’s Role in Protecting Food Trucks with Fire Suppression Systems
So, how do you protect a food truck and its patrons from a cooking fire, and how do you effectively suppress one when it occurs?
One of the world’s largest manufacturers of food trucks, Custom Concessions, in partnership with Koorsen Fire & Security, has it pretty well figured out.
Custom Concessions, which rolls out approximately 70 trucks a year according to Plant Manager Robert Yoder, sends their food trucks all over the world, and no two are alike. Each truck requires about 10 weeks to build, and Robert estimates that 90% of the trucks require fire suppression systems, the other 10% being made for food vendors not using ovens or other fire-hazards.
From day one, Custom Concessions has gone above and beyond many other food truck manufacturers when it comes to fire safety.
Despite a lack of food-truck specific regulations, the company has relied on Koorsen to help ensure that all of their trucks still include the appropriate grade fire extinguishers as well as fire suppression systems for their unique mobile kitchen challenges.
Custom Concessions wants all of their trucks to satisfy the local authority having jurisdiction, fire codes and all health codes of the local and state governments that the trucks will be operating in. Thus, they require their clients to submit all of this information to them prior to getting started on their food truck.
While this means a lot of extra work, it secures optimum safety for each of their food trucks, and with the help of the experts at Koorsen, the task is easily and expertly accomplished.
So, what exactly does Koorsen do for Custom Concessions? Here is a quick look:
- Performs installs on ALL of Custom Concession trucks: for every single food truck that Custom Concessions manufactures which requires a fire suppression system, they look to Koorsen to perform the installs.
Even though Custom Concessions requires a brand that is less common among Koorsen customers, due to the small size of their kitchens, Koorsen is able to supply and expertly install these systems.
Since Custom Concessions is the largest producer of food trucks in the nation, odds are you have seen or even purchased food from a truck protected by Koorsen.
- Apply the appropriate local, state, and national fire safety and health codes: for each of their trucks, a fire suppression system must be supplied that satisfies the fire and health codes of the territory that the truck will be operating in. Koorsen’s techs are highly trained and experienced in knowing and applying these codes, and are mindful to know where each truck is destined so they can design and install the fire suppression systems accordingly.
- Adhere to developing NFPA codes: as the NFPA begins developing relevant codes specific to food trucks, Koorsen stays up to date and performs their installs for Custom Concessions accordingly.
When it comes to the fire suppression piece of their food trucks, Custom Concessions places their full confidence in Koorsen Fire & Security to ensure their trucks more than satisfy safety requirements.
Why Custom Concessions Relies on Koorsen
When asked how Custom Concessions came to choose Koorsen to provide the fire protection on their food trucks, the plant manager, Robert, replied that his own personal history as a Koorsen tech made it an easy decision.
Having once been a Koorsen tech himself, Robert knows the in-depth training that Koorsen employees receive and knew that any Koorsen techs doing an install on his food trucks wouldn’t be operating, “by the seat of his pants. They know what they’re doing, they’re educated and do everything by the book.”
Even though Robert had left Koorsen to take the position as plant manager for Custom Concessions, he insisted on using them for their food trucks’ fire protection needs. He “just loved everything about Koorsen. They take time to train, and their employees are very knowledgeable,” and such a level of expertise is not commonly found in fire protection agencies.
Custom Concessions takes pride in their food trucks, but their needs pose a unique challenge where fire safety is concerned. Knowing the pride that Koorsen takes in their work and in training their technicians efficiently, they felt confident in entrusting their trucks to no one else, and the two have enjoyed a long and happy relationship as result.
Trust Koorsen with Your Unique Fire Suppression Needs
What unique challenges does your business or property pose for fire safety? Are you confident that you are not only up to code, but providing the best, most efficient protection possible?
Koorsen Fire & Security has been family owned and operated since the 1940’s and provides the most extensive and elite training to their technicians available. Whatever your questions or needs, they can ensure you have the best protection possible.
Give Koorsen a call today to schedule an appointment or talk with their experts.