During these challenging times, it is more important than ever to protect the supply chain of food, including supermarkets and convenience stores in cities around the world.

On average 3,740 fires occur in food and groceries stores in the US annually, including supermarkets and convenience stores, according to a report published by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).

Structure fires in mercantile properties were responsible for the loss of 12 lives and more than $600 million indirect property damages, and this doesn’t account for the cost of business interruption and the effect on the reputation of the store. Many stores haven’t been able to recover after a fire.

The report estimates that a single fire may cost $46,000 on average, which in hindsight is considerably higher than investing in a fire detection system.

The most common causes of fire in supermarkets

It’s important to look at the data from two different perspectives. The first is the number of fires by cause, and the other is to quantify the property loss by cause.

The report estimates that a single fire may cost $46,000 on average

Fires caused by cooking equipment , including stores with kitchens and warming and portable equipment, account for 21% of incidences, but only for just 7% of total property damage and four civilian deaths (firefighter and first responder deaths are registered on a different report).

On the other hand, electrical distribution and lighting equipment malfunctions and defective wiring account for 15% of the total of fires in a given year, but caused $165 million in property loss, or 27% of the total recorded on the report.

It is also important to mention that intentional fires are the third cause reported, accounting for 11% of the total fire incidences and 20% of the property loss highlighted in the report.

Occupation, materials and risks

The kind of store poses a significant variety of risks associated to the type of occupation, the number of occupants and the materials stored and available in the shopping areas. It’s possible to find combustible materials of diverse nature and propagation speed.

Cardboard and paper wrapping can be found in all store areas, including book and magazine stands. Cleaning products, oils and fatty products might have a high propagation speed. All of this, surrounded by different kind of plastics, immensely increase the level of risk.

Overall, combustible liquids caused 41% of the civilian deaths recorded during the report

In my firefighting years I’ve responded to several fires in food supermarkets and distribution centers, and saw tuna cans (canned with oil) exploding and spreading flames to the surrounding areas.

Regarding occupation, it is known that supermarkets and groceries stores are places with high levels of occupation, especially during working hours. But one interesting fact that the report found is that fires occurring between 9pm and 5am can cause, on average, $73,800 in property damage. The NFPA estimates that 21% of human life losses happened between 12am and 3am.

This highlights the importance of installing and maintaining an automatic fire detection system.

Installing fire detection And Protecting Your Store

With the variety of materials and the risk level that can be found in this kind of environment, it’s necessary to take a holistic approach. Fire protection should be designed while considering several angles, from passive protection in all interior and exterior structures and cladding to active protection with sprinkler and clean agent systems, proper ventilation and smoke control and automatic fire detection and evacuation systems.

On average 3,740 fires occur in food and groceries stores in the US annually

Several detection technologies need to work in parallel, depending on the type of products stored, the environment and the expected level of occupation on the protected area. Store height and ventilation need to be taken into consideration and also the kind of lighting in some cases.

Depending on the ceiling height, the shopping floor could be protected with beam smoke detectors. If the ceiling is below six meters, or the store shelves obstruct the beam, it’s possible to use spot type smoke detectors. The same approach can be taken for warehousing and storage areas, but here I would recommend multi-criteria detectors, with heat and smoke detection combined.

localized protection

As I’ve mentioned before, cooking areas have an increased level of risk, which calls for localized protection. Here, I would recommend multi-criteria (smoke/heat) detectors for areas where food is heated and served, and smoke/heat/Carbon monoxide detectors on cooking areas to avoid nuisance alarms caused by cooking smoke and steam. It’s important to mention that until this year it was possible to install heat detection in cooking areas, but the UL 268 7th edition that comes into effect in 2021 will require cooking areas to be protected with smoke detection, and smoke detectors have to be able to reject nuisance alarms caused by cooking smoke and steam.

Smaller supermarkets and convenience stores usually have vertical freezers or horizontal open freezers. Here, electrical and mechanical failures can ignite fires, which is why it is important to protect the rear side of the freezers. I would recommend point-type smoke detectors, as photoelectric smoke detectors tend to perform better on smoldering fires.

The report mentions that air conditioning equipment and electrical equipment can be sources of ignition as well. To protect A/C rooms and electrical rooms I would recommend combined smoke/heat detectors, or maybe even smoke/heat/CO to assure better detection and avoid unwanted alarms in these business critical areas.

There is a type of photoelectric smoke detector that uses two different LED sources inside the smoke chamber. This technology, called Dual-Ray, allows the smoke detector to identify the particles inside the chamber by size. The detector knows if it is sensing dust or steam, and can even differentiate between cooking or cigarette smoke from actual smoke from a smoldering fire. Bosch Building Technologies first introduced dual Ray technology in 2015.

protecting the food supply chain

During these challenging times, it’s more important than ever to protect the food supply chain and avoid the social and economic impact of fires in food stores, especially in impoverished areas. Supermarkets and convenience stores present a variety of challenges regarding fire protection, which calls for a holistic approach where passive and active protection are equally important.

To achieve this target, one key element is automatic fire detection. Smoke and heat sensing technologies must be combined, and one size-fits-all approach is not enough. Detection and effective evacuation are critical to protect lives and minimize property loss.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

Author profile

Ivan Paredes Tamayo Head of Product Marketing for Latin America – Fire Detection and Life Safety, Bosch Security Systems

Ivan studied Electronic Engineering and Automation and has almost 19 years' experience in the fire prevention and fire detection fields as a chief designer and project manager for several integration companies.

He served as Firefighter and Urban Search and Rescue specialist for the Guayaquil Fire Department for 8 years.

Working as Head of Product Marketing in Bosch Security and Safety Systems, he is responsible for the development of the fire detection business within Bosch, with a focus in strengthening relations with the fire prevention community and authorities in Latin America, promoting fire prevention knowledge for engineers and society, and creating safer buildings.

In case you missed it

Helping Voters Understand The Value Of Grant Programs To Fire Departments
Helping Voters Understand The Value Of Grant Programs To Fire Departments

Federal grants are a critical financial component of fire departments and the fulfillment of their mission to protect their communities. The Firefighters Support Alliance is an initiative to help voters understand the local economic impact that fire departments have on their communities; it is part of the Firefighters & EMS Fund, a national political organization. Federal programs such as Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants are crucial to emergency preparedness. AFG grants seek to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire-related hazards by providing direct financial assistance to fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations and State Fire Training Academies. The funding helps to equip and train emergency personnel to recognized standards, enhance operations efficiencies, foster interoperability and support community resilience. Increasing the number of trained firefighters SAFER grants provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to help them increase the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities. Although often overlooked, the economics of firefighting – including what funding and resources are available to fire departments – is a significant aspect of making sure firefighters can effectively and safely do their jobs and protect their communities. Visitors to the web site can manipulate the map to show specific data by region or state, and the map itself is color-coded Part of the awareness initiative is an interactive map that tracks and breaks down data related to the economic impact of firefighters. Data includes the number of fire departments, firefighters and grant dollars in relation to each metric. For example, the state of New York's 2,297 departments received an average of $7512.10 per department, and $200.37 average grant dollars per firefighter. Map for the economic impact of firefighters Visitors to the web site can manipulate the map to show specific data by region or state, and the map itself is color-coded to provide easy understanding of the density of each state. “The data speaks for itself; the fire protection industry is a huge part of the American economy and disturbances to such a wide reaching and essential industry will be felt by all,” says Executive Director Nile Porter. “Rich or poor, we all rely on fire and EMS capabilities in one capacity or another.” The Firefighter’s Support Alliance is the direct grassroots public policy and political engagement arm of the Firefighters and EMS Fund. The project was formed to directly engage the public and voters about issues and solutions that impact America’s heroes. Improving the health and wellness of firefighters The alliance will accomplish this by supporting and sponsoring digital marketing and mass media campaigns using targeted messaging and shining a light on issues that provide grassroots-direct issue, political and public awareness. The Firefighter’s Support Alliance comes on the heels of the organization’s in-depth research from 2018-2019 that revealed a deepening health and wellness crisis among firefighters.

During The Pandemic, Technology Allows 911 Dispatchers To Work From Home
During The Pandemic, Technology Allows 911 Dispatchers To Work From Home

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend toward working from home has accelerated. New technologies are now making it possible for 911 dispatchers to work from home, too, whether to ensure social distancing or to supplement operations during evolving emergencies. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems offer web-based interfaces and mobile capabilities that enable public-safety answering point (PSAP) operators to work from anywhere. Other technologies that are paving the way for dispatchers to work from home include the cloud, virtual private networks (VPNs), and faster data speeds. Remote emergency dispatchers An innovative implementation in Alexandria, Virginia, involves remote emergency dispatchers using equipment including a laptop, headset, smartphone, mobile hotspot, mobile router with computer-aided dispatch and other hardware. The city uses the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) network, provided in partnership with AT&T. A dedicated, secure and reliable connection ensures operation for public safety, everyday functions, and/or for emergency communications. In Alexandria, hotspots and smartphones powered by FirstNet enable 911 dispatchers to take calls In Alexandria, hotspots and smartphones powered by FirstNet enable 911 dispatchers to take calls and handle CAD operations from their homes and remote locations. The dependability of the FirstNet connection is critical; relying on a dispatcher’s home Internet service could be risky if it loses connectivity. Initially hesitant because of concerns about the unknown, Alexandria’s Director of Emergency and Customer Communications was spurred into action by the COVID-19 crisis. Emergency Communications Centers They had tested the system in January. During the first month of implementation, remote workers only answered non-emergency phone calls before beginning to handle 911 calls. The approach helped with social distancing in the midst the COVID -19 crisis, during which dispatchers could not work together as usual in close quarters. To ensure social distancing, dispatchers worked from two different Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) – one primary and one a backup location – in addition to some dispatchers working from home. There was also a fourth ‘isolation’ team, comprised of two fire dispatchers, two police dispatcher and one call telecommunicator – staying and working remotely in a nearby hotel for 10 days in a row. Deciding whether to allow dispatchers to work remotely depends on factors such as employee performance, operational effectiveness and available tools, according to experts. Careful evaluation of these factors ensures a successful implementation. Home-Based operators Technology requirements include a VPN and a dependable, high-speed internet connection In addition to providing flexibility during a global pandemic, remote dispatchers can help departments augment their regularly scheduled staff members more quickly. Dispatchers who can work immediately from home are not delayed by the practicalities of getting to work. Staffing can be augmented immediately rather than several hours from now – an essential consideration during a developing emergency. Technology requirements include a VPN and a dependable, high-speed internet connection. Connectivity might especially be a problem in rural areas, where operators are also more likely to need to travel a long distance to work. There might also be legal issues, such as access to confidential databases. There might also be concerns about discipline of home-based operators and challenges when it comes to working together cohesively as a team. In the end, though, such questions are about ‘how’ a home-bound dispatcher scenario might be managed rather than whether it is feasible. The changing situation during the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that the technical hurdles have been overcome.

Keeping Emergency Services Teams Secure And Connected
Keeping Emergency Services Teams Secure And Connected

Every day, across the globe, emergency services teams come to people’s aid no matter the situation to ensure their safety. Whether it’s during a natural disaster, or at a significant event, the emergency services are on hand to face any challenge that comes their way. When supporting this crucial workforce, it is essential that they have robust and reliable connectivity. Technology is becoming a vital aspect of public safety and security worldwide, and this trend is only likely to grow. For these new devices to work effectively, full-scale coverage must be in place, and when it comes to people’s safety, there is no room for error. The need for redundancy and high bandwidth  Two of the paramount tools at emergency services disposal are video surveillance and communication devices. Constant visibility and communication are often essential to protecting people and saving lives. The benefits range from providing first responders with a clear picture and understanding of the situation they are about to encounter; to providing greater safety during public events by enabling officers to control crowds and manage traffic effectively. Enhancing visibility and sharing information is particularly crucial during fires to guide firefighters and vehicles through flames and smoke, and to allow the central command center to organize resources effectively. Technology is becoming a vital aspect of public safety and security worldwide, and this trend is only likely to grow Despite any potential challenges ensuring network connectivity may create, public safety organizations cannot compromise when it comes to optimizing security. For IP video surveillance and cellphone broadband connectivity to operate effectively, they require redundancy and high bandwidth. Without these connectivity attributes, devices become useless; for example, there are municipalities where as much as 50 percent of the camera network is offline because of poor product choices and inferior network design and installation. Equally, poor quality networking can be just as limiting as it can lead to public safety organizations being unable to receive real-time data. All areas must also have adequate bandwidth to access data, such as on-scene video, aerial imagery, maps, and images, and many existing public safety networks do not have that capacity. Supporting security and safety robotics Robots and drones have seen a considerable increase in popularity this year, with 60 million such machines being deployed according to ABI Research. They offer a wealth of potential to emergency services teams, whether on land, air, or sea. For example, water rescue robots can go where humans cannot, earthquake and fire robots can search through otherwise non-navigable areas, and drones can survey vast regions. However, for these wireless devices to work effectively, they rely on many features. They need low power consumption so as not to heavily burden the onboard power source of the robotic device and, perhaps, a high level of encryption so information cannot be stolen or hacked. There are also benefits to security and safety as robotic devices can communicate with one another peer-to-peer. Directly mounting radios to robots and drones, fosters dynamic self-learning, data sharing, and more wireless paths in the event one or more of the devices in an area do not have a link to fixed infrastructure. Water rescue robots can go where humans cannot, earthquake and fire robots can search through otherwise non-navigable areas, and drones can survey vast regions The main component that security and safety robotics require is redundant and resilient connections. If the connection is lost, the connected device will go into “safe” mode and stop. Creating a high capacity network that supports mobile devices in complex and fast-moving environments is not a simple task. In many cases, it requires a network that supports many wireless connections and allows for many paths in and out, so that if a link is lost, another path is available for data transmission and reception. This type of network is the best way to ensure that police, firefighters, and emergency units can access and send large amounts of data from wherever they are and in real-time making a massive difference to the efficiency of the emergency services. An example of this is Rajant’s private Kinetic Mesh® network, a wireless network ensuring no single point of failure. It offers reliable, intelligent, and secure wireless broadband connectivity that survives and thrives in evolving and mobility-driven environments. It forms a “living” mesh network that can move with and adapt to the evolving communication requirements of public safety organizations. Technology in action Back in October 2019, the heat from the sun, combined with winds gusting through the foothills of El Capitán Canyon in California, sparked a bush fire in the overly dry, desert hills. Despite four hundred and twenty acres being burnt, firefighters used their experience and skills combined with newfound digital technology to ensure that no structures were damaged, and there were no reported injuries. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire, the U.S Forest Service, and other agencies were immediately dispatched to contain the fire. More than 200 firefighters were needed to combat the fire and reinforce containment lines with helicopters and drones in the air and bulldozers on the ground. To operate this equipment, mesh radio nodes, bonded cellular, and satellite technologies were used to link the communication gap in locations where signals are often dropped. Rajant BreadCrumb® nodes were mounted to the fire-breaking, 30-ton bulldozers manned by trained firefighters to uproot vegetation and eliminate the materials that would further spread the fire. Robots and drones have seen a considerable increase in popularity this year, with 60 million such machines being deployed  The reliable connectivity allowed the bulldozers to not only easily communicate with each other and the base, but also to send video footage and data to the tactical truck and central command post over cellular and SAT networks. This situational awareness data transfer allowed for greater efficiency, as well as increased safety for the public and the firefighters. Reliability when you need it most Reliable connectivity solutions are being embraced across the emergency services due to the innumerable benefits they bring to ensuring the safety of the public. For police, firefighters, and emergency units, dependable connectivity allows for rapid, real-time response, and the use of technology can save lives in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible a decade ago. Planned and unplanned events can benefit from the new technology being introduced, and emergency services need to make sure they have the network capabilities to support them. For environments that are challenging and hostile, this requires a network available on-demand, which can withstand the demands of harsh conditions and mobility while maintaining a level of redundancy and high bandwidth that allows for accessing and sending large amounts of data from any location.