Restaurants provide all the essential ingredients for fires to easily ignite. The kitchen itself houses open flames, hot cooking oils and equipment, combustible products like paper and wood, along with plenty of electrical connections. It comes as no surprise then that almost 8,000 restaurants report a fire each year in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Furthermore, the damage to property caused by restaurant fires is estimated to be $246 million annually.1
Needless to say, fire safety is an extremely important topic for eating and drinking establishments, as fires can destroy properties causing lost revenue and permanent closure, not to mention the risk to life. The good news is, there are a series of steps and procedures that you can take to prevent fires, or at least minimise the damage if a fire does ignite in your restaurant. If you already have fire prevention procedures in place, then it’s a good idea to review your procedures in conjunction with this guide.
It’s important for restaurant owners to understand that fires are most commonly ignited from overheating oils, unattending cooking, and the ignition of fatty residues under ducting. With this in mind, here are some fire safety tips to prevent these types of fires:
● Ensure that all staff is appropriately trained in workplace fire safety, including keeping all exits clear of obstructions, relevant evacuation procedures, and education in how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
● Install a fire suppression system in the kitchen. These systems will automatically distribute chemicals that subdue flames in the event of a fire, and come equipped with a manual switch. Activating this switch will turn off the fuel and electricity supply to cooking equipments. Fire suppression systems need to be professionally inspected twice a year. In conjunction with these systems, Wet Chemical fire extinguishers and fire blankets should also be installed in easily accessible locations around the kitchen.
● Ensure that proper procedures are put in place in relation to the cleaning and inspection of kitchen hoods, grease fans, and ducting. Normally restuarant owners will employ a third party to maintain and inspect these appliances, however regular cleaning needs to take place by kitchen staff. Additionally, all equipment must be switched off when the restaurant is unattended.
● Thermostats should be installed on all cookers and fryers, with regular servicing and cleaning performed as recommended by the manufacturers. In addition to this, don’t store combustible liquids under or near any cookers or fryers.
● Combustible waste materials must be disposed of carefully, with rubbish and recyclable products being properly secured in closed lid containers.
Fire Evacuation Plan
Every restaurant needs an emergency fire evacuation plan that all staff need to be familiar with, however there should be one staff member each shift that is responsible for evacuation in the event of a fire. This includes alerting emergency services by calling 000, evaluating which evacuation route is most appropriate, and ensuring all staff and patrons exit the premises safely. For restaurants, fire evacuation is considerably more challenging considering that an appropriate roll call needs to be in place for both staff and patrons. It’s also important to note that the designated assembly areas do not obstruct Fire Emergency Services when they arrive.
Staff Education in Fire Safety
There are several important considerations when it comes to workplace fire safety. In restaurants, it’s important that all staff should know not to throw water on grease fires for example. Other considerations to keep in mind is to ensure that all cigarettes are properly extinguished before disposal, and smoking should never take place around storage areas. Along with this, flammable liquids need to be stored properly in well-ventilated areas away from food, preparation areas, and any source of flames. Cleaning chemicals should only be used when the area is well ventilated, and chemical spills must cleaned up immediately.
All staff need to be trained in how to properly use a fire extinguisher. Wet Chemical fire extinguishers are most suitable for kitchens, however if there are different fire extinguishers located in the premises, staff need to be aware of which fire extinguisher to use depending on the type of fire. It’s also crucial that fire extinguishers are well-maintained and inspected regularly to ensure they are in good working condition. If you have any questions about fire extinguishers, their proper use, or you’re in need of an inspection, contact King Fire Protection Services at http://www.kingfire.com.au/
There’s no doubt that fire safety is extremely important for restaurants, and fire prevention procedures can sometimes be difficult to create with all possible factors in mind. If you’re in need of any assistance with emergency procedures or staff workplace fire training, contact ComSafe Training Services on 1800 SURVIVE (78 78 48).