avoid commercial kitchen fires

Protect your restaurant from a kitchen grease fire

One of the biggest threats to restaurant and bar owners is fire, which can be a costly and potentially business-ending disaster.

Grease accumulation, equipment malfunction and general poor housekeeping are all potential hazards.

From 2006 to 2010, an estimated average of 7,640 structure fires in restaurants and bars were reported to U.S. fire departments each year.

Associated average annual losses included two civilian deaths per year, 115 civilian injuries and $246 million in property loss, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

Although 71 percent of restaurant and bar fires remain relatively small, they are no less damaging to business owners.

Loss of revenue, stress on staff and the cost of repairs make bouncing back an expensive task.

On top of this, owners run the risk of losing customers to competitors when “Closed” signs hang in the windows.

Preparation can make or break a business.

Almost all commercial cooking generates grease, which is a huge fire hazard to its highly combustible nature.

Because of this, there is really no way to completely erase the threat of fire.

However, there are precautions you can take to decrease the likelihood of a potentially catastrophic event.

Proper duct and hood cleaning.

Exhaust hoods and ducts are designed to collect cooking vapors and residues. Poorly cleaned kitchen hoods and ducts account for 21 percent of all fires.

The National Fire Protection Association’s fire code NFPA 96 prescribes the minimum fire safety guidelines for cooking equipment.

Kitchen exhaust hoods, grease removal devices, exhaust duct-work and all other components involved in the capture, containment and control of grease-laden cooking residue.

The NFPA 96 standards are considered necessary to offer an proper level of protection against damage to property and loss of life.

Restaurant owners must install a UL300-approved automatic fixed fire suppression system.

To protect their ducts, grease removal systems, hoods and commercial cooking equipment such as deep fat fryers, woks, ranges, griddles and broilers.

This system must be serviced every six months.

In addition to complying with fire, health and building codes, a professionally installed kitchen exhaust hood system helps keep up a clean, safe environment.

Commercial cooking generates grease-laden air and other pollutants. An adequately designed kitchen exhaust system is vital to maintaining good airflow.

Kitchen hoods should be made of and supported by steel or stainless that meets minimum thickness requirements.

Other approved materials of equal strength and fire corrosion resistance may also be used.

NFPA 96 recommends that kitchen hood and duct cleaning frequency be based on an individual restaurant or bar’s cooking volume:

Monthly – For systems serving solid fuel cooking operations

Quarterly – For systems with high-volume cooking operations such as 24-hour cooking, charbroiling or wok cooking operations

Semi-annually – For systems serving moderate-volume cooking operations

Annually – For systems serving low-volume cooking

Grease filters are the first line of removal for grease-laden vapors.

Clean filters improve ventilation and cut the fire hazard significantly. Filters should be cleaned on a weekly basis for moderate- to high-volume cooking operations.

Empowering employees.

Employee fire safety and response training should include a fire prevention plan and an emergency action plan.

Is a powerful defense against fire threats and can mean the difference between a localized fire and an uncontrolled blaze.

Fire prevention plan.

In addition to basic fire training and an action plan, hands on training can offer a better understanding of fighting fires.

Employees should also be familiar with personal protective equipment and fire evacuation routes and should have real training in using a fire extinguisher.

A basic fire prevention plan should include.

A list of all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage rules for hazardous materials, and potential ignition sources.

Procedures to control the accumulation of flammable and combustible waste material. Procedures for regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment.

Names or job titles of employees responsible for maintaining equipment

Emergency action plan.

A well-developed emergency action plan should give employees with basic training on what to do in the event of a fire.

Employers should check the emergency action plan:

When the plan is developed, when the employee’s responsibilities or designated actions under the plan change, when there are updates to the plan.

While proper employee training and prevention efforts can substantially mitigate fire risks, use of flames, oil and grease makes it difficult to fully fireproof restaurants.

Instituting a prevention plan and maintaining a clean, properly cared for working space minimizes these hazards.