Operating a New Mexico restaurant comes with many risks – grease fires, gas leaks, faulty electrical systems, you name it. Fire is one of the biggest dangers for restaurant owners.
But having the right safety measures and training in place can help you prevent fire disasters and keep your staff and customers safe. This guide will walk you through best practices for restaurant fire safety, with a focus on issues facing New Mexico restaurant owners.
Why Restaurants Are So Vulnerable to Fires
Let’s start by understanding why restaurants are prone to fires in the first place. There are a few key reasons:
All Those Appliances: Modern restaurant kitchens are filled with electrical equipment and gas appliances that generate a lot of heat. Refrigerators, ovens, stoves – it’s easy for motors and belts to overheat and spark fires.
Lots of Grease: Grease buildup on kitchen surfaces and vent hoods is a major fire hazard. Without proper cleaning, grease accumulation can fuel fast-spreading kitchen fires.
Careless Smoking: Staff smoking near dumpsters or improper cigarette disposal leads to many restaurant fires every year.
Faulty Gas Lines: Gas leaks from aged or damaged gas lines and equipment are extremely dangerous. Small leaks can provide fuel for big fires.
Outdated Electrical Systems: Wiring, sockets, and appliances that can’t handle modern loads pose serious electrical fire risks, especially in older buildings.
Sobering Fire Statistics for Restaurants
Before we dive into safety tips, let’s look at some eye-opening fire statistics for the restaurant industry:
- U.S. fire departments respond to a fire every 23 seconds on average.
- In 2021, there were approximately 1.35 million building fires, causing 3,800 civilian deaths.
- Fires cause around $165 million in restaurant property damages annually.
- Between 2012-2016, fire departments responded to 8,240 restaurant fires per year on average.
The bottom line? Fires are common and costly for restaurants. But many can be prevented with the right precautions.
Fire Prevention Tips for Your Restaurant
Okay, let’s talk about ways New Mexico restaurant owners can help prevent devastating fires.
Install Fire Suppression Systems
Automatic fire suppression systems should be standard for all restaurant kitchens. These systems detect fires early and release water or chemical agents to control flames automatically. They also cut off the fuel or power supply to appliances when activated.
- Have a qualified professional inspect your system at least twice a year.
- Keep ABC-type fire extinguishers on hand as a backup.
- Install Class K extinguishers designed for kitchen grease fires – but only activate after the hood system engages.
Maintain Alarms and Sprinklers
Fully-functioning fire alarms and sprinklers are absolute must-haves:
- Test fire alarms regularly to ensure they work when needed.
- Inspect the sprinkler system routinely to guarantee it can suppress flames.
- Update obsolete systems – old wiring and pipes degrade over time.
Address Gas Line Hazards
Faulty gas lines cause many restaurant fires:
- Inspect lines regularly for leaks – look for missing pilot lights or unusual flames.
- Repair or replace damaged and outdated gas equipment ASAP.
- Teach staff to report gas leaks immediately.
Reduce Electrical Fire Triggers
Electrical fires are another big concern:
- Upgrade outdated wiring that can’t handle modern loads.
- Schedule regular maintenance for sockets, switches, appliances.
- Ensure adequate clearance between power sources and combustibles.
- Use surge protectors to prevent voltage spikes.
Install Emergency Lighting
Panicked patrons fleeing a burning restaurant need ample lighting:
- Check exit and emergency lights routinely.
- Keep backup lighting working in case main power fails.
Fire Safety Maintenance Tips
Preventing fires requires diligent maintenance:
Remove Grease Buildup
Greasy residue on kitchen surfaces, vents, and ductwork needs frequent removal:
- Staff should clean hoods and filters nightly.
- Schedule professional deep cleanings of exhaust system regularly.
- Monthly cleanings for wood/charcoal ovens; quarterly or semiannually for others depending on volume.
Take Out the Trash
Careless trash habits alsospark fires:
- Ensure staff removes rubbish daily, especially paper, fabrics, and boxes.
- Store combustibles far from heat and cooking areas.
- Provide metal bins for ashes from wood/charcoal ovens, 10+ feet from buildings.
Inspect Electrical Equipment
Faulty electrical gear causes many fires:
- Replace frayed cords, damaged plugs, worn wiring.
- Upgrade outlets, switches, breaker boxes as needed.
- Make sure circuits aren’t overloaded.
Fire Safety Training for Staff
Even the best systems and maintenance mean little without comprehensive staff training on fire safety.
- Conduct regular, hands-on training for all employees.
- Cover correct use of extinguishers, evacuation procedures, preventing fires, etc.
- Partner with your local fire department for training help.
- Ensure everyone knows their role if a fire starts.
Specific things to train staff on:
Kitchen Fire Safety
- Using extinguishers safely
- Activating suppression systems
- Daily cleaning of grease and cooking surfaces
- Proper ash removal from ovens
- Reporting signs of fire immediately
- No smoking near flammables
- Safe cigarette disposal
- Removing combustibles like boxes daily
- Not overloading circuits
- Unplugging equipment when not in use
- Evacuating patrons and staff quickly and safely
- Using emergency exits correctly
- Operating backup lighting systems
- Calling 911
Final Fire Safety Tips for Restaurants
To wrap up, here are a few last critical fire precautions for New Mexico restaurants:
- Conduct fire drills to test evacuation procedures regularly.
- Get fire department inspections annually.
- Use fireproof fabrics for seats, drapes, etc.
- Get permits for open flames like candles.
- Store flammables properly outdoors.
- Create an emergency response plan.
- Maintain adequate insurance coverage.
Fire safety requires vigilance, but taking these preventative measures will drastically improve safety at your restaurant. And as always, partner with qualified professionals like electricians, fire suppression technicians, and commercial cleaning services to stay on top of inspections and maintenance.
With smart precautions, staff training, and professional partnerships, you can keep your New Mexico restaurant fire-safe for staff and customers alike. Reach out anytime if you need help getting fire prevention practices in place for your restaurant!