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Restaurant Fire Safety Facts to Know and Follow

Restaurant Fire Safety Facts to Know and Follow

You’ve put your heart and soul into building your restaurant. Early mornings prepping ingredients, late nights refining recipes, years of blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention every dollar you could scrape together – all invested into creating a welcoming space for people to enjoy good food and good company.

But as much as we wish it wasn’t so, there’s a hidden danger lurking in many restaurant kitchens and dining rooms. Fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, restaurants deal with over 5,900 fires every year, causing a whopping $180 million in damage. That’s nearly one restaurant fire every two hours, often leaving behind massive repair and rebuilding costs that can threaten the very survival of the business.

And the human impact is even more devastating. Restaurant fires kill an average of 4,000 civilian deaths, 15,000 civilian injuries each year.

This guide breaks down the biggest fire risks for restaurants, tips for prevention, protocols for safety, and other critical info you need to safeguard your pride and joy.

Fire Prevention Starts with Being Ready for the Worst

The #1 way to deal with a fire is to prevent it from happening at all. From installing fire extinguishing systems to doing daily maintenance checks and training your staff, there are many things you can build into your daily operations that will help stop a fire before it ever starts.

Use Fire Suppression Systems to Snuff Out Hotspots

The cooking equipment that makes those mouthwatering meals also poses some of the biggest fire risks. Installing vent hoods, fire extinguishing systems, and other appliances directly over stoves, ovens, fryers, and anything else that generates high heat is an absolute must.

These systems are designed to quickly detect any flames or spikes in temperature and put them out before they have a chance to rage out of control. They typically spray non-toxic extinguishing agents and also cut power to the equipment when triggered.

Make sure any systems are professionally installed and maintained with checks every six months. And train your kitchen staff regularly on how to use them properly too.

It’s also crucial to keep multipurpose fire extinguishers strategically placed around the kitchen, dining area, and anywhere else fires may pop up. Class K extinguishers designed for kitchen grease fires should be on hand near fryers and ovens for use after the built-in systems are activated. Class ABC models that can handle wood, paper, electronics, and other combustibles are helpful for suppressing fires elsewhere.

Install Fire Alarms and Sprinklers

Fire alarms are a great early warning to alert staff and customers to smoke or flames as quickly as possible. That allows everyone to evacuate faster and emergency crews to respond sooner. Make sure you have properly maintained alarm systems with adequate smoke detectors throughout the building.

Also consider installing sprinkler systems which can automatically start suppressing flames to prevent rapid spread long before firefighters arrive on the scene.

Inspect Your Restaurant Regularly for Fire Hazards

You should be doing really thorough monthly walk-throughs checking all your appliances, electrical systems, gas lines, and the overall building for any fire hazards. Have the kitchen exhaust vents and hoods cleaned on a strict schedule to prevent dangerous grease buildup. Fix any faulty wiring immediately before it has a chance to spark up. Stay on top of leaks quickly and ensure proper ventilation to avoid gas accumulation.

And don’t forget to confirm that all the fabric, window treatments, decorations and such are flame-resistant, seating is spaced properly, occupancy limits are posted, and you’ve got permits for any open flames like candles. Being proactive with inspections and prompt repairs drastically cuts down on the chances for fires to occur.

Cooking System Cleanings

Along with your monthly spot checks, you need really consistent maintenance to keep your mechanical systems, cooking equipment, electrical wiring, and appliances in the best possible shape. Follow all the manufacturer instructions for maintenance on grills, fryers, stoves, and anything else in your commercial kitchen to prevent malfunctions that can trigger fires.

Prioritize regular inspections of your electrical and HVAC systems to catch any components that are aging, damaged, or overloaded before they have a chance to overheat. Get exhaust vents and hoods deep cleaned every 3-6 months minimum to remove all that dangerous grease residue. Staying ahead on repairs and upgrades helps maximize equipment lifespan and safety.

Train Your Staff to Be Ready for Fires

Your team directly controls a lot of the day-to-day risks when it comes to fire safety. Giving them really thorough training ensures they actively minimize risks and know exactly how to respond correctly if those flames ever do erupt.

Foster a Culture of Fire Prevention

All the daily prep your staff does provides lots of chances to reduce fire hazards. Make sure they stick to procedures like cleaning all grease thoroughly from surfaces, taking out trash promptly, storing flammable materials safely away from any heat source, and so on.

Post reminders about cautious practices like fully extinguishing smoking materials before disposal. Celebrate workers who spot potential issues early – like a frayed cord or wobbly burner knob – and report them quickly to prevent bigger problems down the road.

Practice Emergency Scenarios Hands-On

Just like you drill kitchen workflows until the team executes them perfectly, fire preparation requires regular practical training too. Schedule mock evacuation drills. Show staff step-by-step how to properly operate extinguishers and suppression systems.

Invite your local fire department to deliver training on response tactics or give other instruction. When everyone understands their specific roles and responsibilities in case of emergency, they can keep calm and take action with total confidence.

Be Ready to Evacuate and Recover if Disaster Does Strike

Even with your best efforts, fires can sometimes still happen. Having smart practices in place for quick action minimizes damage and protects occupants if flames do erupt unexpectedly. Make sure your people adhere to these protocols if the worst comes to pass.

Initiate Evacuation Plans Immediately

Customer and employee safety has to be priority #1 during any emergency. At the first signs of an actual fire, get everyone evacuated from the building as calmly and quickly as possible per your established plans. Use the designated exits and help guide patrons out. Take a headcount at the predetermined meeting spot outside.

Only try to fight small, manageable fires if you can do so safely. Otherwise, getting people out fast takes precedence over attempting to suppress substantial flames yourself. Let the firefighters handle the tough stuff once they take command of the scene.

Follow Official Guidance Before Re-Opening Post-Fire

Before you reopen after any fire damage, get input from officials like your fire inspector on safe steps for restoring areas that were burned or exposed to smoke. Toss any food that was exposed to heat, chemicals, or potential toxins.

Schedule contractor visits ASAP to repair any electrical, gas, or structural elements compromised by the flames.