Here’s a fiery figure for you: According to the National Fire Data Center, restaurant fires cost the United States $165 million each year. If the fire is promptly contained, the cost may be limited to $1,000, but an uncontained fire can cost up to $60,000. That’s why we’re giving these 31 restaurant fire prevention tips to help business owners avoid or reduce their risk of fire losses.
Remind them that fires can cause not just property damage but also injuries to employees and visitors, exacerbating property loss with liability and workers’ compensation losses.
Restaurant Kitchen Fire Preventions Tips
There are numerous potential fire sources in a kitchen with open flames, hot oils for cooking, scorching hot equipment, and employees who work quickly. These 11 suggestions will aid in the prevention of fires.
- Install an automatic fire suppression system in the kitchen area. What is the importance of this? Because cooking equipment is involved in 57% of restaurant fires. These systems contain a manual switch as well as an automatic chemical dispenser to put out the flames. When the device is turned on, the fuel or electric supply to neighboring cooking equipment is automatically stopped off.
- Have the fire-fighting system professionally inspected every two years. For inspection and maintenance, the manufacturer can direct your client to an authorized distributor.
- When cooking appliances are turned on, wire the exhaust fan to turn on automatically. When a system detector exceeds a specific temperature, fire suppression systems are meant to engage automatically. Heat builds up without the exhaust fan working, triggering one of these detectors and discharging the system.
- Do not relocate equipment once the fire suppression system is installed. These systems are meticulously created based on your client’s cooking equipment and its location. Their fire system may not be able to fight a fire if they replace or move an appliance, even a minor amount.
- As a backup, keep portable fire extinguishers on hand. For kitchen fires involving oil, grease, and fats that combust at high temperatures, use Class K extinguishers. Class K fire extinguishers should be used only after a built-in hood suppression system has been activated. All other fires should be extinguished with Class ABC extinguishers (paper, wood, plastic, electrical, etc.).
- Before utilizing a hand-held fire extinguisher in the event of a fire, turn on the fire suppression system. According to Silcon Fire & Security, “When the system is turned on, the electric and gas fueling the appliances are turned off automatically, reducing the possibility of re-ignition after the main extinguishment. Fats and oils have an auto-ignition temperature, which means they can light without a spark or flame once they reach that temp. If you use a hand portable extinguisher first to put out a fire, there’s a good chance the fire will re-ignite because the fuel supply is still active.”
- Inspect cooking equipment regularly to ensure it is clean and well kept. A fire could start if the equipment isn’t kept in good working condition and any potentially harmful mechanical problems aren’t identified.
- Check for grease accumulation in the exhaust system. In high-volume activities, quarterly inspections are required, whereas semiannual inspections are needed in moderate-volume operations, according to the NFPA Fire Code. Exhaust systems feeding solid-fuel cooking equipment, such as wood- or charcoal-burning ovens, must be inspected monthly.
- Fire doors should not be wedged open. They only function when the door is closed.
- Keep impediments out of fire escape pathways.
- Ensure that all emergency lights are turned on, and that escape signs are visible in the kitchen and dining areas.
Fire Prevention for Electrical Equipment
Electrical fires are the second most common cause of fires in restaurants. Unfortunately, they’re also the most significant cause of restaurant fires that aren’t contained. However, routine maintenance and employee training can often avert them. Extension cords, overloading electrical systems with too much equipment, and putting combustible items too close to an electrical panel are common causes of electrical fires in restaurants. Provide the following information to your restaurant clients to help them avoid electrical fires:
- If you haven’t already, start a routine maintenance and inspection schedule.
- Train employees to recognize risks, such as where to find breaker switches, how to spot dangerous electrical cords, and how to report them.
- Only use qualified electrical contractors who are officially licensed to do the job.
- Maintain electrical equipment regularly and keep an eye out for hazards such as frayed cords or wire, cracked or damaged switch plates, and combustible materials near power sources.
Restaurant Exterior Fire Prevention Tips
A lit cigarette was dropped into a mulch pile, causing a fire at a Cherry Hill, NJ restaurant and a nearby restaurant a few years ago. The fire smoldered until it was time to close. Unfortunately, both buildings had suffered significant damage by the time the fire department put them out.
Smokers are driven outside due to state regulations against smoking in public places, and they tend to cluster in areas around the restaurant with vegetation and mulch. According to Zurich’s restaurant fire exposure guide, these flames can burn slowly for hours due to smoldering “tunnels” beneath the surface that subsequently break out into open flame. They offered the following suggestions for preventing outdoor fires:
- Mulch should be kept at least 18 inches away from combustible items, including wood, vinyl siding, and decks.
- At all entrances and designated smoking areas, provide adequate receptacles (such as “butt outs”) for smoking materials. Place them at least 18 inches away from the building, and don’t mulch around them. Empty trash cans regularly.
- If at all feasible, keep mulch beds wet.
Final Thoughts on Restaurant Fire Prevention Tips
Restaurant fires happen every day across the country. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated 25,000 commercial structure fires occur in U.S. restaurants annually, causing more than $750 million in property damage and 400 civilian deaths. By being aware of common restaurant fire risks and applying preventive measures, you can help reduce the risk of a fire in your restaurant (and decrease your chances for personal liability).