Restaurants have unique needs when it comes to fire safety. With many avenues where fires can start, it is imperative that your business has the right equipment and strategy to prevent or suppress fires if they occur. Here are ways you can operate your establishment safely and possibly minimize fire damage.
Have Multiple Shut-Off Switches
If your establishment uses natural gas, you need to shut off the gas in the event of a fire. Ideally, you should have a shut-off switch near the cooking area for easy access, but you may also want to have one installed near an exit. If a fire occurs in the cooking area and it spreads quickly, it is safer for you to exit the building immediately and simply cut the gas off on your way out the building. For additional protection, you and all your employees should know where the gas shut-off is located outside of the building.
Use The Right Fire Extinguishers
You may need different types of fire extinguishers based on where you plan to keep the extinguisher. For example, you should have several Class K fire extinguishers inside the cooking area. Since these are made to handle oil and grease fires, they will prevent a flare-up of the fire during use and give you the best chance at containing a smaller grease fire. Since you cannot predict what fire extinguisher you will need, use Class A:B:C extinguishers for all other locations in your restaurant. Try to keep a fire extinguisher near the exits to handle any fires that may start outside the building or in trash bins located outside. You can also talk with professionals, such as those at Tri County Fire Protection, for advice on where to place the extinguishers.
Install Sprinkler Systems Appropriately
Sprinkler systems are an excellent investment to buy more time for people in your establishment to escape a fire. Since restaurants are more likely to have grease fires, you need to ensure your sprinkler system is installed away from the cooking areas. Even small fires in the cooking area can trigger the sprinkler system. But if you have a grease fire in the cooking area and the sprinklers come on, this will only spread the fire quicker. You may want to have sprinklers along back corridors or other areas of the building where people are more likely to travel to escape the fire and to minimize the spread of other types of fires.
Be Mindful Of Oil And Grease
Since oil and grease are a significant hazard in the restaurant industry, you need to be mindful of their storage and use. Designate a storage area away from heat sources to keep bottles of oil. When possible, find a part of the kitchen that is not easily impacted by heat from ovens and flat-top ranges to store bottles of oil. Transfer the amount of oil you will need for the day into a separate container and leave the larger containers in their designated areas. By keeping the oil in or near the kitchen, you can minimize the likelihood of a grease fire in other parts of your establishment.
Many restaurants store small portions of oil in condiment bottles for easy dispensing into a hot pan or to add a flavored oil onto a dish. Instead of using standard condiment bottles, which have little or no heat resistance, try to find silicone bottles. One indicator a bottle is more heat resistant is if they are microwaveable. Although the material will not completely eliminate the fire risk, if the bottle falls onto a hot cooking surface, you will have a little more time to cut off the cooktop and safely remove the bottle before it melts and the oil leaks out.
Establish Weekly Fire Safety Reminders
Although you probably go through fire safety protocols when a new person is hired, you should establish weekly fire safety sessions as a reminder. Choose one day of the week to gather all your employees for a short, five or 10 minute review of all your fire safety protocols. By reinforcing information each week, it is more likely that everyone will remember ways to prevent fires and how to stay safe in the event a fire occurs.
Maintaining a safe environment in a restaurant is not always easy due to the number of inherent hazards, such as cooking oils. With adequate preparation, you and your employees can prevent problems and address small fires before they become a major problem.