Kitchen Fire Safety

Kitchen fire safety by Restaurant Technologies - serving customers nationwide

You may think a serious fire will never occur in your business, but can you afford to be wrong? An unmonitored burner, a short fuse, or a dirty exhaust system is all it takes for a flame to ignite and put your entire business at risk. A major fire can jeopardize your operation while putting your staff and guests in danger. 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reveals that roughly 8,000 foodservice businesses report an incident of fire each year, resulting in total estimated damages of over $246 million – averaging roughly $30,750 per fire. By focusing on kitchen fire safety, you can avoid becoming a part of this alarming statistic. The time to start implementing a fire prevention strategy is now because by the time you smell smoke, it’s already too late.

What Causes Kitchen Fires?

The risk of fire ignition is often tied to one of four central risk areas: cooking equipment, electrical connections and malfunctions, exhaust systems, or employee error. Let’s look at each area more closely.

Cooking Equipment

A busy cook’s line could have 10-20 flame sources operating simultaneously, so it’s not surprising that cooking equipment is cited as the leading cause of fires in foodservice businesses. The NFPA estimates that 61% of all facility fires and 38% of all related damage can be tied to cooking equipment. Even more shocking is that almost 43% of these fires began when the cooking material itself – commonly oil or a food product – ignited.

Electrical Complications

A common culprit in home fires, electrical complications are also the second most common cause of a fire in foodservice businesses. These fires alone account for about 9% of all foodservice fires and 21% of the direct property damage. Most are sparked when combustible items such as oil, paper products, and flour (which is one of the most combustible items found in the kitchen) are left near power sources. Frayed cords, oil-laden connections, or a simple system failure can also cause electrical fires.

Poorly Maintained Exhaust

Cleanup and removal of greasy buildup from the cook surface and hood system may feel like a tedious daily responsibility, but when these tasks are ignored or done poorly, the remaining residue can be a substantial fire risk. Even with a fire suppression system, flames can grow exponentially if they reach grease buildup. Though exhaust-related fires are less common, they account for nearly 70% of property damage. 

NFPA regulations require any foodservice business to have its hoods cleaned on a regular schedule. To make fire prevention fast and easy for your company, Restaurant Technologies designed the AutoMist® system. It automatically sprays a mixture of detergent and water every day to remove grease and prevent buildups. Even in high-volume operations, the AutoMist system can significantly reduce your fire risk while taking the pressure of daily cleaning off of your staff.

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Human Error

Accidents happen. The NFPA estimates that 22% of all facility fires are caused by human error, from misplacing hazardous materials to neglecting daily cleaning procedures. One way to reduce this risk is to implement automated solutions, such as AutoMist. Both of these are designed to simplify daily cleaning tasks for your employees while ensuring all of your safety protocols are met. 

Though proper training and automatic support can reduce the risk of human error, it’s ultimately crucial that your employees make smart decisions and follow through on fire safety expectations. 

How to Prevent Oil Fires in Your Business

  1. Install or Update Your Fire Suppression System
    Because a majority of kitchen fires start with cooking equipment, it is crucial your business has a fire-suppression system to dispense the chemicals necessary to extinguish it. If your business already has such a system, ensure it is regularly and professionally inspected so it’s operating at peak efficiency. If your business does not, it should be at the top of your priority list.

  2. Ensure the Right Portable Extinguishers Are Accessible and Ready
    Kitchen fires require Class K extinguishers, which are the only extinguishers created to address fires from cooking oils and greases such as animal and vegetable fats. However, traditional Class ABC extinguishers may have a suitable place in other locations of your business such as the dining room or employee break room. Regularly check that you have the correct extinguishers in the right locations, and that they are always easily accessible and ready for use. To do so, inspect your fire extinguishers and invest in routine maintenance from a qualified professional.

  3. Schedule Regular Electrical Maintenance
    Many electrical fires are the result of faulty wiring, so you can avoid these incidents with consistent inspections and upkeep. Work with a qualified electrician to establish a maintenance routine, and contact a professional quickly if you notice frayed cords or other potential problems with your electrical system.

  4. Regularly Clean Hood Baffle Filters
    Grease-laden smoke allowed to collect on your kitchen’s hood system poses a fire threat. To reduce this threat the filters should be cleaned by putting them in the dishwasher or pressure washing them with a degreasing solution. Depending on the cooking volume of your kitchen, these should be cleaned daily or weekly. Hood cleaning can be a time consuming process for your employees. If you want to take the pressure off of your staff while reducing your fire risk, install a Grease Lock® system to collect airborne grease before it has a chance to reach the interior of your hood. This system can reduce the need for hood cleanings by up to 75%, resulting in significant time savings for your workers.

  5. Set Up Professional Inspections for Your Exhaust System
    Even with the most dedicated cleaning regimens, grease can still accumulate in your exhaust system. One easy way to avoid the hassle and concern of scheduling regular inspections (and ensuring they meet your standards) is to streamline your hood cleanup with AutoMist, which automates the entire hood, flue and fan cleaning process and includes regularly scheduled inspections.

  6. Identify the Right Vendor for All Maintenance and Inspections
    When it comes to safety, the lowest price is not always the best option. Always look for a certified and trusted expert in the field when scheduling professional services for any of your equipment or safety features. Choose a company that prioritizes communication and offers additional support where needed. After any cleaning service, it’s also useful to request pictures to confirm that the service is thorough and meeting expectations.

  7.  Customize Your Maintenance Plan to Your Business
    Ensure your plan meets all mandatory standards outlined by vendors, insurers, regulatory bodies and the local fire marshal, who’s also a great resource for updates on code changes and other regulatory matters. From there, you can customize the plan to match your location’s specific needs and risk areas. 

  8. Update Your Staff Training Regimen
    Your staff should be well-versed in kitchen fire safety and prevention techniques. To avoid fires and ensure your employees are safe during emergency situations, update your training regimen to include:

    • Cleaning up grease.Grease-free hoods are critical to fire safety. In addition to professional inspections and cleaning services, staff should also look for grease on walls or kitchen equipment.
    • Safely handling and disposing of ashes.Charcoal or wood ovens should be cleaned daily with the ashes being placed in metal containers. Cigarettes and ashtrays should also be rinsed before being thrown away.
    • Ensuring solutions are properly storedFrom flammable liquids to cleaning chemicals, staff should know where to store such solutions. They should also follow proper cleanup procedures should an accident occur.
    • Avoiding fire hazardsWhether it’s properly storing paper products or disposing of trash, soiled rags, and cardboard in an effective manner, staff should understand and perform the daily maintenance tasks that reduce your fire risk.
    • Safely responding to fires.Accidents happen, and fires are still possible even after taking precautions. An emergency action plan (EAP) could save lives should an emergency occur. In addition to EAP training, employees should know how to properly use a fire extinguisher:
      • P:Pull the pin in the handle
      • A:Aim the nozzle at the base of the handle
      • S:Squeeze the lever slowly
      • S:Sweep from side to side
Want to share our tips with your staff? Download our free printable Fire Safety Guide! Back to Commercial Kitchen Safety

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