Extinguish the Threat

— By Chad Connor —

The importance of checking your restaurant’s fire safety.


Restaurant kitchens have many places where fires can occur. Business owners need to be aware of potential fire hazards and take preventative steps when it comes to fire safety. Following a few simple safety tips can prevent fires and keep employees and patrons safe in your establishment.

Conducting Regular Inspections

Chad Connor, Affordable Fire and Safety

Regular inspections are the first step in fire safety for restaurants. Inspections of fire safety equipment must be done annually by a professional for approval by the fire marshal. Employees and managers cannot legally conduct the inspections themselves. The sprinkler system, fire extinguishers, alarms and exit lights must all be inspected and repaired, if needed, during this time.

During the inspection certain items need to be changed out at certain ages per National Fire Protection Association codes. A few examples are: links for the hood need to be changed out annually; fire sprinkler gauges need to be changed out every 5 years; and fire extinguishers need to be recharged every 6 years.

Most of the time repairs are simple and don’t cost a lot of money if maintained regularly. The repairs can get expensive if they aren’t addressed for many years.

Communicate the Emergency Action Plan

Restaurant owners or managers should provide written emergency action plans for employees to ensure everyone knows the exit routes and what fire emergency procedures are in place.

Emergency action plans should cover designated actions employers and employees need to take to ensure their safety during fire emergencies, according to OSHA. These actions include which equipment needs shutdown and when fire suppression efforts should take place. The restaurant owner or manager needs to ensure all employees understand fire suppression procedures and escape routes to be followed by each location in the office.

Management is required to review the emergency action plan with each employee at certain times including when the plan is developed, when an employee’s responsibilities change and when the plan changes.

Test the Alarms

Fire alarms are often considered the most critical element of a restaurant’s safety system. When an alarm sounds, the occupants immediately know a potential danger exists and evacuation is necessary.

General managers need to conduct regular tests of the fire alarm system. Most systems can be tested through the control panel. Set the control panel to test mode, meaning it will not call the fire department and press the button again to set off the alarms. For other systems the alarms may need manual activation by opening an alarm lever box with a master key and pressing the button within. Record your results of the test keeping a list of every activating device and how it reacted to the test. If one or more alarms are faulty, this information will help a technician locate the problem quickly.

Placement of Fire Extinguishers

Having proper fire extinguishers in your establishment is necessary to battle any fires. Class K fire extinguishers are required for all restaurant kitchens. These extinguishers spray out a chemical that effectively smothers grease fires. The front of the house is required to have a class ABC fire extinguisher. These extinguishers are your basic use extinguisher used in putting out small fires.

Extinguishers also need to be free of debris for easy access. Do not allow employees to hang aprons on them or block them with boxes or carts. Timing is everything when a fire starts. Fast access to the extinguishers and pull stations helps put out the fire before it spreads.

Check Your Emergency Lights

Lastly, fire exit signs need to be posted in the proper areas and the lights inside must be functioning. Exit signs light up allowing patrons and employees to quickly find escape routes when a fire starts. Improper lighting can lead to tragedy in a smoke-filled situation if people are not able to find the exits quickly.

Keep the Oven Hoods Clean

The biggest fire safety hazard in any restaurant is the ventilation hood. Most fires occurring in restaurants are due to improper cleaning of the ventilation hood. The hood allows an escape for smoke and steam up and out of the building. Grease and grime, built up over time, can become a tinder box when a flame is sucked up into the ventilation system.

When the hood is dirty, the hood system attached to it will not actuate so the chemicals won’t come out of the lines. If the lines don’t actuate, then you have nothing to fight the fire and it can spread very quickly due to the grease buildup.

Professional cleaning of the hood, on a regular basis, can help prevent fires from happening. The ventilation hood needs to be inspected by a professional semiannually or every 6 months.

Keeping your hood clear of debris, such as boxes and shelving, is also necessary. In addition to the automatic suppression system, the hood has a manual pull station operating the lines if it fails to actuate on its own. Making sure the area is free of debris allows the employees to use the pull station — putting out the fire quickly.

Fire safety is important for all kitchens. Following these few simple steps can help keep your restaurant, employees and patrons safe. Professional inspections and regular cleaning will go a long way in the protection of your establishment.





— Chad Connor is the president of Affordable Fire and Safety located in Gilbert, Arizona. Affordable Fire and Safety conducts thousands of inspections each year.

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