This article was previously published on February 28, 2019 and updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy. 

Restaurant fires are among the biggest threat to the food service industry. According to FEMA, there are approximately 5,900 restaurant fires each year that result in over $170 million in property damage. Not only are these fires incredibly costly, but they put employees' and patrons' lives at risk.

Fire safety is essential for restaurant owners to prevent tragic outcomes like lost revenue, permanent closure, injured occupants, or even death. Read on to learn how you can protect your restaurant, customers, and staff members from the devastating effects of a fire.

Follow Fire Codes and Safety Regulations

As a restaurant owner or manager, you must understand fire codes and best practices in your jurisdiction. Restaurant fire safety is something you must take seriously. These guidelines are in place to protect your business and customers, ensuring a safe environment for everybody.

Both states and municipalities set fire and safety codes. Most fire and safety codes can be found using the CodeFinder tool provided by the NFPA. However, if your state or municipality has not published restaurant fire codes online, then you’ll need to contact them directly. For more information, visit the NFPA Codes and Standards page to view a list of over 300 consensus fire codes and standards.

Train Your Staff on Restaurant Fire Safety

In addition to understanding local fire codes and safety regulations, you’ll need to educate and train your staff on how to mitigate fire hazards while working in the kitchen. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways a fire can start, and it only takes one spark for everything to go ablaze.

It’s essential for lead chefs and managers to constantly check the kitchen throughout the workday to ensure proper procedures are followed. Non-kitchen staff should also understand the basics of fire safety and what they should do if a fire breaks out. Below are some procedures your staff should know and be following:

  • Fire Extinguisher Use: Teach your staff how to properly use a fire extinguisher. Use the acronym PAST: Pull the pin, aim at the base, make a sweeping motion and stay ten feet away.
  • Grease Clean-Up: Always clean exhaust hoods to prevent grease buildup from restricting airflow. Also, clean walls and work surfaces, such as ranges, fryers, boilers, and grills.
  • Grease Fire Control: Never throw water on a grease fire. This will cause grease to spread and erupt in a larger fire.
  • Ashes Removal: Wood or charcoal-burning ovens need to be emptied at least once a day. Store ashes in a metal container at least 10 feet from the building and flammable materials.
  • Flammable Liquid Storage: Keep flammable liquids in their original containers and store them in a well-ventilated area away from ignition sources.
  • Chemical Solutions Usage: Chemicals should only be used in well-ventilated areas. Also, never mix chemicals unless directions call for it, and always clean up chemical spills immediately.
  • Power Down Procedure: At least one worker per shift must know how to shut off gas and electrical power to prevent more damage in the event of an emergency.
  • Evacuation Plan: One staff member per shift must be designated as the evacuation manager. This person is responsible for calling 911 and safe evacuation.

Install and Maintain Restaurant Fire Safety Equipment

Fire protection equipment can help minimize fire damage and save lives. Having a robust defense against potential fires is essential for restaurants, particularly those with large kitchens. Here is some of the equipment that can help keep your employees and guests protected from restaurant fires:

  • Smoke Detectors: Install smoke detectors with photoelectric capabilities. Using a light-sensing chamber, photoelectric smoke detectors alert you of fire whenever smoke enters that chamber. Additionally, smoke detectors specially fitted for ductwork will shut off the ventilation system when triggered, preventing smoke inhalation.
  • Automatic Sprinklers: Heat-activated sprinklers installed in the ceiling turn on when a fire’s extreme heat is detected, beginning the fire-fighting process before emergency services arrive.
  • Manual Pull Stations: Install easy-to-reach manual fire alarms so anyone can pull them in the event of a fire. These alarms emit visual and audio signals, alerting people to leave the dangerous area.
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers: Keep Class K extinguishers in kitchens to protect against fires involving grease, fats, and oils. Use Class ABC extinguishers elsewhere for other fires, like paper, wood, plastic, and electrical.
  • Automatic Fire (Hood) Suppression System: Install an automatic fire suppression system in the kitchen. A suppression system connects to the hood over your cooking station and also the gas line. When a fire is detected, these systems will automatically release chemicals to suppress the fire as well as turn off the power supply to nearby cooking equipment. Fire suppression systems should be professionally inspected and monitored to further reduce the risk of kitchen fires.
  • Regular Electrical Maintenance: Inspect electrical appliances to identify hazards like frayed cords or wires, broken switch plates, and combustible materials near power sources.
  • Exhaust System Inspections: The NFPA Fire Code requires regular inspections for exhaust systems, depending on the size of your operation. For example, quarterly inspections are required for systems in high-volume operations and semiannual inspections for moderate-volume operations. Additionally, monthly inspections are required for exhaust systems serving solid-fuel cooking equipment, like wood-burning ovens.

The fire safety items you need and where you place them depends on the size and layout of your restaurant. Vector Security can conduct a walkthrough of your restaurant and develop the best course of action for fire safety and restaurant security. We can also handle the installation and be there to address any questions or concerns that may arise during the process.

At the end of the day, the safety of our business partners is our utmost concern. If you would like to learn more about how Vector Security can help keep your restaurant protected, feel free to contact us today.