Hot oil. Grease buildup. Open flames. Rushed employees. It's not surprising that restaurants are often the scene of fires. In fact, between 2011 and 2013, there were approximately 5,600 restaurant fires reported. And these fires can be extremely costly. Those 5,600 fires, for instance, cost about $116 million in property damage, and that's not even accounting for any revenue that may have been lost while the businesses were closed for repairs. Given the potential for lost income and injuries, it's not surprising that fires are a major concern for all restaurant owners. 

Keep It Clean

Grease can be a hidden danger. It is highly flammable and can build up to dangerous levels in different areas of a restaurant without anyone even realizing it. For example, grease can build up on a facility's floors, walls, hoods, and work surfaces. To prevent fires, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that high-volume restaurants should have their exhaust system inspected on a quarterly basis. For moderate-volume restaurants, that number can be cut down to twice a year.  On the other hand, restaurants that use wood or charcoal while cooking should have their exhaust systems inspected on a monthly basis. Restaurants should also: 

  1. Have their employees clean all surfaces on a regular basis. Grease can build up quickly, so it's imperative that they understand that proper cleaning can prevent kitchen fires. It is highly recommended that restaurants also have their kitchens cleaned by a professional service on a regular basis, as they have the equipment necessary to get at those hard-to-reach areas. 
  2. Install a hood with a fire-suppression system. While cleaning is a restaurant's first line of defense against a kitchen fire, suppression should be its next. Owners should, for example, install an exhaust hood that incorporates a fire protection system. These systems can knock down fires before they have a chance to rage out of control. Even if you don't decide to install a hood with a fire-suppression system, it's important that your facility has the right type of grease hood and ventilation system. These systems are designed to move grease-laden vapors out of the kitchen area. Contact a company like Tri County Fire Protection to learn more about your options.
  3. Use heat-dissipating bags to contain greasy towels. When linens are covered in grease and are piled up together, it creates an environment that is ripe for spontaneous combustion. According to Food Service Monthly, bacteria in a pile of greasy towels can create heat. Unfortunately, that heat can't dissipate when linens are piled on top of each other. This can then result in a fire. So it's important that your employees understand that dirty linens should be stored in heat-dissipating bags until they can be picked up for cleaning. 

Training Is Key

Of course, a business owner could have all of the best equipment and guidelines in place, but if employees fail to follow a business's rules or don't understand how to deal with a potential fire, all could still be lost. That is why it is imperative that you train your employees about the following:

  1. Proper fire extinguisher use. Employees should also be taught that they can't use water to extinguish grease fires. Throwing water onto a grease fire could actually cause it to spread. 
  2. The importance of keeping the working area free of debris and clutter. Employees need to throw their waste away as they work, especially paper products, which can easily catch fire if they get too close to hot pans or open flames. 

While most business owners don't like to dwell on worst-case scenarios, it's important that they take the time to search their facility carefully for potential fire hazards and then address them. Not doing so could end up costing the business owner thousands of dollars in repairs and lost business. And, sadly, in some cases, the owner could end up having to close altogether.