All kitchens have fire hazards – that’s part of working with heat, grease, and open flame. But the hazards particular to commercial kitchens can be especially dangerous and could potentially cost you or your restaurant millions in repairs should a fire break out.
Let’s take a look at the obvious ones first:
1. Your deep fat fryer. A deep fat fryer is literally a vat of boiling grease just waiting to splash out and come into contact with heat or flame from an adjacent range. The fix: Maintain 16 ft between your deep fat fryer and any open flames. If your kitchen is too small for this, put up a vertical steel barrier that extends at least a foot beyond the top of the fryer.
2. The open range. We’ll leave the debate over electric versus gas to the home chefs. The evidence is clear that most commercial kitchens have gas ranges, which means open flames in a very busy environment where the potential for contact between the open flame and food, grease, kitchen towels, or long sleeves is high. The fix: vigilance and a culture of fire safety. Make it clear to your line chefs that safety is above all. Table 15 is getting restless? Make it a policy to offer them a free drink rather than risk your chefs – and your kitchen – by putting too many pans on the fire.
3. The flat griddle/grill. Be honest, you mostly use the flat griddle/grill for greasy foods like burgers and bacon. How well does your staff clean the griddle and how good is your ventilation system?The fix. Get a professionally installed and inspected hood and ventilation system and KEEP IT CLEAN. Greasy foods don’t just give off liquid grease, but also grease vapors. These cling to the hood and ventilation system and build up over time. Be sure to have your ventilation system professionally cleaned and filters changed regularly. Any lighting systems in this area should be enclosed in steel with protective, explosion-proof coverings to eliminate the chance of a combined electrical and grease fire.
Now for the not so obvious hazards:
1. Your culture. We mentioned briefly earlier that culture is a big part of fire safety. Establish a culture of fire safety through drills and policies. If you’re having a busy night, don’t rush the food. Have a policy in place that gives the wait staff several options to placate impatient diners and keep your kitchen staff – and your kitchen – safe from overcrowding and the inevitable carelessness that comes from rushing.
2. Inadequate cleaning. And by inadequate cleaning we don’t just mean of the obvious places. We’re talk about your counters, stoves, ranges, griddles, hoods, ventilation systems, floors, walls, you name it. Grease vapors will mostly be captured by your hood and ventilation system, but walls and floors and even the ceiling will need regular cleaning in order to keep them from becoming a fire hazard.
3. Improperly installed or uninspected fire suppression systems. Think it’s difficult to tell if a fire suppression system works until you need it? It’s not. Certified technicians from companies like Albany Fire Extinguisher work to make sure systems are up-to-date, operating correctly, and properly installed for your specific kitchen design.