Restaurant safety is important for any restaurant owner, manager, employee, and customer. A customer wants to eat at a restaurant where the food is prepared in a safe manner. Less often customers are concerned about the risk of a kitchen fire. For staff and owners however, a kitchen fire could have devastating results in terms of injury and the ability of the business to offer uninterrupted service to customers. To ensure restaurant safety it is important that restaurants take the right steps to guarantee that the kitchen is safe and free from unusual fire hazards. To do that they must learn how to prevent fires from starting in the first place and understand how to put out a grease fire and other forms of kitchen-based fires.

Commercial Kitchens

Commercial cooking operations are defined as kitchens that have cooking equipment that produce grease and grease laden vapors. This includes grills, char broilers deep fat fryers, and other cooking appliances.

Other equipment, such as ovens, microwaves and steam kettles fall into the non-grease producing appliance category. The following is information regarding two of the most common types of equipment that produce grease and/or grease laden vapors.

Deep Fat Fryers

  • Deep fat fryers are a major cause of kitchen fires. Oil can splash and easily come into contact with an open flame from an adjacent piece of cooking equipment, such as a gas-fired range top. Proper clearance or a barrier must be maintained between the deep fat fryer and open flame cooking equipment.
  • The normal temperature range for food service frying is 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. As the oil temperature increases, so does the risk of an accidental grease fire. Cooking oil will auto-ignite if allowed to overheat. For this reason, all deep fat fryers should be equipped with a high temperature limiting device, which will shut off the fuel or energy in the event the cooking oil exceeds a temperature of 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

Flat Grills and Griddles

Flat grills and griddles are typically used for frying foods such as hamburgers and bacon. When used for this type of cooking, grease and grease laden vapors will be produced.

To adequately control the fire hazard associated with these types of cooking operations, two fire protection components must be installed: a hood and ventilation system and an automatic extinguishing system.

Ventilation and Hood Systems

A kitchen ventilation and hood system will include an exhaust hood or canopy, ductwork, fan system, and a means of providing adequate make-up air. This system will effectively remove the heat, grease and grease laden vapors from the cooking area. These systems should be installed by professionals, in accordance with mechanical and building codes. Once in use, regular professional cleanings are required to remove accumulated grease.

Fire Suppression Systems

  • All cooking equipment that produces grease or grease-laden vapors must be protected by an approved automatic extinguishing system.
  • These automatic extinguishing systems are often referred to as “Ansul systems”, based on a popular brand name.
  • The automatic extinguishing system should meet the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) 300 standard.
  • The system should be inspected and serviced every six months by a qualified contractor.
  • A minimum of one manual activator or “pull station” is required as part of the system. While these systems are designed to operate automatically by temperature sensing elements, the pull station provides an option to bring about system operation manually.
  • The pull station must be accessible in the event of a fire and located along a route of egress from the kitchen area.
  • Kitchen staff must be properly trained on the proper operation of the manual activator.
  • The system must be inter-connected to an automatic fuel/power shut off that cuts all fuel/power from the cooking equipment immediately after the automatic extinguishing system is activated.
  • The operation of cooking equipment should be prohibited when the extinguishing system or exhaust system is non-operational or otherwise impaired.·

Fire Extinguishers

  • In addition to general purpose extinguishers, K-rated wet chemical fire extinguishers are required in commercial kitchens. Because the extinguishing agent is a special wet chemical, it can be effective where typical extinguishing agents cannot. The agent discharges as a fine mist, which helps prevent grease splash and fire re-flash, while cooling the appliance and cooking oil.
  • The fire extinguisher should be located no more than 30 feet from the cooking equipment.
  • Fire extinguishers must be maintained at regular intervals; at a minimum of once per year, or when specifically indicated by a manufacturers recommendations. Maintenance should be conducted only by an approved certified contractor. Fire extinguisher inspection is intended to give maximum assurance that an extinguisher will operate effectively and safely.

If your best attempts to prevent a fire from starting in a kitchen fail, then having the right equipment, installed and maintained properly, to extinguish any flames can make the difference between an inconvenient mess and a business ruined.

Is your kitchen protected against fire?

At Albany Fire Extinguisher, we provide fire risk assessments and safety equipment for a range of businesses. Let our qualified professionals help you protect your premises. If you are not local to the Albany region, please contact your local fire safety professionals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice for your establishment, nor are any suggested checklists or actions plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions.

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