There are almost 6000 restaurant fires each year in the United States. Some of these fires are simple cooking or chimney fires, but other fires, known as unconfined fires, are more serious and can cause your restaurant to be reduced to cinders. While you probably work hard each year to make sure that your electrical work and cooking equipment is up to code, there are a few other things you should do to make sure that your building is more fire-resistant.
1. Repair things that don't seem fire related.
Most restaurant fires happen in the kitchen, but other areas of your building are also at risk. Therefore, each year, you should make sure to have your ductwork, kitchen venting, and your furnace and heating sources checked by a professional. Ventilation in the kitchen is especially important, as the grease can build up on the inside of the system, creating a highly flammable substance that only needs a spark of heat to set it ablaze. Because ventilation is connected to the rest of restaurant, it is one of the places that fires could spread more easily.
If the ductwork and vents are old, they should be replaced. If they are cracked or weakened, consider calling in an on-site welding company like Suburban Welding & Steel LLC to reinforce heat-susceptible areas with a layer of aluminum or another semi-conductor so that your vents will have longer life and be more insulated against fire hazards. Part of fire prevention is stopping small fires from spreading. Repairing cracks and improving the metal quality in your kitchen vents will go a long way to stopping a fire before it can do too much damage.
2. Clean out your furnace filter.
A furnace filter works a lot like a lint collector in a dryer. It helps to keep your furnace clean and efficient by trapping small debris. However, if the filter becomes too full, it is chock full of flammable materials that sit very near a major heat source. Replace the filter every few months. Restaurants get more traffic than homes, and they have more excess particles in the air with cooking and employees in close quarters. A restaurant filter and furnace will need more attention than the one that heats your home.
3. Keep things cool.
This suggestion seems obvious, but fires start when there is something to light the tinder. Heat from powered equipment and heat from open flames and hot pans are the top two most common igniters of restaurant fires. Ranges, deep fryers, and even just pans that you've removed from the stovetop can light up in the blink of an eye. Before leaving your restaurant each day, be sure that:
- grease is cooled before it is thrown away.
- hot pans are not left on the range to cool.
- all ovens and fryers are off, and oil is drained from them.
- warming pans are switched off and unplugged from the wall.
Draining oil and unplugging appliances may seem like extreme measures, but electrical fires from appliances can also cause fires. Unplugging them each day may be inconvenient, but will drastically reduce the chances of a fire in your establishment.
4. Never use broken equipment.
If your range hood is not functioning, send it to be fixed or have someone come in to fix it. On site-welders can contract to your business and be there promptly if the problem is a crack or a broken metal piece. Cracks allow heat to escape, and render useless the fireproof barrier that your hoods and vents provide for your kitchen. You should also have an electrician on call to fix any problems you might have with fans. If your ranges or fryers are not heating up properly, it is best not to use them at all until they can be repaired.