Fire Prevention Strategies for Your Commercial Kitchen's Safety

Contained fire is behind each kitchen's success. An uncontrolled fire can be behind its demise. The safety of a commercial kitchen starts with working out fire prevention strategies.

From the proper choice of equipment and timely maintenance to thorough inspections and staff training, kitchen managers must work out an efficient prevention scheme while keeping the law in mind.

Let's look into the major components of your strategy.

1. Regular Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning

Commercial kitchen exhaust fires can cause severe damage to the entire building. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of restaurant fires is cooking equipment. The reason why such fires spread viciously is due to the grease buildup in the exhaust system.

That's why it's important to follow NFPA standards for cleaning and maintaining the system.

NFPA 11.6.1: "Upon inspection, if the exhaust system is found to be contaminated with deposits from grease-laden vapors, the contaminated portions of the exhaust system shall be cleaned by a properly trained, qualified, and certified company or person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction." Hoods, grease removal devices, fans, ducts, and other appurtenances shall be cleaned to remove combustible contaminants to a minimum of 50 μm (0.002 in.).

2. Timely Kitchen Equipment Inspections

NFPA sets the standards for scheduling equipment inspections and cleanings depending on the volume or type of cooking:

  • Systems serving solid fuel cooking operations – Monthly cleaning
  • Systems serving high-volume cooking operations (24-hour cooking, charbroiling or wok cooking) – Quarterly cleaning
  • Systems serving moderate-volume cooking operations – Semi-annual cleaning
  • Systems serving low-volume cooking operations (day camps, seasonal business) –annual cleaning

It's also up to your kitchen staff to inspect the kitchen equipment regularly to prevent the possibility of fire. If they notice an excessive grease buildup, immediate cleaning is in order. Kitchen employees must also pay special attention to emptying out grease drip pans.

3. Employee Training on Fire Prevention Issues

Commercial kitchen employees have to undergo fire safety training at least once a year. Your staff should:

  • Be familiar with the evacuation plan
  • Know their roles in a fire emergency
  • Know the location of alarms and fire extinguishers
  • Know how the fire suppression system works
  • Adopt the attitude of the kitchen being a potentially hazardous area
  • Keep exit ways clear
  • Understand the chemistry of cooking oils. For example, vegetable oil burns hotter than animal fat.
  • Understand the importance of calling a fire department even if the fire seems small
  • Know where the gas emergency shutoff is
  • Learn how to treat burns

By arranging fire drills at least quarterly, you can prevent serious consequences for your employees and facilities.

4. Maintaining Fire Suppression Equipment

Each commercial kitchen should have automatic and manual fire suppression systems.

The automatic system has a temperature sensor. As soon as the temperature outside the exhaust system's hood reaches a certain point (usually 450°F), the extinguishing agent sprays over the flames. Meanwhile, the gas supply shuts off automatically. These automatic systems should also have a manual pull trigger.

Another manual fire suppression tool that should be present in your commercial kitchen is a class K fire extinguisher. These extinguishers use chemical agents that turn hot oils and grease into a non-flammable substance.

  • Inspect your fire suppression systems regularly according to NFPA 17A standards.
  • Test or replace your fire extinguishers timely (according to OSHA, they should be visually inspected monthly by your staff and annually by a professional fire protection company. The same company should also run internal extinguisher maintenance every 5, 6 or 12 years depending on the equipment type.)
  • Inspect and test your fire alarms. NFPA 72 Code requires weekly and monthly fire alarm inspections and tests.

Prevent Commercial Kitchen Fires and Stay Safe

Regular kitchen exhaust cleaning is one of the main components of your fire prevention strategy. At Pronto MS, we have decades of experience cleaning exhaust systems to help keep commercial kitchens safe. Please call us at 312.909.1888 to get a quote at any convenient time.