Fire Prevention

Fire Prevention

Restaurants—with their open flames, hot equipment, electrical connections, cooking oils, cleaning chemicals and paper products—have all the ingredients for a fire to flame out of control. Nearly 8,000 eating and drinking establishments report a fire each year according to the National Fire Protection Association. The NFPA also reports that the leading area of origin for structure fires in hotels and motels is the kitchen, which is where 41 percent hotel and motel fires start.

A fire can devastate your business and harm your guests and staff, possibly leading to permanent closure. But there are steps you can take to prevent fires and minimize the damage.


Preventative maintenance

Install an automatic fire-suppression system in the kitchen. More than half of restaurant and hotel fires involve cooking equipment, and these systems automatically dispense chemicals to suppress the flames. They also automatically shut down the fuel or electrical supply to nearby cooking equipment. Have your fire-suppression system professionally inspected semiannually. The manufacturer can refer you to an authorized distributor for inspection and maintenance.

Keep portable fire extinguishers as a backup. You’ll need Class K extinguishers for kitchen fires involving grease, fats and oils that burn at high temperatures. Class K fire extinguishers are only intended to be used after the activation of a built-in hood suppression system. Keep Class ABC extinguishers elsewhere for all other fires (paper, wood, plastic, electrical, etc.).

Schedule regular maintenance on electrical equipment, and watch for hazards like frayed cords or wiring, cracked or broken switch plates and combustible items near power sources.

Have your exhaust system inspected for grease buildup. The NFPA Fire Code calls for quarterly inspections of systems in high-volume operations and semiannual inspections in moderate-volume operations. Monthly inspections are required for exhaust systems serving solid-fuel cooking equipment, like wood- or charcoal-burning ovens.


Staff training

Training your staff on fire safety is critical, and Washington Hospitality Association’s incipient firefighting course is a great place to start. Certified fire personnel will teach your employees how to use portable fire extinguishers and train them on appropriate response skills that are necessary to fight and control fires that are in the beginning or incipient stage. (Learn more at

The National Restaurant Association also offers these recommendations on its website:

  • Have the right fire extinguishers in the right place, and make sure staff is trained on using them appropriately.
  • Clean up grease and properly clean exhaust hoods, walls and work surfaces; ranges, fryers, broilers, grills and convection ovens; vents and filters.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire.
  • Make sure cigarettes are out before dumping them in a trash receptacle. Do not allow smoking in or near storage areas.
  • Store flammable liquids properly in well-ventilated areas away from supplies, food, food-preparation areas or any source of flames.
  • Stay tidy to avoid fire hazards. Store paper products, linens, boxes and food away from heat and cooking sources.
  • Properly dispose of soiled rags, trash, cardboard boxes and wooden pallets at least once a day. Note: Washing machines designed for home use do not have hot enough water to adequately remove oils and solvents from soiled rags.
  • Use chemical solutions properly. Use chemicals in well-ventilated areas, and never mix chemicals unless directions call for mixing. Immediately clean up chemical spills.

You should also have an emergency plan and teach every new employee about closest exits, evacuation procedures and the proper usage of fire-safety equipment. Give veteran staff members a refresher course at least annually. On every shift you should have at least one worker training in how to shut off gas and electrical power in case of emergency, and have an evacuation manager on every shift who is in charge of calling 911, determining when an evacuation is necessary and ensuring that everyone exits the restaurant safely.


Source: National Restaurant Association


Rev. 12/14/16


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Hospitality Association here.

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Categories: HERO, Resources