When it comes to fire prevention and fire safety in restaurants, there are several regular activities you can do on a daily or weekly basis to reduce fire risk. You can also combine simple, affordable strategies into a commercial kitchen fire safety plan. Taking fire prevention seriously with a restaurant safety checklist keeps your customers, employees, and business safe, provides peace of mind, lowers insurance costs, and ensures your equipment stays in good running order. If you don’t have written fire safety protocol, create a fire safety plan that includes a daily fire safety checklist and other routine inspections and maintenance.

At AIE, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to start lowering your fire risk today, so we’ve compiled the Top 5 Restaurant Fire-Safety Tips to include in your plan. Hang this restaurant safety checklist somewhere your staff can easily read to ensure these vital tasks are understood and completed.

A Restaurant Safety Checklist & Plan Ensures Fire Safety in Restaurants

Restaurant fire safety should be a daily priority. Use these restaurant safety tips and strategies to create your business’s fire safety checklist.

#1 – Incorporate a Daily Fire Safety Checklist into Your Routine

The best thing you can do to minimize fire risk is to make fire prevention part of your daily routine with a daily fire safety checklist. To ensure restaurant fire safety is a daily priority, include the below items as part of your daily tasks.

  • Keep the kitchen and all other areas debris-free.
  • Stop trash from overflowing and put it in the dumpster as needed rather than just near the door. This opens doorways and evacuation paths in case of emergency and stops paper and other flammables from coming into contact with commercial kitchen equipment, such as stoves, ovens, grills, the furnace or air conditioner, refrigeration equipment, electric appliances, overheated motors, machinery belts, and open flames.
  • Maintain clean, uncluttered work areas keeps the fire load to a minimum.

Incorporating these fire safety norms for restaurants can avoid accidents, ensure safety, and save lives and money. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), American fire departments responded to an average of 8,240 structure fires at eating and drinking establishments each year between 2012 and 2016. These fires resulted in an average of two civilian deaths each year, 115 injuries, and $246 million in property damage.

#2 – Commercial Fire Extinguisher Inspections Every Month

Portable fire extinguishers and their maintenance are crucial to include in your restaurant safety checklist or fire safety plan. You must follow nfpa fire extinguisher inspection requirements and have visual fire extinguisher inspections every 30 days.  It seems obvious, but if you need an extinguisher and can’t find one or it doesn’t work, your entire restaurant could go up in flames. Here are the main questions to ask yourself about your restaurant fire safety and kitchen fire extinguishers to ensure you’re prepared:

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Do you and all staff know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them? It is imperative they’re within easy reach and that everyone is trained on where they are and how to use them. It can be challenging to remember how to use an extinguisher when under stress, so it is helpful to memorize and incorporate the acronym PAST into your fire prevention plan – Pull the pin, Aim at the base, Sweep and Spray from ten feet away.
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Have you inspected all fire extinguishers lately? OSHA and NFPA require monthly safety inspections to ensure the gauge is on full (needle to green), the hose is intact, and the pin is securely in place. Extinguisher inspections can be performed by officially trained employees who then initial and date the backside of the tag, saving time and money on hiring an inspector. The annual fire safety inspections, however, are more involved and must be performed by a certified professional and reported to the appropriate organizations.
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Are the kitchen extinguishers K-Class and within 10 ft. of cooking equipment? This is also essential. If you happen to need a new one in the kitchen, you cannot pull an ABC-Class from the dining room or front of the house. K-Class extinguishers are specially designed for grease fires.
Data collected from 34 years of surveys by the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED) shows that portable fire extinguishers were effective in extinguishing fires 95% of the time.

#3 – Frequent Kitchen Hood Inspections & Cleaning

We get asked regularly, “How often should I inspect and clean my kitchen hood system and how will I know it’s time?” The answer depends on the volume of food and type of food you’re cooking.

NFPA-96 requires kitchen hood inspections two times per year by a certified professional. However, at AIE we feel kitchen hood cleaning twice a year is not nearly enough to lower fire risk. If you’re a high-volume restaurant or a quick-service restaurant (QSR), the kitchen hood will get dirty faster than a small, lower-volume restaurant or a restaurant that does minimal frying.

Frequent Kitchen Hood Cleaning

To reduce facility fire risks, clean the hood filter frequently – weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly. Add this cleaning to your fire safety maintenance checklist to ensure it’s done regularly.

If you’re high-volume, make it part of the daily checklist and cleaning routine. This stops the build-up of grease and debris on the filter and helps keep it from accumulating in the flue. This simple task can decrease the likelihood of hood fires and keep your kitchen running safely. Regular kitchen hood cleaning is an important part of a fire prevention plan and fire safety in restaurants.

#4 – Kitchen Employee Training on Proper Use of Equipment

It is easy to put your fire safety plan and training on the back burner when you’re running a busy bar, restaurant, and/or commercial kitchen. But, with nearly 21 bar and restaurant fires reported daily in the U.S., of which 61% are caused by cooking equipment (NFPA), it is crucial to take kitchen equipment and fire safety training seriously.

Use these restaurant-specific tips when addressing training in your kitchen fire safety plan:

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Ensure kitchen staff knows how to use each piece of equipment properly. How to turn items on and off, how to restart or relight them, and where the gas shut off valves and electricals are located.
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Designate at least one kitchen worker and one front of the house staff member per shift to shut off gas and electrical power in case of emergency.
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Assign another to be an emergency “evacuation manager.” He or she would call 911 and get everyone out of the restaurant if necessary.
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Teach new employees fire-safety protocol, evacuation procedures, and the use of fire-safety and kitchen equipment right away. It is the business owner’s responsibility to train employees on best practices.
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Hold a mandatory annual fire-safety training refresher course for veteran staff.

Only with proper restaurant employee training and adherence to NFPA and OSHA fire-safety standards can you minimize risks and provide the best fire safety in restaurants. Prioritize customer and staff safety with routine training and a restaurant employee training checklist

According to FEMA, on average, a commercial kitchen fire causes a $23,000 loss. For about 43% of those same restaurants, fire damage causes a total loss and they are forced to close. It pays to know fire safety and have a practiced fire prevention plan.

#5 – Inspect & Maintain Your Fire Sprinkler System

Though not every restaurant is required by law to have a fire sprinkler system, if you do, it is no use having one unless you regularly inspect and maintain it. Depending on the type of system you have and your hazard classification, quarterly and annual safety inspections are mandated by NFPA code and must be performed by a state-licensed technician. If you need repairs or maintenance, it is best to use an experienced, certified technician with a satisfaction guarantee. Be sure to include routine inspections in your safety plan.

Also, did you know, a licensed sprinkler inspector can legally inspect your backflow preventers, but a backflow inspector cannot, by code, inspect your sprinkler system? One of the most common mistakes we see in the restaurant industry is that one person is paid to inspect backflow preventers and another for sprinkler systems. Save time and expenses by using one source, like AIE, who can conduct sprinkler system inspections, regularly inspect your backflow preventers, represent you during planned safety inspections, and send experienced technicians to make any repairs and service your equipment. We are experts at fire code in restaurants.

In a 2014 study by the NFPA, direct property damage per reported fire in eating and/or drinking establishments was 75% lower when wet pipe sprinklers were present, compared to fires with no automatic extinguishing equipment present.

Minimize Liability with a Restaurant Fire Safety Plan

Keep your restaurant, staff, customers, and kitchen safe with fire-safety strategies tied to your daily routine. Ensure your staff is trained on the restaurant fire safety checklist, weekly fire safety to-dos & overall safety protocol. Declutter floors, doorways, and evacuation pathways and prioritize cleanliness, especially of kitchen equipment. Regularly inspect and maintain your fire extinguishers, sprinkler system, and kitchen hood and implement regular fire-safety and kitchen equipment training.

These fire safety norms are important measures for preventing fire events and working safe. Ensure your staff is aware of how to practice fire safety in restaurants by displaying your restaurant kitchen safety checklist in a highly trafficked area.

Fire risk is everywhere in restaurants and the food industry, so restaurant fire safety should be at the forefront of your business. These 5 fire safety tips are easy and cost-effective to implement, yet vital to the well-being of customers and staff.

When fire prevention and training employees are taken seriously, you minimize the risks and can stop the smallest fire before it escalates. Get the peace of mind you deserve knowing your business is code-compliant and fire-safe every day, not just when the fire marshal shows up.

If you have any questions about this article or would like one nationwide source for all your fire-safety needs, contact AIE today or call 800-892-9863