It can get hot in the kitchen in more ways than one

foodfire

Food plus fire can be an expensive combination. Nearly 8,000 eating and drinking establishments report a fire each year. These fires cause an annual average of $246 million in direct property damage. A fire can devastate your client’s business, leading to lost revenues and even permanent closure. We’ve provided some tips for you to share to help them prevent fires and minimize the damage.

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving Day is the number one fire insurance claim day in America. The biggest culprits: leaving cooking appliances unattended and the beloved turkey fryer. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fryers alone result in about 1,000 emergency fire calls each year, causing about $15 million in damage annually — and that’s just on the residential side.

Now, flip the switch to the commercial side of things. Restaurants! With open flames, hot equipment, electrical connections, cooking oils, cleaning chemicals and paper products — our favorite eating establishments have all the ingredients for a fire to flame out of control. And, this is every day of the year, not just Nov. 26.

Restaurants pose a unique fire risk because of the large number of people congregating in one building where cooking is present, which is the No. 1 cause of restaurant fires. Nearly 8,000 eating and drinking establishments report a fire each year, according to NFPA 2006-2010 data. These fires cause an annual average of $246 million in direct property damage. The majority of the fires begin in the kitchen or cooking area, and four in 10 fires are reportedly ignited by food.

A fire can devastate your client’s business, leading to lost revenues and even permanent closure. But, there are steps they can take to prevent fires and minimize the damage.

Along with regularly reviewing UIG’s Hospitality program with your clients to help ensure they have the right coverage for all of their needs, here are some “Fire Prevention 101” tips from the National Restaurant Association to share:

Preventative maintenance

— Install an automatic fire-suppression system in the kitchen.

This is crucial because 57 percent of restaurant fires involve cooking equipment. These systems automatically dispense chemicals to suppress the flames and also have a manual switch. Activating the system automatically shuts down the fuel or electric 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

Train your staff to:

— Find and use a fire extinguisher appropriately.

An acronym you may find helpful is PAST – pull out the pin, aim at the base, make a sweeping motion, (be) ten feet away.

— Clean up the grease.

Cleaning exhaust hoods is especially important, since grease buildup can restrict airflow. Be sure to clean walls and work surfaces, ranges, fryers, broilers, grills and convection ovens, vents and filters.

— Never throw water on a grease fire.

Water tossed into grease will cause grease to splatter, spread and likely erupt into a larger fire.

— Remove ashes.

From wood- and charcoal-burning ovens at least once a day. Store outside in metal containers at least 10 feet from any buildings or combustible materials.

— Make sure cigarettes are out.

Before dumping them in a trash receptacle. Never smoke in or near storage areas.

— Store flammable liquids properly.

Keep them in their original containers or puncture-resistant, tightly sealed containers. Store containers in well-ventilated areas away from supplies, food, food-preparation areas or any source of flames.

— Tidy up 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.

— Use chemical solutions properly.

Use chemicals in well-ventilated areas, and never mix chemicals unless directions call for mixing. Immediately clean up chemical spills.

— Be prepared: Have an emergency plan.

If a fire breaks out in your restaurant, your staff must take control of the situation and lead customers to safety.

— Be prepared to power down.

Train at least one worker per shift how to shut off gas and electrical power in case of emergency.

— Have an evacuation plan.

Designate one staff member per shift to be evacuation manager. That person should be in charge of calling 911, determining when an evacuation is necessary and ensuring that everyone exits the restaurant safely. Train your staff to know where the closest exits are, depending on their location in the restaurant. Remember that the front door is an emergency exit.

— Offer emergency training.

Teach new employees about evacuation procedures and the usage of fire-safety equipment. Give veteran staff members a refresher course at least annually.

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