Commercial Kitchen Fire Safety

Our Mission
Our desire is that you are kept safe. Let us know if we can help you in making your business a safer environment.

Employee Attitude
  • Become familiar with your organizations evacuation plan. Know what your role/responsibility is in a fire emergency. Know where the alarms and fire extinguishers are located, and learn how to assist in the evacuation of customers, including people with disabilities.
  • Take time to learn what kind of fire suppression system your facility has. Find out how it works and be prepared to operate it in an emergency.
  • Adopt the attitude that your kitchen is a hazard area. Watch for the accumulation of grease on stoves/hoods, missing knobs on burners, and missing filters on hood systems.
  • Remain alert to the dangers of leaving cooking food unattended.
  • Keep kitchen exit ways clear and free of storage materials. Become familiar with all exiting options from the kitchen area.
  • Understand how and when to clean kitchen hood, ducts, grills, vents, filters and fans.
  • Be cautious near sources of ignition like boilers and water heaters.
  • Turn handles of pans away from you to prevent them from being bumped off the stove.
  • Be aware of the dangers of wearing loose clothing near open flames. Also, keep kitchen towels away from open flames.
  • Understand the importance of not picking up a pan of burning grease and heading for the sink. Many severe burn injuries result from picking up pans. Do not apply water to a grease fire.
  • Keep the kitchen area clean and well organized. Prevent grease build-up on the kitchen floors.
  • Employees should understand the chemistry of cooking oils. Vegetable oil burns hotter than animal fat, so a different type of fire extinguisher is required to prevent reignition. A Class K-rated fire extinguisher is required in commercial kitchens.
  • Make sure someone in your organization conducts regular maintenance of all fire protection devices.
  • Make sure all employees receive ongoing fire safety training. Provide multilingual training and signage where needed.
  • Remember the importance of calling the fire department, even for small fires.
  • Know how to activate the alarm.
  • Know the location and operation of emergency shutoffs. For example, does the gas shut off automatically or is a manual shutoff required?
  • Know where your fire extinguishers are located. Learn how to use them.
  • Be ready to assist customers to a previously established point of reassembly outside the facility.
  • Learn how to treat burns, especially hot liquid burns.
First Aid For Burns
20% of all burns treated in hospitals result from kitchen injuries. Most of these burns occurred when hot oil ignited and the patient tried to move the cooking pan. Taking quick action is important when you are assisting a burn victim. Follow these 5 guidelines:
  1. Try to stop the burning process. Pull the victim away from the fire. If clothes are burning, drop, roll or wrap him/her in a blanket.
  2. Remove any smoldering clothing or clothing that has been contaminated by a burning chemical. Don't try to remove clothing that is stuck to the skin. Cut it away or leave it alone. Also, remove all jewelry. Metal retains heat and is difficult to remove if the body parts swell.
  3. If it is an electrical burn, turn the power off before you offer assistance. Use a blanket or protective clothing before touching the person to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
  4. Hold the burn area under running water for 5 to 10 minutes. The skin will continue burning if it is not cooled for that length of time. Also, never put butter, petroleum jelly, or any ointment on the burn. These remedies will make the injury worse.
  5. Try to keep the victim calm until emergency help arrives.
Healthier Foods = Hotter Fires
America's eating habits are changing. For health reasons, we are selecting foods with less fat and cholesterol, but this has also created a fire danger. Many commercial kitchens have switched from cooking with animal fat, such as lard, to using fat-free vegetable oils in fryers. Vegetable oils burn hotter than animal fat, so vegetable oil fires are also hotter and more difficult to extinguish.

Using Vegetable Oil
If you are using vegetable oil in your fryers, make sure your fire suppression system and fire extinguishers are designed to put out these hotter fires. Current codes require a UL 300 hood extinguishing system for hoods that are used in combination with cooking appliances using vegetable oils. Also, a K-rated fire extinguisher is required in a commercial kitchen.

Smoking Materials & Fire Safety
Does your facility accommodate a smoking section? If you do, keep in mind that 10% of all eating establishment fires are caused by careless disposal of smoking materials. Follow this checklist to help eliminate these types of fire hazards:
  • Are ashtrays emptied only into covered metal containers?
  • Are used table linens stored only in closed metal containers?
  • Is employee smoking banned in storage, locker and similar areas?
  • Do you provide ample, safe-type ashtrays for your customers at dining tables, in lounge areas, and in your restrooms?
Fire Exit Drills as a Learning Experience
Fire is always unexpected. It demands fast decisions followed by quick action in an environment that is smoke filled with darkened exit routes and intense heat. Think of each fire drill as an opportunity for learning something new. Here are a few suggestions...
  • Conduct regular drills-at least four times a year.
  • Gradually increase the realism of your fire drills by...
    • Conducting some of your drills unannounced, and involving your customers in the drill.
    • Hiding employees in the building to see if they are discovered missing and then assisted out of the building.
    • Posting a sign inside one of the exit stairwells indicating the stairwell is blocked by smoke and a different exit route must be used.
    • Placing a cardboard box decorated with red flames to show where the fire is located. Evaluate how occupants respond to the fire.
  • Critique every fire drill, looking for ways to improve.
Evaluating Your Fire Exit Drills
Document behavior, time and procedures. Did everyone behave correctly and respond to the fire exit drill seriously? Did the occupants proceed according to your plan? Was the building evacuated and everyone accounted for before the fire department arrived? Review these goals after each drill and you will increase your overall performance and safety.

How to Report a Fire
It only takes a few minutes for a free burning fire to reach temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because you have so little time, it is important to be ready when you call 911 by taking note of the following:
  1. Be prepared to describe the nature of the emergency.
  2. The operator will ask you for your address. Be specific. If there is a room number and floor, provide those.
  3. You will be asked for the nearest cross street. If your building has a name, give that.
  4. Provide as much specific information as you can on the extent and nature of the fire.
Display the above address information on your telephones so everyone has quick access to it.

What to Do If You Are Trapped
  1. Put as much distance (and closed doors) between yourself and the fire as possible. Feel doors before you open them. If they are warm to the touch, leave them closed. Try to find a totally enclosed room with a telephone and window.
  2. Dial 9-1-1 to let the fire department know where you are.
  3. Use towels or clothing to block openings around doors and vents where smoke might enter. Put a wet cloth over your mouth or nose. Stay low to the floor to breathe the best air.
  4. Hang a blanket, towel, and coat or sign in a window to identify your location for the firefighters. It is advisable not to open or break windows. Smoke from the outside can enter through open windows, and will also hamper rescue efforts.
 Human Behavior in Public Assembly Fires
Think of that feeling you sometimes have when you awake and, for just a moment, you don't know where you are. That is the feeling people have in a fire - that it is not real, and could not be happening. Your mind is trying to reconcile what you are seeing.

Panic is often pointed to as a primary cause of death in public assembly fires. The truth is, more deaths are caused by inaction, denial and fear of appearing foolish.

The early stages of a public assembly fire are characterized by ambiguity, and are often misinterpreted by the public. In a restaurant, for example, smoke is often assumed to be from the kitchen and non-threatening. Also, the sequence of ordering eating, paying is ingrained and rarely broken. Groups tend to rely on the staff for information. If the staff fails to provide leadership and direction, the evacuation is further delayed.

Research Shows
  • There is a strong sense of hierarchy in a fire emergency. Visitors look for and respond to leadership from the staff and management.
  • Visitors do not use escape routes that are unfamiliar to them. The staff needs to make sure secondary exits are clearly posted and utilized in an emergency.
  • Fire extinguishers are rarely used.
  • The earliest clues are strange noises like breaking glass and extra activity by others, not flames or smoke.
  • Early behavior is characterized by uncertainty, misinterpretation, indecisiveness, and seeking more information. This delay is critical because failure to act quickly in the incipient stage of a public assembly fire is a primary cause of death.
  • Both the public and the staff often meet the sound of a fire alarm with indifference. People tend to be skeptical, concluding that it is either a drill or a false alarm.
Information on this page was taken from The Idea Bank, "When Fire Strikes"... A VideoGuide for Commercial Kitchen Employees.