According to the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Month was first enacted as a memorial to the Great Chicago Fire that burned through the Windy City from October 8th through the 10th, 1871. Since 1922, National Fire Prevention Week has been observed during the week of October 9th, and National Fire Prevention Month has extended through the entire month of October.
In restaurants and commercial kitchens, fire safety and prevention is extremely important. While managers and owners should always be vigilant about fire protection, October and Fire Prevention Month offers the perfect excuse for reinvigorating fire safety plans and to ensure that all your fire protection equipment is functioning properly. Following are five ways you can ‘celebrate’ the month:
- Schedule an Employee Training
All incoming employees should be trained on proper fire safety, particularly on activating any fire suppression systems and how to effectively use a fire extinguisher. Fire Prevention Month is a great time to make sure all your employees are current on their training. Even seasoned employees can benefit from a refresher. Be sure to make the process a little fun, too, maybe offering prizes, lunch, or an afterparty.
- Check Your Fire Suppression Maintenance Schedule
Your kitchen’s fire suppression system has a regular maintenance schedule, whether you know it or not. In October, make it a point to know what that schedule is and make sure to stick to it. And remember, regular maintenance isn’t just required for sprinkler systems or fire suppression, but your fire extinguishers need it, too. Extinguishers can easily get clogged from grease or other debris, rendering them much less effective in the event of a fire. Spend an October hour going through your systems and paperwork to make sure you know when your next maintenance should be and make sure it’s already on the books.
- Inspect Your Fire Protection System
If your system is overdue for maintenance, schedule an inspection for October. Do it as soon as possible. Regular inspections of your fire protection system is not just a way to identify immediate issues, it can also help to find issues that may become a problem down the line. Preventative repairs can save you money and keep your kitchen and staff safe, which makes inspections an absolute necessity. Don’t put yours off another month.
- Review Storage Procedures
You may not associate storage procedures with fire safety, but in a kitchen, proper storage can make a huge difference in minimizing damage and injuries from a fire. You may already know that you shouldn’t store flammable or explosive items near your main cooking source, including oils and cleaning products. But maybe you wouldn’t think twice before hanging an apron near your stove, and that’s another storage no-no. You also want to make sure fire extinguishers are stored so that they’re easy to access and all employees know where they are. For more information on how to get your kitchen set for safety, check out this Fire Protection and Prevention document from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- Do a Deep Clean
Dirty, clogged kitchen exhaust kitchens can present an extreme fire hazard. Cleaning them is no picnic, so hiring a professional may be the best way to go. This can be another thing that’s easy to put off, particularly if things don’t really look all that dirty. Don’t let looks fool you.
The chart below indicates how often you should be cleaning your kitchen exhaust, according to the NFPA, depending on how busy your kitchen is.