In this article by Robert Fiorito, he discusses the importance of day to day awareness in the kitchen. During daily operations, the threat of fire can be a fleeting thought when the restaurant is slammed busy or even in the slower down times. These lapses in awareness allow for the possibility of kitchen fires. Minimizing these lapses comes down to proper training, preventative maintenance, and proper inspection/cleaning schedules. All kitchen fires can be prevented with the proper systems in place. Follow this link to learn more.
Solid fuel cooking is becoming a staple in many kitchens across the nation. Whether it be a wood burning pizza oven, a smoker pit, or even a charcoal fired grill; there are certain hazards that are inherent to this cooking style. In this article by Alex Garrote (a restaurant fire protection specialist at Cleveland-based ABCO Fire Protection), he covers a few factors that are extremely important to reducing the risks involved with solid fuel cooking. Follow this link to learn more.
What to Expect from your Annual Fire Inspection
Annual inspections by the fire department are performed to assess and eliminate potential fire and life safety hazards in your facility. Local authorities perform inspections to ensure that the codes and standards in place are being adhered to. NFPA 101, Intl. Fire Code, and NFPA 96 are standards that were created through a consensus process by industry representatives, such as code officials, manufacturers, system installers, and other specialists in the field. As a business owner/operator, it is good practice to be as knowledgeable as possible on these codes and standards in order to stay compliant.
While many people look at the fire and life safety inspection process negatively, these inspections benefit the business owners/operators by offering:
- A safe working environment for you and your employees.
- A safe facility for guests in an unfamiliar environment.
- Peace of mind for the owner operator of the facility or business. Around 80 percent of all small businesses that experience a large fire never reopen; affecting the owner/operator, employees, and valued clients. The businesses that do reopen, lose much of their customer base due to prolonged absence of production or service.
- A higher resale value may result from a well maintained facility. It is commonplace for buyers to hire a company to inspect the building prior to purchase to identify potential hidden costs related to fire and life safety.
- Many insurance carriers give businesses premium reductions for properly installed and maintained fire-protection systems.
Preparing for Your Fire Inspection
Preparing for your annual inspection is key to developing a good working relationship with the fire inspector and gaining positive results. Always make sure that any issues from previous inspections have been resolved and have reports from all inspections documented and accessible. The inspection is typically unscheduled or unannounced, so in the case it’s inconvenient for you, or you’re unprepared – it’s acceptable to ask that the fire inspector reschedule the inspection. Make sure to accompany the fire inspector with keys to all areas, and take notes even though the inspector will likely give you a report when the inspection has been completed. These notes may give you additional insight into the inspector’s thought process, and they may provide valuable information for future inspections.
Areas the Fire Marshal will be Inspecting
Maintaining means of egress or exits, is critical to providing proper life and fire safety in your facility. Making sure all exit doors are accessible, well lit, properly identified, and in working order will be key components of the inspection. Security of your facility can be a major concern because of theft or unauthorized access from both outside and within a business. Securing doors with unapproved locks, chaining doors, covering doors so they’re not readily discernible by building occupants, etc. and may not comply with the inspector’s means of egress standards. Talk with your fire inspector to resolve these issues so your building is both safe and secure.
Storage of combustible materials must be maintained in an orderly fashion, away from flame-producing appliances, and at least 18-inches below the fire sprinklers. Any combustible or flammable liquids must be in approved containers and storage cabinets. There are specific limits on the amount of combustible and flammable liquids by type of occupancy as well as specific storage arrangements. Cleanliness and orderliness are crucial to increasing fire protection: the fire marshal will check that your facility is clean and organized.
Typically, the fire marshal will look for exposed wiring or un-insulated wiring which are often associated with fire. Other electrical-related issues, such as making sure all electrical receptacles have cover plates should also be addressed. It’s required that circuits be properly labeled on all electrical panels and that clear access of 30 inches must be maintained in front of all electrical panels. Extension cords are not allowed except when used for temporary power. All extension cords must be heavy duty, in good condition, and only used for small appliances. Extension cords are required to be grounded, and if multiple items need to be plugged in, power strips with built-in circuit breakers are to be used, and they must be plugged directly into a permanent receptacle.
Fire-Protection/Suppression and Fire-alarm systems
In the event of a fire, what are the systems you have in place to stop it or slow its pace long enough for the fire department to arrive. Fire extinguishers should be evenly distributed throughout your building and should be fully operative when tested. Sprinklers, suppression systems, and kitchen exhaust hood systems will be checked as well. Give the fire inspector copies of all of your system or equipment inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) reports. Review these reports with the inspector and let the inspector know that any issues noted previously have been corrected. Fire-protection systems’ ITM and results reports are required by all the national codes and standards and likely by your insurance carrier.
Concluding the Inspection
Stress your concerns about making the facility as safe as possible by working positively with the fire department to achieve compliance. Ask questions and make sure you fully understand all issues. If there are corrections required, identify who is responsible for making them. In many cases the building owner is different than the business owner, so the responsibility must be determined for each item. In many cases, the building owner and business owner are responsible by lease agreement.
If there are costly items requiring attention, discuss alternatives and compliance time-frames with the inspector. Fire inspectors are most interested in gaining compliance and making your facility safer without causing you financial difficulties. They are usually willing to negotiate a fair amount of time for you to make this happen. In most cases, compliance items are easily corrected on site and will not cost a great deal of money or require a great deal of effort to do so.
This time of year, a lot of us are evaluating our service contracts with our current vendors. Whether its perishables, dry goods, or R&M, we all have criteria that are important to us. Most of our decisions to stay with our current provider, or go with a new vendor, are based mainly on the level of customer service, the quality of the product, and price. The best decisions are made when you trust that the vendor you have chosen is able to deliver on all three characteristics. I am assuming the customer in the example above got a smokin’ deal on his tattoo; I’m not too sure he’ll be happy with the quality.
Here are a few suggestions in determining the value of service providers:
Understand the market.
There are always numerous companies out there that provide similar services. In such, the price of the service is driven a lot by what your competitor is willing to do it for. Do some research. What you will find is that there has been a market value set for the product or service. Get a few bids from different companies. Understand why one company’s price may be higher than another. Understand how it is that another company can offer a much lower price.
If a company is promising the moon, make sure they can deliver. Who better to ask than some current customers of this company? If what they are saying is true, there should be no hesitation in them providing the name and phone number of one, or several, of their current satisfied customers. Next, give them a call. It’s not a job application where they are limited on the response they can give; they can be a candid as they want. Tell them what the vendor is promising and ask them if they deliver. Ask them how long they have been with the vendor. Be blunt and ask if you would be happy in choosing them as a vendor. Their response will tell you everything you will need to know.
I can speak directly for the kitchen exhaust cleaning industry. We have to carry and maintain a high level of liability insurance for property damage and workers compensation. In such, this carries a considerable amount of overhead. Make sure your provider carries sufficient insurance for your individual needs. We also make sure our technicians pass a background check and are drug screened. Make sure the service provider you choose understands the codes that dictate their industry. You want to feel comfortable in your decision and the vendor you choose has the knowledge and know how to get the job done right.
I’m not sure who to feel worse for, the guy getting the tattoo, or the tattoo artist himself. I hope the artist has a good place to hide after this guy finds a mirror. Bottom line is, always be warry of the lowest price bid. Arm yourself with as much information as you can to make an informed decision. Once you have decided what characteristics are important to you and you have found a vendor that can deliver on your needs, rest assured that you have found the best value.
Cooking with solid fuel such as mesquite, charcoal and other hardwood adds another dimension to restaurant offerings. Wood fired ovens, smoker pits, and wood burning /charcoal grills allow restaurants a wider array of flavor and cooking capabilities. Solid fuel appliances also have the potential for increased safety risks.
Restaurants that use solid fuel cooking methods generate a large amount of heat and grease, especially when cooking meat. Anytime a solid fuel burning appliance is used, creosote is deposited in the exhaust system or flue. Creosote is highly flammable and creates the biggest potential hazard when using such an appliance. Creosote has three stages. As each stage increases, they become more hazardous and are increasingly difficult to remove from the exhaust system or flue.
Stage 1 – The first stage of creosote is like flaky soot that is easy to brush away with a basic chimney brush.
Stage 2 – Creosote in the second stage can be described as shiny, hard black flakes. The flakes actually contain hardened tar that is not easily brushed away, but it can be removed without extreme measures. The most popular method for removing creosote in the second stage is with a rotary loop or chain flail. A powerful drill turns metal rods, with these devices attached, throughout the duct work to break up the accumulation.
Stage 3 – Third-stage creosote is something to be avoided. Not only is it extremely difficult to clean, it is a highly concentrated fuel that resembles a coating of tar dripping down inside of your exhaust system or flue. This type of glazed creosote can become very thick as it hardens and is repeatedly recoated with another layer. A hot fire can easily ignite this type of creosote, which is extremely hazardous.
All forms of creosote can occur in one exhaust system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), failure to remove creosote from the exhaust system or flue can ultimately result in a fire. While NFPA is a consensus standard, and not a “force of law,” it forms the basis for many local building codes and insurance company underwriting guidelines. Consensus codes and standards are intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks.
Ventilation and Cleaning Ventilation guidelines for solid fuel cooking are addressed by NFPA 96-14. The key elements of NFPA 96-14 are:
- Solid fuel cooking appliances need to be installed consistent with NFPA 96-14 and its related sections.
- Solid fuel cooking operations should have spark arresters to minimize the passage of airborne sparks and embers into ducts.
- Exhaust for solid fuel shall be separate from all other appliances.
- If located under a kitchen exhaust hood, the duct for a solid fuel appliance shall be separate from all other exhaust hoods.
- The combustion chamber shall be inspected weekly for residue that might restrict the vent, start a fire or cause corrosion.
- The exhaust system for solid fuel cooking shall be inspected monthly and cleaned if necessary. Buildup of creosote, a by-product of wood burning, is the major cause of exhaust system fires, which result from poor preventive maintenance.
For effective cleaning:
- Scrape the combustion chamber clean to its original surface at least once per week
- Inspect the exhaust system monthly for residue that might restrict the vent or start a fire.
- Remove ash once per day and spray it with water before storing it in a covered metal container (container should not exceed 20 gallons in capacity)
Restaurant owners can safely use solid fuel appliances with the right amount of understanding and maintenance. The biggest areas to address include proper ventilation, frequent cleaning, and adequate fire protection systems. By understanding the unique risks associated with solid fuel appliances, restaurant owners can take steps to mitigate the threats inherent in their use.