Grease fires occur when oil becomes too hot, either on your stovetop while cooking or after building up overtime and igniting. These fires can be sudden and dangerous, causing extensive damage to a workplace. Commercial grease fires statistics show that every business should develop fire safety protocols and policies for prevention.
Because grease fires usually take place in the kitchen, many people associate them with restaurants or residential kitchens. However, any commercial building with a kitchen is at risk of grease fires, including hotels, high-rise buildings, hospitals, universities and more. If you have a kitchen on property, this article will help you identify and mitigate grease fire risks.
Commercial grease fire statistics
Commercial grease fires, especially those from grease build-up over time, are more common than most people realize. The National Fire Protection Association reports that an average of 7,410 fires took place in restaurants between 2010 and 2014 with cooking equipment being the leading cause of fire. In 43% of these fires, cooking materials, like oil and grease, were the first thing to go up in flames.
A 2015 NFPA U.S. Hotel and Motel Structure Fire report indicated fire departments in the U.S. respond to an estimated average of 3,250 structure fires each year, with cooking equipment listed as the leading cause of fires in hotels and motels. A total of 41% of these fires started in the kitchen.
To lower these statistics in the future, read on for tips on preventing grease fires, containing them and cleaning up afterward.
Preventing Grease Fires
Due to the severity and damage of commercial grease fires, practicing the right safety protocols is the best way to protect lives and equipment. Here are eight ways to prevent commercial kitchen fires:
1 – Wipe up spills
While all establishments should have strong cleaning habits and regulations in place, areas where grease is used should have rigid safety standards. Grease is flammable and easy to catch fire. Cleaning any grease spills and avoiding buildup is the best way to prevent this from becoming an ignition source.
2 – Maintain cooking equipment
Cooking equipment is responsible for 57% of restaurant fires. All equipment being used in a commercial kitchen should have modern fire suppression systems and undergo regular checks to ensure everything is in working order.
3 – Maintain a working sprinkler system
The automatic sprinkler system should automatically turn on when a fire has spread out of control. The system should be tested on schedule by a professional. Sprinkler systems are notoriously tricky to test as each component needs checked on a different time schedule. Consulting a professional here is your best bet.
4 – Keep extra extinguishers on hand
Fires spread very quickly, and having extra fire extinguishers on hand can make all the difference. Remember, only Class K fire extinguishers are approved to handle fires caused by flammable cooking liquids that are common to commercial kitchens. Have an appropriate amount of Class K extinguishers on hand depending on the size of your facility. Maintain a regular inspection schedule on all extinguishers on property.
5 – Train your staff
All staff working around grease should be trained on the protocols of cleaning and dealing with different types of fires. The overall goal should be a culture of high standards for cleanliness, knowledge and safety.
6 – Remove flammable material
Once a fire has started, it needs additional fuel to give it life. Keeping flammable materials away from the fire can help get it under control. Food, clothing, towels and other items that can fan flames should be carefully monitored and not left laying around.
7 – Be mindful of electrical cords
Commercial kitchens have a number of appliances regularly used, all of which are vulnerable to electrical fires. And the only thing worse than a grease fire is a grease fire started by an electrical fire. Make sure the electrical system is inspected on a regular basis to look for any frayed wires or cables.
8 – Degrease the vents
Ventilation systems in commercial kitchens are highly prone to capturing grease which can be an additional source for a fire. All ductwork, hoods and fans should be cleaned on a regular basis and inspected based on the NFPA Fire Code to maintain high standards.
How to Put Out a Grease Fire
When a grease fire occurs and is starting to rage out of control, there are instances where the kitchen staff starts to panic. It’s very important for everyone to stay focused and calm to control the fire and prevent it from spreading.
If a grease fire does occur in your space, one of the worst things you can do is use water to put it out. Water splashes and spreads the flames around, making things worse. Never grab wet towels or use water-based fire extinguishers. Additionally, don’t lift pans or other cooking equipment. Attempting to move them to another area can also spread the fire.
Instead, start by turning off the heat source. Turning off the heat will stop any new splashes of grease or oil from becoming hot enough to add to the current fire. Once the heat source is removed, the fire may die down.
Covering the flame to smother the fire is also a good way to help tamper down the flames in a commercial grease fire. You can use a metal lid, baking sheet or pan to accomplish this task. Whatever you do, be sure to place your covering using a front to back method. That is, place the side of the object closest to your body down first, then the farthest side to keep splashing oil from hitting you.
How to Clean After a Grease Fire
Once a grease fire has occurred, every part of the kitchen must be thoroughly scrubbed. Things like ductwork with hidden grease is one of the top causes of additional damage lingering after a grease fire. Do your best to thoroughly remove all sources of built-up grease from every part of the kitchen, including the floor, stove tops and sinks.
While you can use chemicals to properly clean a commercial grease fire, one of the best things you can do is call a professional and experienced recovery team. It’s understandable that a sudden and raging grease fire can cause fear among kitchen staff, and bringing in a team of professionals can provide peace of mind and lower risk of future fires.
If you recently experienced a grease fire in your commercial kitchen, or are concerned about the possibility of a future grease fire, call ServiceMaster DSI. Our expert disaster recovery team is on hand and ready to assist. Click here to get in touch with ServiceMaster DSI.