Fires are something we never like to think about, but something we should prepare for. The kitchen is a hot place, there’s plenty of open flame, electrical systems running at full capacity and other risks that may result in a fire that causes damage to your kitchen or other parts of your restaurant. So what procedures should a certified food protection manager put in place to address a fire in the kitchen?
Fire Procedures for Certified Food Protection Managers
Certified food protection managers should have a protocol for dealing with fires. If you don’t already have clear procedures for what to do in the event of a fire, sit down with your staff and develop a plan. Your plan should answer the following questions:
- Is the fire containable?
- Should I extinguish or evacuate?
- When is it safe to reopen?
- What product is salvageable?
If you do have a fire, chances are it won’t be as devastating as the worst-case scenario, but you should still remain calm and take action. If your fire is easily extinguishable, make sure you use a non-water based extinguisher. Oil and grease are common factors in kitchen fires, and water will cause the fire to spread. If you need help developing a plan for what to do in the event of a fire, contact your insurance agent or local fire department. In many cases, a representative from one of these agencies will gladly provide an on-site inspection and offer advice.
After your fire is out, determine whether it is prudent to continue operations. If you’ve had a fire which requires the use of your fire-suppression system or assistance from the fire department, you may need clearance from the local fire marshal and health department to resume operations.
Before you begin operations once again, food safety must be at the forefront of your decision. Take the following steps before returning to normal operating procedures:
- Inspect containers for fire damage
- Dispose of food in storage and refrigeration close to active fires
- Dispose of product left in the danger zone
- Clean and sanitize all utensils and surfaces affected by smoke
Cans heated by fire should be thrown away. Food inside cans may begin to cook at low temperatures causing bacteria to grow. Open produce and other product in storage areas that have seen smoke should also be disposed of, including the insides of refrigerators. Many industrial refrigeration units are not air tight, so product inside can become contaminated by smoke. If you lose electricity or food becomes warmed by the fire, it must be disposed of. If any product spends excessive time between 41 and 135 degrees, it must be disposed of. The old adage should apply here: When in doubt, throw it out.
Do you have a plan in the event of a fire?