Keeping to fire code in restaurants is an all-important and ever-changing task. Recent changes to the National Fire Protection Association‘s standard for ventilation control and fire protection of commercial cooking operations (NFPA 96) will require increased amounts of staff training on fire suppression systems and fire extinguisher operations. To help comply with these new standards we’ve compiled six tips for training employees on the significance of fire safety, particularly when it comes to commercial cooking zones.

1. Suppression System Testing

High-temperature vegetable oil fires can happen in a split second and spread even faster. Not only should a suppression system be tested regularly, but employees need to know how it works in case something like an oil fire begins in the kitchen area. This should not be a complicated training process, but it should have it’s own training session on a monthly basis to keep knowledge of operation at the top of the mind for everyone working near the commercial cooking equipment, which will be most of the staff. 

2. Extinguisher Training

This is a simple but vital training exercise for not only management, but all staff members. Set up a regular time each month for management and staff to check the expiration dates on the labels of the fire extinguishers. This will keep everyone on their toes as to when they need to be updated. Along with date checking, institutionalize a training course in the operation of a fire extinguisher. There are many people who are unaware of how to use a fire extinguisher and the proper technique to extinguish the flame. It’s also important to note that an employer that provides portable fire extinguishers for employee use needs to be trained on how to use them according to OSHA. Any kind of fire-extinguisher training should be done in conjunction with a number of other safety training courses, and the key here is keep consistency

3. FOG Safety Training

It’s not unusual for fat, oil, and grease (FOG) to build up in a restaurant kitchen rather quickly. This is a danger within itself, so FOG training is essential because there are the many opportunities that can enable a fire to grow rapidly. In a separate but semi-regular training session, teach all staff on the proper ways to clean and dispose of FOG. Stress the importance of keeping up on this tedious but possibly life-saving chore. There may be areas of the kitchen that can be very difficult or basically impossible to clean FOG from. Management needs to discover those problem spots and act quickly to create a solution for this, which is most often bringing in a professional service

4. Regular Fire Drills

This can feel a bit like reliving elementary school, but it’s still as important as ever. All staff should know the routes to get out of the establishment in the case of fire or any other kind of emergency that could happen within the restaurant. Place maps of the restaurant’s evacuation routes around key areas of the establishment (near doorways and in bathrooms to name a few), and set up routine fire drills with all employees. That is so the personnel know the way out for themselves, but also how to usher out restaurant guests as well by memory. During these drills it will also be easy to pinpoint where any confusion might happen with exit plans or routes. Take this seriously and work at it until all the workers are comfortable with their designated plan of action.

5. Keep Evacuation Routes Clear

This is common knowledge, but it’s amazing how many members of management and staff need reminders of keeping evacuation routes clear at all times—and that quite literally means at all times. Keeping exit hallways and routes free of boxes, chairs, tables, or anything else that could get lost on its way to its rightful storage home is the goal. Everyone needs to work together to have all exits and pathways clear at all times. This is not only because it is dangerous to all those in the restaurant, but it is also a serious code violation.

The highest hope is that a business will never have to experience a fire of any kind and the best way to do that is through regular fire safety training with all the employees. Safety protocols can save lives and save the business numerous amounts of lost cost.  

Expert Takes, Feature