Smoke damage is no fun; it results in loss of business and costly repairs. As any restaurant owner knows, closing your doors is simply not an option—the show must go on! Closing doors for repairs drives customers to your competitors, leaving you with the task of drawing them back. The first step to protecting your business from present and/or future problems in regards to smoke or fire damage is educating yourself.
Assessment, treatment, and prevention are important steps to take to ensure your business is protected from smoke and fire damage.
When assessing smoke damage, it is important to smell and look for indicators to determine the difference between everyday use and damage. Industrial cooking appliances and brick ovens often burn wood, meat, flesh, and grease, which give off odors and leave behind distinct residues. The smoke from cooking apparatuses can result in a natural “protein”-like odor that turns into a powdery or greasy residue, and is often gray, black, yellow, or brown in color. When locating smoke damage, look for these odors and residues in a large, thick, and uncontained capacity. The most common practice to test for smoke damage is completing a chemical sponge test. This test can be conducted on the surface of the affected areas by simply wiping a chemical sponge over a stain. If residue is not found on the sponge, it is evident that smoke damage is not present. If residue is present, it’s imperative to take the next step by treating the damaged area.
Smoke damage can be treated using various combined methods. It is common practice to use HEPA vacuums to remove any residue or soot. When possible, opening the affected space and using fans to ventilate can greatly assist in eliminating the smoke odor. Those tasked in the restoration process will want to wear gloves, goggles, and boots. HEPA-filtered respirators may also be required for safety concerns—this should always be the most important consideration. It is also crucial to be in compliance with all OSHA requirements, and manually cleaning the area is often necessary.
As industrial appliances and brick ovens are found in kitchens, it is important to use the correct cleaning utensil and/or sponge when removing this specific residue. The best method for cleaning is to use a regular sponge and a resilient detergent capable of cutting through grease. To be safe, test first and wear protective gear.
Additionally, it is important to clean chrome, porcelain, and Formica fixtures to avoid permanent staining from the acidic soot. It is necessary to remove all soot as quickly as possible, as this will allow initial control over the smell; smoke odor may be the biggest obstacle. Aside from using chemicals to mask the smell, there are a few methods of common practice, including thermal deodorization and ozone treatment. Thermal deodorization uses high temperatures and atomized liquid, which condenses in the air and on surfaces to eliminate the smell. Ozone treatments use ozone generators to produce large quantities of ozone. This is a very potent oxidizer that essentially attacks all organic materials and can be very damaging to humans; therefore, it should be done in a contained environment.
Professional restoration companies are equipped, trained and experienced in responding and treating smoke damage. When selecting a local restoration company, be cognizant of their credentials. Ensure that they are certified, licensed, bonded, and insured. Once the smoke damage has been identified and treated, it is critical to find ways to prevent smoke damage from occurring again.
Preventing smoke damage in a commercial arena that uses industrial appliances and brick ovens can be accomplished—even though grease promotes a greater risk of fire, which consequently creates smoke damage. Although it may not be possible to completely eliminate this risk, taking steps to prevent fire and smoke are very feasible. Routinely cleaning ducts and exhaust hoods is a great first step. Properly cleaning, storing, and disposing of grease rags can decrease the possibility of spontaneous combustion. Furthermore, educating those employees who use the cooking appliances on fire safety and fire prevention plans, as well as an emergency plan, will greatly increase the chances of localizing any fire or smoke. Employees should be aware of all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, and potential ignition sources. Understanding and implementing basic safety measures while using these appliances is key to fire and smoke prevention.
Perhaps the biggest way to prevent smoke damage is making sure that your commercial appliances are regularly being serviced. Regular service will catch potential “trouble sources” before they cause bigger issues, such as frayed cords and grease buildup. Routine maintenance to your fire suppression system is important, as well as regularly cleaning out grease collectors.
The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.