The importance of having a high-quality fire safety protocol in place cannot be overstated in any workplace, but especially in the food service industry. As businesses that depend on the near-constant use of gas, flame, and heat, kitchens are particularly vulnerable to the on-going potential of fire-related disasters. Having a reliable system in place to alert both employees and the fire department, as well as to suppress any fires that do happen, is crucial for restaurants and other food service establishments.
With that in mind and the significant changes in local fire codes, Master Fire Systems, an NYC-based fire protection company, walked us through the most important things to keep in mind when choosing a fire protection system for your commercial kitchen.
Master Fire Systems began as a family business in 1969. After working for his father part-time, Peter Martinez, Master Fire Systems’ current president, took over the company and has since quadrupled the business that his father started. A lot has changed since Martinez began working with his father after school and on weekends, including new regulations put in place by the FDNY. But what hasn’t changed is the importance of having a state of the industry fire prevention and suppression system.
“If you do have a fire in your kitchen, you could lose your whole business, your livelihood, or at best be out of business for months,” Martinez said. “Even if you have insurance, restaurants have to jump through a lot of hoops to prove that they should get the insurance money, and often insurance companies won’t pay it out.”
When selecting a fire protection system, Martinez was clear that owners should choose a reliable, experienced contractor to install the system. “Many companies sell fire suppression equipment but very few provide great service and essentials like audits of your kitchen and on-going inspections,” Martinez continued.
Other important questions to ask a fire protection company that you’re planning on working with include what nationally known. branded manufacturers they carry and how long they’ve been in business. “We also suggest getting references from previous customers and making sure they’re both licensed by the building department and certified by the fire department,” the Bronx based Martinez added. “It’s also a good idea to see how reliable they are for audits and inspections; you can typically set up an audit with a company free of charge, which allows you to check out their reliability just as much as it gives them an opportunity to determine what you need. It’s important to properly train your staff, too; On every job we go to, we offer training to the owner and employees.”
Other common mistakes that owners often make when looking for a fire protection system include not asking what is included in an inspection until it’s too late, and not knowing how often certain aspects need to be inspected. “For example, many business owners don’t know that the ducts in their system need to be cleaned every three months—if their fire protection company is slacking off, they’re none the wiser,” Martinez noted.
In a market like New York, there is a wide range of services that could be needed depending on the building, so it’s important to work with a company that knows how to handle these different situations. “A restaurant kitchen in a high-rise, for example, likely needs a different system in place than one in an older building,” Martinez added.
There are also legal hurdles that owners should be aware of as well. For example, every restaurant owner must do an inspection of the fire system, and they must have an owner’s checklist to walk through the inspection of their equipment. A reputable fire protection company, like Master Fire Systems, will provide this checklist for you.
Among the key concerns for restaurant and food service operators are the new FDNY regulations. Martinez views these regulations as bringing more integrity to the fire suppression business. “It used to be that these companies were able to have employees who were not trained by the manufacturer. Now, all employees, including technicians, must be trained by the factory and the company. This makes it so that everyone has to comply with the same standards. There’s no more ‘I’ll do it my way, you do it your way’ in the fire suppression business,” Martinez concluded “We’ve worked with tons of restaurants where the fire system has saved their establishment. Having a fire system in place notably reduces response time in case of an emergency.”
If you’re interested in learning more about working with Master Fire Systems, you can visit their website at masterfiresystems.com.