This week marks Fire Prevention Week 2010, and two experts believe quick-serve operators should use this time to reevaluate the systems they have in place to prevent fires and fire damage.

Brian Haas, national director of fire for Cintas, says operators should first and foremost make sure that they are obeying all codes and guidelines in place for fire safety—something that he believes has lacked in the recession.

“There are very clear rules and guidelines for when and how all of this equipment needs to be maintained,” Haas says.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people do not follow them and as economic times have gotten tougher, some people may be tempted to wait for a fire marshal citation, as opposed to staying on a rigorous schedule and sticking with the inspection of all of their equipment.”

This week, Cintas laid out a number of tips for restaurateurs to follow to benefit fire safety in their operations. They include: install and inspect a fire suppression system; have an emergency action plan ready, and practice it; develop a building layout diagram; identify all exits; enforce cleaning procedures; conduct routine inspections; inspect smoke alarms and sprinkler systems; and thoroughly train employees.

Dave Bingham, director of AEDs and training for Cintas, says staying focused on steps such as these makes smart economic sense, even though some operators might view it as a financial burden.

“I don’t think people realize that 90 percent of fires can be put out at their incipient stages with a fire extinguisher, and the average amount of damage to a business that has a fire that’s out of control is at least $50,000,” Bingham says.

“To spend $500 to train your staff on how to use the extinguisher so they have the confidence and competence in using it, to me, is a great return on investment to help save where you might have $50,000 or more in damages.”

Haas suggests that the corporate teams of quick serves develop brand-wide standards for operators to abide by, rather than let it be an operator-by-operator responsibility.

“Fire prevention can be part of a brand image,” he says. “Pictures of a fire-damaged restaurant are not good for anybody’s brand.”

By Sam Oches

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