Inside Story February 2018

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Recipe for disaster - Kitchen Fires!


Do you have a firefighting equipment on hand? Is it is in working condition?

If all your attempts to prevent a fire in a kitchen fail, then having the right updated equipment to extinguish flames can make all the difference between an inconvenient mess and a business ruined. There are special fire extinguishers for restaurants, commercial kitchens and hotel kitchens. In India not only Mumbai, there is another very common category of street food stall open kitchens that need to be educated on fire hazards.

All staff should be trained in the proper use of firefighting equipment and know how a fire can be dealt with safety, when it’s time to call the fire brigade and when it’s best to get out. Fires in commercial kitchens are a common occurrence and can have potentially devastating effects. Canteens, factory kitchens and fast food outlets in Mumbai inside large malls and complexes have recently seen heavy duty fire breakouts. Combine this with huge numbers of guests/clients together with  large volumes of flammable cooking oil, naked flames and heat sources, which is unsupervised and you have fires ready to explode specially when cooking is unsupervised.
It is essential that all members of the building know the positions of their nearest fire alarm call points, internal and external telephones even if they have mobiles, extinguishers and all the exits from the building in which they are working or using. Similarly the sound of the fire alarm system should be known and their meaning understood. These features should be made known to all members of the building who will be new to working in or using the building. Annual or term wise fire drills should be conducted in buildings, specially with new members taking occupancy.

The prompt and intelligent use of an extinguisher in the early stage of a fire can prevent a catastrophe. However, you should only use an extinguisher if competent to do so. In attempting to put out a fire it is essential that the correct type of extinguisher is used. The use of the wrong type could in some circumstances increase the hazard and danger to the operator. Under no circumstances should a water extinguisher be used on electrical fires. It is best that your local Fire department be called in to conduct a demo and drill for the commercial or private housing societies.

The building’s arrangements for the emergency evacuation of children, senior citizens and disabled are of top priority. These and many more include general information about the facilities available and the procedures in place if a fire breaks out. So, be it in the car, home, basement, restaurant or factory shed, when was the last time, you checked your fire extinguishers? 

(Elsie Gabriel is an award winning post graduate certified Green Teacher and Environmental Law expert. With twenty years of writing experience she has travelled to remote corners of the earth researching, photographing, documenting facts that bind the threads of anthropological wonder. Powai runs in her veins)