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Since the earliest days of mankind, fire has been both a friend and foe.

Apart from potential maiming or loss of life, every fire is loss of capital and resources. Insuring property adequately is a precaution no restaurant or hotel owner must ignore. Fire, even if the property was adequately insured, always represents loss of business, income, and hardship for employees. But the community loses too – taxes and services.

As early as 200 B.C volunteer fire fighting brigades existed in Mediterranean countries. During the great fire of Rome (64.B.C) fire brigades looked on helplessly as the flames rages. They were too overwhelming for the brigades with practically no equipment. Istanbul, Paris, London, Rome, Tokyo, and Hamburg, all experiences monumental fires devastating huge section.

Three conditions induce fires:

• Fuel
• Heat required to ignite
• Oxygen to support combustion

Most fires are caused due to carelessness. Employees must be constantly reminded to be careful, and trained in case of fire.

There are three classes of fires:
• Class A (ignition of paper, wood, cotton. They can be fought with water)
• Class B (ignition of grease. Can be fought by blanketing with carbon dioxide) Occurs in restaurants with grease-laden hood filters, and dirty ducts).
• Class C (caused by electricity – must be fought with special chemicals)

Several early efficient warning detection and suppression systems are available and highly recommended.

Heat – and smoke detectors are regulation devices in most industrialized countries.

Smoke detectors are now standard installations in all public areas of hotels and restaurants. Sensitivity of smoke alarm systems in guest rooms must be adjusted. Fire retardant mattresses, furniture, and curtains are highly recommended
Fire department regulations require 30” (75 cm) wide doors, 36” (90cm) stairways, 44” (110cm) corridor doors and minimum of 6’8” (183 cm) to 7” (213 cm) before certifying the establishment and insist that all fire exists must be accessible at all times. Deaths in public areas occur due to trampling at exit doors, and by smoke inhalation.

Keeping crowds calm and orderly saves many lives, and management must develop detailed plans to achieve that goal.

A well-equipped restaurant/hotel with well-rehearsed evacuation plans pays lower insurance premiums.

Points to ponder when looking for insurance
Insurance premiums are at an all time high, and all businesses shopping for insurances should consider only well-established, reputable companies, with a good service track record.

The following will help lower insurance premiums:
• No smoking in all storage areas
• Daily removal of all combustible material
• Minimum amount of combustible liquids on the premises
• Regularly maintained and cleaned HVAC system
• Well-maintained breakers, equipment, cords, machinery
• Automatic fire extinguishers
• All deep fryers must be programmed to stop operating at 475F (160C)
• Twice yearly fire drills
• Adequate exterior lighting
• All steps and ramps to be fitted with handrails
• Traffic flow signs in parking areas
• Specially marked “handicapped” parking
• Automatic doors of good quality
• All entrances and exists must be properly illuminated
• Frequent pest control
• Only certified and healthy individuals must be hired
• Employees must sign a form indicating their abstinence from illegal drugs
• Daily bank deposits at irregular times
• Removal of ice, when necessary, from all public areas and parking lots.

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu



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