Who on Earth doesn’t love food trucks, right? Everyone likes them! And with good reason, too! The food’s delicious, cheap and the overhead for business owners is nothing when compared to opening a more traditional restaurant. Unlike the old model where you stayed put waiting for people to come to you, the new model is to take your food to the masses wherever they might be – whether it’s a sporting event, community gathering, concert or simply out and about in your neighborhood.
While the model is popular and growing, there are concerns some food truck owners take for granted and as you can imagine – top of that list is fire safety. There are significant safety risks that food truck operators assume – and many of them should be taken into consideration.
Today, we’re going to talk about what some of those threats are and how business owners can grapple with them. Let’s jump right in!
Understanding the risk
While food trucks present a number of typical risks that you might already expect with any vehicle you’d prepare food in, the three most significant fire risks for a food truck are propane, portable generator/electrical fires and of course – inadequate fire suppression systems.
Propane is certainly a big risk to undertake. According to NFPA regulations, about 68% of food truck fires are directly attributable to propane – whether it’s leaks or some sort of structural failure. Nearly all of the incidents where someone got hurt or killed in food truck over the past few years – have been related to issues with propane.
The issue lies in the fact that propane tanks are under constant abuse in trucks – as they drive over potholes and take other bumps and dings on a daily basis. That tends to loosen connections, fittings on the tank itself and other structural damage. These lead to costly leaks that can create massive issues. Make sure before you fire up your grill that you check to be sure that gas connections are tight and in good working order.
Portable generators are an essential ingredient for a successful food truck because it supplies all the power to the truck itself. Usually the risk for an electrical fire tends to run higher in traditional vehicles that have been converted into food trucks.
These generators can pose a few threats if not installed properly. They can generate a lot of carbon dioxide when they’re not properly ventilated. In other situations, they’re not stored or installed properly and end up located too close to fuel and other ignition sources – leaving owners at risk for something bad to happen.
Like we just mentioned – this isn’t usually an issue in newer food truck models. But if you’re buying used or an older model of food truck; make sure you check where generators are located or how they’re used with that truck. It might even behoove you to have an inspector take a look before you make your purchase just to be safe.
Poor suppression systems are another leading cause of fires in food trucks. In our experience – many trucks are simply ‘short-staffed’ on the fire suppression side of the coin. What we mean by that – is that some trucks will have all the bells and whistles near their ovens and cooking hoods, but they’ll lack things like fire extinguishers (believe it or not, you’ll need two different kinds of extinguishers too – one for electrical fires and another for gas). Some have fire extinguishers, but have poor, old or malfunctioning suppression systems.
Make sure once you purchase your truck that you get it inspected by a fire inspector to make sure you’re covered. After all – if you’re counting on this truck for your livelihood, you need to make sure it’s protected. That way a lot of the little things you might miss (proper ventilation, for example) will get caught before they put you at risk.
Protecting your truck means protecting your life (and others)
Even if regulations are the most stringent in your area – being proactive about addressing the risks associated with your food truck can prevent total losses and protect your life as well as others.
Doing the little things – like making sure you get regular inspections and covering basic fire safety checklists can mean the difference between losing your business or someone losing a life. Please be careful.
If you’re ready to act and are unsure where to start, give us a call and we’ll be happy to give you a free consultation. In the meantime – good luck!