One year after a deadly Philadelphia food truck explosion, two NFPA representatives spoke about food truck safety in a recent radio interview.
Christal Frost, host of a weekday show on WTCM NewsTalk 580 in Traverse City, Michigan, asked the pair about risk factors involved with the increasingly-popular mobile food vendors and what the NFPA is doing to address the issue. "Our goal this morning is not to incite fear and panic in the public with food trucks," said Meredith Hawes, an NFPA public education specialist, "but just to bring to light some of the safety concerns."
Jacqueline Wilmot, an NFPA fire protection engineer, said that fuel sources on trucks are a risk factor. Tank connections can loosen while driving, leading to gas leaks. A basic cautionary step is to ensure connection points for fuel are properly connected and that there are no holes in the hoses. To check for possibles leaks, use a handheld detector or apply a light soap and water solution to the hoses. If it bubbles while propane is flowing, there is a leak.
Food truck regulation and incident categorization are also issues, said Wilmot. Some places like Chicago have rigorous inspection processes, while others little or no regulation at all. Additionally, incident reporting is a gray area because they fall in a gap between restaurant and vehicle fires.
Wilmot is the staff liaison for NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, which only minimally covers temporary cooking. While the NFPA continues to look at potential changes to codes, Wilmot and other members of NFPA 96's committee have been working on a food truck safety checklist to post online. "You don't want people to be scared of food trucks," she said, "it's just that they need to [take appropriate safety measures], because if you put propane on anything and didn't maintain it, it could be dangerous."
For a more in-depth look at the topic of food truck safety, read "All Up In Our Grill," a feature in the May/June 2015 issue of NFPA Journal. Also check out the related podcast featuring a conversation between Wilmot and Journal staff writer Jesse Roman.
Listen to the full WTCM interview for more information about food truck fire safety, other risk factors and the status of possible changes to regulation standards and safety practices.