by Tammy Taylor~
While traveling out of town to visit my aunt & uncle back in March of this year, RancherMan & I stopped into a very popular tourist restaurant, The Big Texan Steak Ranch. It’s a fun place with lots of energy and the food is delicious. Oh and they’ll fill your growler with some of their specialty beers. You know RancherMan is all over that! And their claim to fame is that if you can eat a whopping 72-oz steak with all the fixin’s in an hour you get your meal for free. (YIKES!) That challenge has been tried (and failed) many times. A few times someone’s actually been successful! (again, YIKES!) LOL
But as we were sitting at the table enjoying our meal I looked around the room. The dining room is semi-dimly lighted and tables are placed end-to-end in long rows. But right there by our table was the fire exit. I was shocked to see it was blocked by all manner of table-bussing trash and castaways. There were chunky high chairs stacked so high in front of the fire extinguisher you’d have to don your Superman cape, fly over and somehow move them all just to get to it. And the door itself was blocked with chairs, folding trays & menu trash. Wow. With the layout of this large dining room, this could be a disaster waiting to happen!
Contacting The Fire Marshal
So I took the above photo and immediately contacted the local Fire Marshal via email. I gave him the specifics such as the date & time we were visiting the restaurant. I told him of the assumed blatant fire code violation we’d witnessed and attached my photo. A personal visit from the Fire Marshal’s office to the restaurant was requested.
My hope was that a Fire Marshal’s visit would create a little awareness. That the restaurant managers would take notice of this terrible negligent danger that could surely cause death should the unthinkable happen. (I previously wrote a post about this and other public-location Fire Safety Issues if you’d like to read it too)
Anyway, I didn’t hear from the Fire Marshal for several days. So I contacted him and asked if he’d been able to inspect the restaurant. His response in part was as follows:
“I conducted an on-site inspection at the location and I spoke with one of the managers, [Manager’s Name]. I informed him of my concern and he and I walked the dining area together. At this time we were not able to identify any blocked exits. However, I showed him the photo that you sent to us and he stated that he would make sure that all exits remain unobstructed.”
Wow, was I ever glad I had taken that photo! By the time the Fire Marshal got around to visiting them, the mess was of course all cleaned up! I’m guessing the dining room is cleaned to ship-shape every night at closing. But the clutter probably accumulates as the dining-room day goes on. I know the servers aren’t trying to do anything malicious, they’re just rushing around trying to move things out of their way during the dining rush hours. But the managers really need to make sure all employees realize the importance of this life-&-death safety issue! I’m all too aware of what happens in a fire panic situation. And I’m sadly all too aware of what happens when panicked people reach a blocked fire exit too. This issue is important and could be deadly!
Repeated Fire Exit-Blocking Infractions
Then in June we once again were traveling west to visit my aunt. RancherMan wanted to stop in & fill his growler with one of their delicious specialty beers to share with my uncle over the weekend. While they were getting the growler filled, I slipped away. I went into the dining area expecting to be so proud of restaurant management & employees. I fully expected to see a cleared fire exit. That important lessons had been learned and employees had been educated.
But I was shocked to see that it was not cleared at all. Once again it was completely blocked! Since we weren’t dining on this occasion, I snapped a quick photo and hurriedly left the dining area so I wouldn’t be in the way of diners & servers.
Speaking To Restaurant Manager
At the front I asked to speak with a restaurant manger and a woman quickly came to speak with me. I told her that we had been in their restaurant back in March and had witnessed the fire exit being completely blocked. I’d taken a photo and forwarded it to the Fire Marshal. He had visited the restaurant and spoken with a restaurant manager who stated the fire exit would from then on always remain clear.
But I told her the fire exit was once again blocked. She seemed to take offense and curtly blurted out “Well, the Fire Marshal never talked to ME!”
Nevertheless, the exit was indeed blocked and I requested it to be cleared immediately. She instructed a nearby employee to clear the debris. I thanked her for her assistance and left.
Contacting Fire Marshal Again
I figured the Fire Marshal would want to know that the restaurant was not fulfilling their promise to keep the emergency exits unobstructed. But as I was downloading the photo I gasped. Now I’m not 100% sure I’m seeing what I *think* I see, especially with the glare from the adjoining area window. But is the emergency exit lever actually TIED CLOSED?? It looks to me like there is something knotted to the emergency door lever and the other end knotted to a spindle at the adjoining wall? Oh no, surely that just can’t be!
I immediately sent this latest photo to the same Fire Marshal with specifics of date and time. Of course I asked him to note what appeared to be an emergency door tied shut. I sent that email off and once again waited eagerly for a response.
After several days when no response was received I requested an update. An email update was then promptly received from the Fire Marshal’s office which said, in part:
We are working on getting this violation resolved. Due to the legal bindings of this matter, I cannot provide you with any additional information at this time. However, I would like to reassure you that the […] Fire Marshal’s Office takes these violations seriously and will resolve the matter so that our community is safe.
‘Legal Bindings’? Now I don’t mean to be a nuisance, but I needed to know what this meant. So I begged for further information to the degree that they could legally divulge. A response came that said in part:
We have worked with the management team at the Big Texan to resolve this issue. I have personally inspected the site this afternoon and can confirm that they are not in violation at this time. We will continue to monitor this matter.
WHAT??!! Of course the obstructions had once again been cleared by the time the Fire Marshal visited them. Again, I don’t want to be a nuisance. And I’m not just trying to get people in trouble. The fire Marshal has been very helpful and followed up with personal visits to the restaurant. He has personally spoken to managers & showed them pictorial evidence of their infractions.
Managers Should Train Servers On Fire Safety!
Now I love this fun restaurant and their delicious food. But fire protection is incredibly important to me! I truly hope that the managers will take note now and make absolutely sure their servers are aware of the safety hazards of a blocked emergency exit.
So here’s my challenge to all of you: No matter where you are, if you see something – SAY SOMETHING!
Don’t be afraid to request that the server move that stack of highchairs that are blocking the the fire exit. Don’t be too embarrassed to tell the restaurant manager that the table they just set up for the party of 12 was moved right in front of the emergency exit door.
Someone’s life could depend on it. And it could be YOURS!
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