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StoveTop FireStop Blog

Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus

Until late March of this year, eating out was a way of life for many people. In fact, the average American was eating out 5.9 times a week; that included everything from a quick lunch from the nearest drive-thru to a more leisurely meal at an elegant restaurant. But, at least for the time being, the days of frequenting restaurants for most meals is in the rearview mirror. As most Americans are forced to stay home during the pandemic, they’re changing routines — and that includes cooking at home more often.

While this time offers a great opportunity for people to sharpen their cooking skills, it also is causing an uptick in a deadly trend: People are accidentally setting their kitchens on fire at a rather alarming pace. Fire departments in Virginia, California, Florida, New York, Maryland and Michigan are among those that have reported more house fires. And, more specifically, kitchen fires.

The problem is significant enough that it prompted the National Fire Protection Association to ask people to exercise more caution in the kitchen.

“As many households are now dealing with unusual routines and out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, such as kids home from school and parents working from home, there’s greater potential for distracted cooking,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at NFPA. Cooking is already recognized as the leading cause of home fires, accounting for nearly half of all home fires. Among cooking fires, unattended or distracted cooking is the biggest threat.

At a time when social distancing is recommended, if not mandated, a single kitchen fire could prove disastrous for tenants and building managers alike. As one fire marshal pointed out in an article on Vice.com, “This is not the time to have a fire in your home. Where are you going to go?”

Providing tenants with some basic cooking safety tips and reminding them of specific dangers in the kitchen could go a long way toward keeping everyone in your building safe during the coronavirus lockdown.

Cooking Safety Tips for Beginners

Some tenants may know very little about cooking, particularly if it’s their first time to live on their own. Start by giving basic tips for keeping the kitchen safe, which include:

  • Don’t store anything in the oven. It may seem like a great out-of-the-way place to store a loaf of bread or extra hot pads and kitchen towels, but if someone forgets (or doesn’t know) they’re in there, and turns the oven on, it could cause a fire.
  • Keep pets and kids out of the kitchen when cooking. Not only can they be a huge distraction, but they can also cause accidents that can lead to burns and fires. The NFPA recommends keeping kids and pets at least three feet away from an active stove.
  • Make sure flammable items are far away from the stovetop. Having that roll of paper towels next to the stove sure is handy for spills — and it’s also a quick way to ignite a kitchen. Other things to watch out for include oven mitts, curtains, wooden utensils and hand towels. If it can ignite, get it away from the stove.

Teaching Tenants About Cooking Safety

In addition to ensuring their kitchens are set up for safe cooking, tenants need to understand the basic features of their cooking appliances. For example, if you have gas stoves in your units, don’t assume that everyone is familiar with how to cook with gas or how to set the proper flame. Although the NFPA reports that electric stoves are 2.5 times more likely than gas stoves to have a fire, gas stoves can be dangerous if a pilot doesn’t light and the gas is left on, even for a second or two.

Make sure that the dials are readable, that there aren’t any leaks or worn parts on gas stoves and that tenants know how to operate their equipment. Then, provide safe cooking suggestions including:

  • Never cook while drowsy or under the influence of alcohol.
  • Do not leave an active stovetop unattended, not even for “just a minute.” This is one of the main causes of cooking fires, and it can happen in a matter of seconds.
  • Clean all grease splatters and drips out of your oven immediately, as these can catch fire the next time the oven is ignited.
  • Pay special attention to grease, oils and fats when cooking. The hotter they get, the more dangerous they are, and they’re a leading cause of stovetop fires.
  • Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing when cooking, as it can catch on fire. (The same goes for long hair; make sure it’s tied back.) Although this happens in less than 1% of cooking fires, it is particularly dangerous and accounts for 14% of home cooking fire deaths.

How to Handle Cooking Fires

Finally, tenants need to know what they should do if a cooking fire occurs. Of course, every unit should have multiple smoke detectors, and every kitchen should have a fire extinguisher.

It’s also a great idea to educate residents on the best way to react to a stovetop fire. Advise tenants to always cook with the lid of the pan they are using nearby. If there’s a fire in the pan, an effective way to put it out is to cover the pan, which cuts off oxygen to the flame. There are things they shouldn’t do, too, such as pouring water on the flame or trying to move the flaming pot to the sink or outside.

The problem with these solutions is that they depend on an individual being present, alert and calm. They must know how to properly use a fire extinguisher and also must know when the fire is too big for them to use an extinguisher.

A better way to suppress a fire on the stove is to use a product from StoveTop FireStop.When mounted above a stove, the canister will automatically activate when there is direct, sustained contact from a flame with the fuse on the bottom of the canister. As soon as that happens, the canister releases a fine, dry powder over the flames that safely suppresses the fire. As it activates, the canister makes a loud “pop” sound to alert your tenant. Immediately after activation, when it is safe, he or she can shut off the stove’s burner to keep the fire from reigniting. For more product information see StoveTopFireStop.com.

The last thing tenants — and landlords — need to deal with right now is a cooking fire, but unfortunately, they are increasingly common with more people cooking at home. A little education and taking the proper precautions can ensure that your building and all of its residents stay safe.

What Is the Best Option for Residential Fire Suppression?

When it comes to protecting the property you own or manage, minimizing the risk of damage from fire is one of the most important things you can do. Every year, fires unexpectedly destroy homes and lives, and many of them are completely preventable.

Between 2013 and 2017, cooking emerged as the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. In fact, nearly 74% of all apartment fires start in the kitchen and are directly related to cooking, according to The National Fire Incident Reporting System. As a manager, you can check all the boxes to make sure that your tenants are prepared, such as verifying smoke alarms are working to alert residents of a fire and that everyone has an escape plan in place in the event of a fire. But what’s more important is to be able to contain the fire and keep it from getting big enough to spread and cause significant damage.

Fires that are confined to a specific item, such as a fireplace or a cooking pan, aren’t normally responsible for significant property loss from flame damage, and they rarely result in serious injury, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Of course, such fires can still result in the loss of contents within the building due to damage from smoke, fire, and water, but the amount of damage will be much less than if the fire is non-confined. In non-confined fires, the flames begin to spread and cause damage throughout the apartment unit or home. In the worst cases, they also spread to other units or even to nearby buildings.

Making sure rental homes and apartments have the proper tools for suppressing a fire when it breaks out is crucial to safety. While that’s important for every room in the home, nowhere is that more important than in the kitchen. Let’s look at four ways to put out kitchen fires before they get out of control.

No. 1: Use a fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is an essential piece of equipment that should be in every kitchen. Make sure that every apartment or rental unit is equipped with the right type of fire extinguisher and, just as importantly, make sure that residents know how to use it.

Fire extinguishers come in different classes and are designed to put out different types of fires. For kitchen grease fires, a Class B extinguisher, which is designed to be used on flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, and oil, or a Class K extinguisher, which is specifically for cooking oils and animal fats, will be effective.

A multipurpose extinguisher, such as an A-B, B-C or A-B-C extinguisher, is another option to allow tenants to use it for more than one purpose. Reviewing how to use a fire extinguisher properly is also important, since improper use of fire extinguishers can not only result in the fire not being extinguished but can lead to respiratory distress and even cardiac arrest.

No. 2: Cut off oxygen to the flame

It’s important to note that fighting a grease fire isn’t like fighting other types of fires; it should never be doused with water, as that can make the situation much worse.

However, a grease fire can’t continue to burn without oxygen, so putting a lid on a flaming pan is a quick and effective way to suppress a fire on the stove. To qualify that option, it’s important that the fire is still contained to the pan and is small enough for the resident to safely put a lid over it.

If there’s no lid available, a second, larger pot, pan or even a cooking sheet can be put over the flame. Of course, all of this requires the resident to respond very quickly, since fires can grow rapidly and get out of control in just a few minutes.

No. 3: Eliminate the heat source

If the fire has just started and is still small, turning off the burner can sometimes be enough to put it out. However, it’s important that residents know they should never try moving a flaming pan off the heat source, since that can cause liquids in the pan to splash and cause a bigger fire.

No. 4: Use StoveTop FireStop’s Rangehood

The most dependable way to suppress a fire on the stove quickly and safely is to use the Rangehood by StoveTop FireStop. This canister, which is mounted above a stove, activates when a direct, sustained flame comes in contact with the fuse on the bottom of the canister.

When activated, the canister makes a loud “pop” sound that will alert the resident and releases a fine, dry powder over the flames that suppresses the fire. Once the fire is suppressed, the resident can shut off the stove’s burner to prevent the fire from reigniting.

Why You Need a More Dependable Solution

While all of the above methods are effective for putting out grease fires on a stove, three of them depend on someone being near the stove when the fire breaks out and having the knowledge and presence of mind to take the right action. Unfortunately, statistics show that’s often not the case.

Unattended cooking equipment is the No. 1 cause of cooking fires and deaths, accounting for nearly one-third of deadly kitchen fires overall. Leaving the stove unattended, even for “just a minute” can have disastrous results. Nobody plans for a kitchen fire to happen, but they still continue to pose a threat to tenant safety. StoveTop FireStop provides around-the-clock monitoring to ensure that any fire occurring on the stove will be suppressed quickly and safely.

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The Apartment Manager’s Fire Safety Checklist

Although any building can be at risk for fire, the causes of fires in apartment buildings are very different from other types of buildings. Unlike single-family residences, where many fires start in the heating system or in the chimney or fireplace, apartment buildings most often see fires caused by cooking. In fact, an astonishing 74 percent of apartment fires are caused by cooking, which is nearly twice the number of cooking fires that other types of residential buildings experience.

When you’re managing an apartment building, it’s not just your life that you’re concerned with; you have the lives and safety of dozens (or maybe hundreds) of people on your mind. Following this checklist is a great way to make sure tenants are prepared and know what to do in the event of a fire. Continue Reading

How to Put Out a Grease Fire

While cooking with grease can enhance the flavor of your food, it also can increase the risk of a kitchen fire. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) notes that cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of fires and fire injuries in the home. According to a recent NFPA report, there are an average of 471 home cooking fires reported every day in the U.S., and that results in 530 deaths, 5,270 injuries and property damage of about $1.1 billion every year. 

To prevent grease fires, it’s important to know how they occur. For starters, leaving an active burner unattended can spell immediate danger. Stepping away from the frying pan, even “for just a minute,” could be all it takes for the grease to get hot enough to start smoking. Within moments, that grease can burst into flames.

Knowing the proper steps of how to put out a grease fire is key to avoiding injury and serious property damage for you and your neighbors. It’s particularly important to know stovetop safety if you live in a multifamily complex, such as senior-living townhomes or apartments: Cooks age 65 and older face a higher risk of fatalities from cooking fires than any other age group, the NFPA reports.  Continue Reading

The Ultimate Guide to StoveTop FireStop’s Fire Suppression System [Infographic]

Fire suppression systems are an important part of preventing grease and cooking fires from spreading beyond a stovetop. StoveTop FireStop’s range of fire suppression systems are made for a variety of stoves. Whether traditional or with a microwave mounted under the hood, we have the right automatic fire suppression canisters for you. Learn more about our products and take our quiz below. Continue Reading

What Happens When You Pour Water on a Grease Fire?

Pouring water on a grease fire is unsafe.Knowing how to handle fires in the home is important for every homeowner or tenant. But with so many fires still causing damage, injury and death every year, it’s apparent that more education and better tools are needed to save lives and property.

Learning how to manage different types of fires, such as knowing what to do in case of a grease fire, could make the difference between life and death. Pouring water on a grease fire may seem like the right thing to do or could even be a natural reaction to seeing flames, but it actually makes the situation much more dangerous.

Residential fires have declined slightly over the past decade, due in part to more advanced detection systems. But that hasn’t eliminated the threat; kitchen fires are responsible for an average of 172,000 fires every year and they often turn deadly, causing on average more than 500 deaths, 5,270 fire-related injuries and a staggering $1.1 billion in property damage annually. Continue Reading

What Are the Top Causes of Fires in Apartment Buildings?

Any building is at risk for fires, though causes vary with the structure and how it’s used. Even among residential fires, the risks can be very different, depending on whether it’s a single-family residence or a multifamily dwelling such as an apartment complex, condominium, townhouse or row house.

Multifamily residences have a distinct profile when it comes to fires. Because these buildings have shared heating and air conditioning systems that are maintained by professionals hired by building management, they have fewer fires related to heating systems than single-family residences. 

Multifamily residences are less likely to have individual fireplaces, so apartment buildings have a much lower rate of fires related to chimneys, fireplaces and fireplace maintenance. And, because of the stringent building codes that apartment buildings are required to pass, they have fewer fires caused by electrical problems related to construction and maintenance.   Continue Reading

How to Put Out a Stove Fire

Every day, millions of people cook a meal without giving it a second thought. But much like getting behind the wheel of a car, each time they fire up a burner or turn on the oven, they’re putting themselves at risk — even though it’s something they’ve probably done countless times.

Although dangers like overloaded electrical outlets or cigarettes are often considered the usual suspects when it comes to home fires, cooking fires are actually the leading cause of fires and fire injuries in homes and apartments. 

These fires are responsible for nearly half of home fires and accounted for 21% of home fire deaths and 45% of all home fire injuries from 2012 to 2016. Knowing how to put out a stovetop fire is something that every person needs to learn and take seriously, because lives truly depend on it.

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How Does StoveTop FireStop Work?

Kitchen fires account for an average of 172,000 home fires every year. That makes them the No. 1 cause of home fires and breaks down to about 471 kitchen fires every day in the U.S., which are responsible for a reported 530 civilian deaths, 5,270 fire injuries and some $1.1 billion in property damage every year.  

Learning how to implement stovetop fire prevention and getting the right tools to manage a kitchen fire can save not just money and property, it can also save lives.

StoveTop FireStop is designed to suppress kitchen fires without the need for any human intervention. When a home fire begins, it’s common for people to panic and forget what they need to do. With the StoveTop FireStop fire suppression system, they don’t have to do anything except step away from the fire while it is being suppressed.

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