Residential Kitchen Fires – Prevention is better than cure

Stoveguard
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    The problem

    It is an unfortunate statistic that most fire casualties and deaths occur in the home or similar settings – a fact unchanged for many decades.

    The most recent statistics released by the Home Office for fires in the 12 months to March 2020 show that 82% of fire deaths and 74% of fire related casualties were in dwellings.

    Whilst a variety of different causes of dwelling fire exist a little changed statistic is that cooking related fires are amongst the most common, often topping the list – again in the 2019/2020 period the biggest cause of dwelling fires involved cooking (48%), with electrical equipment/leads and fixed electrical installations being next, but far lower down (both in the 12-13% range).

    Fire prevention advice and campaigns are over 100 years old, in both print guidance and media campaigns (such as the 1970’s Public Information Films Campaigns on not leaving chip pans unattended and the more recent revival of the ‘Fire Kills’ campaign) however have not been effective in preventing cooking fires remaining the biggest risk at home.

    Where prevention fails, cure has traditionally been the next step – this has traditionally relied on the householder having a suitable fire extinguisher or fire blanket (neither of which they are obliged to have except in certain HMO & Supported Living situations) or being able to safely improvise with damp tea towels and pan lids. All these rely on correct and timely use as cooking fires soon progress beyond the capabilities of an initial response.

    Another solution is to automate the firefighting process and indeed this has been the common solution to gaining Building Regulations approval in designing flats and dwellings using an open plan living design, where following Approved Document B would severely restrict the layout options and an engineered solution is required either using full piped mains fed residential sprinklers to BS 9251, water mist systems to BS 8458 or scaled down local cooker hood wet chemical suppression systems in the spirit of the commercial LPS 1223.

    All these can protect the principal risk in the open plan area, namely the kitchen, and are undoubtedly effective, but all involve:

    • Cost, sometimes significant.
    • Disruption to the premises to install
    • Regular maintenance
    • Post extinction clean up
    • A degree of smoke logging and fire damage to the area even when successfully and effectively activated
    • Systems often require external contractors to reset/refill before protection is restored

    So, all in all prevention remains the preferred option – but how can we take the fallible human factor out of this?

    The principle cause of cooking fires in the home is leaving a hob switched on, or accidentally switching it on, which causes food or burning material on the hob to catch fire.

    Certain groups are more likely to leave hobs unattended – the young adults and students who may fall asleep after a night out whilst food is cooking, the elderly, those with special needs – however no one is immune to this risk.

    The new solution

    Technology now exists to be the ‘constant watcher’ over cookers and ensure dangerous overheating is avoided. Whilst new this technology is proven, and British/European Standards exist for it in the form of BS EN 50615:2015

    “Household and similar electrical appliances. Safety. Particular requirements for devices for fire prevention and suppression for electric hobs (cooktops)”

    This European standard deals with the safety of electric devices used for detection, prevention and suppression of fire originated from a cooking process, or from flammable material left on the hob.

    The provisions of this document, duly adapted to the specific installation and conditions of use, may be taken into consideration as guidance also for the protection from fire originated from the use of portable cooking appliances or from grills in the oven cavity.

    Stove Guard falls under Category B of the standard: Prevention of Ignition. It fully meets the requirements of the standard, and in fact exceeds it in several ways. Older products, such as timers and presence detection systems, don’t meet the requirements because they are unable to prevent a fire.

    To be compliant with BS EN 50615, a system must:

    - have the ability to disconnect the cooker (or hob) from the electricity supply before a fire starts

    - have the ability to cut off the cooker (or hob) electricity supply before the temperature reaches a dangerous level

    - ensure that the electricity cut-off is not triggered by a false alarm

    Before a product can be certified as compliant, a series of tests must be carried out, including:

    - heating a prescribed volume of sunflower oil in a pan, with the burner/ring on its highest power setting

    - using other burners simultaneously to boil water to make the environment more complex and challenging

    - testing all burners one by one

    Under BS EN 50615, the electricity cut-off must not be triggered by a false alarm. This is highly significant as it means cooking can take place as normal without the need for training, changes in behaviour and without causing frustration to or confusing residents. In being compliant with BS EN 50615, Stove Guard is therefore a completely unobtrusive solution which can be applied to any kitchen, regardless of the type of residents.

    The Firechief Stove Guard is an EN 50615 compliant device that is intended to protect from fire in electric cookers as it measures the temperature from the stove and gives a pre-alarm in case of a potentially dangerous situation. If the warning is not acknowledged, the Stove Guard alarms and cuts off the power to the cooker. When the cooker has cooled down to a safe temperature, it is ready to be used again.

    The device works silently in the background and can also be used easily by special user groups. It adjusts its sensitivity level based on the kitchen and user’s cooking styles, so that false alarms do not disturb the cooking.

    It acts before flames appear/are formed and prevents fires also when you are not present or are otherwise unable to switch the power off.

    Additional benefits for property owners are that tenants cannot try to cook without the heat sensor being in place.  Should it be removed from the installation plate, this will cut off the power to the cooker. Returning the Sensor back to the installation plate returns the power to the cooker and then simply pressing the Heat Sensor button once will turn the power back on.

    The Firechief Kitchen Stove Guard consists of a heat sensor, a control unit and an installation kit.

    Picture1

    Stove Guard’s intelligent and wireless heat sensor is attached underneath the cooker hood with adhesive and uses a button cell for power. The heat sensor can also be installed on the wall or the ceiling. The control unit is connected to the power supply of the cooker and installed out of sight.

    Picture2

    Installation should only be by an electrician and can take as little as 15 minutes

    Firechief Kitchen Stove Guard is compatible with all electric cookers.

    It is ideal for retrofit to existing premises and whilst cooker hood placement is preferred existing premises where these are not fitted can still use the Stove Guard in ceiling or wall mounted configurations.

    Picture3 Picture4

    Advantages:

    - Unobtrusive and easy to fit

    - Adaptive to the individual user

    - Simple user friendly operation

    - Self testing, no routine planned maintenance required

    - Easily reset by the user once the risk has passed, no downtime or external contractors required

    - Reduced false alarms from other detection systems in the protected area

    - As a fire prevention method rather than fire fighting there will be no clean up, smoke damage, etc

    Case study – 1 Crown Place, London

    One Crown Place is the latest high rise addition to London’s skyline and home to 246 luxury open plan apartments, with custom Italian designed kitchens.  The open plan design meant that to gain Building Regulations approval there needed to be suitable compensatory measures in place.  This would usually have been sprinklers, misting systems or a kitchen suppression system, all with cost, space and aesthetic implications and requiring specialist contractors, coupled with the fact these are all reactive systems requiring a fire to occur with associated smoke, heat and extinguishing agent damage.

    Therefore, the team of architects, designers and builders were open to the idea of an alternative, unobtrusive design-led fire prevention solution, such as the Firechief Kitchen Stove Guard that could be presented as part of a BS 7974 Fire Engineered alternative to the traditional fire safety approaches in Approved Document B to the Building Regulations.

    The relevant Building Control body accepted this solution as contributing effectively to meeting the functional requirements of the Building Regulations and so the Stove Guard was installed to the apartments.

    Read the full case study in our previous blog post here

    Other areas of particular benefit

    The Firechief Kitchen Stove Guard can fulfil a key role in meeting Building Regulation fire safety requirements as part of a fire statement or fire strategy where open plan living is proposed. However, there are many other environments where it would provide much needed fire prevention, particularly where the human factor is an increased risk due to the nature of the occupiers, for example:

    - Student accommodation, studios and cluster flats

    - Sheltered Housing

    - Specialised Housing including Supported Living

    - Holiday Lets

    - Houses in Multiple Occupation

    - High Rise Residential Buildings whether traditional or open plan

    Summary

    Prevention is always better than cure and when designing new or assessing the safety in existing dwellings the Firechief Kitchen Stove Guard should be considered.

    Fire Depot has been the UK's favourite fire safety supplier for over 50 years.  Our experienced team can offer advice and guidance about any product or fire safety application. For expert help and advice, please contact the Fire Depot team on 0330 999 2233, email us at sales@firedepot.co.uk or visit www.firedepot.co.uk to see our full range of fire safety products.

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