According to the National Fire Protection Association, kitchens are the leading hotspot for home fires. NFPA says two out of every five home fires start in the kitchen, and an average of 56,600 cooking-related fires take place annually (with 34 percent of those fires caused by unattended cooking).
Homeowners should consider installing cost-effective extinguishing devices. Some basic systems use suppressant material stored in devices, about the size of tuna cans, that attach magnetically to the bottom of a range hood. If a fire breaks out on the stovetop, the devices – triggered by direct flames or a temperature above 310 degrees F- automatically sound an alarm and release sodium bicarbonate powder to smother the flames.
More advanced systems require the installation of a unit in a cabinet above a range hood. If electronic sensors detect a fire, an extinguishing agent is sprayed onto the stovetop and electricity or gas feeding the stove is cut off. Some high-end range hoods are sold with these fire safety features.
Fire safety professionals recommend the following to help prevent kitchen fires:
- Before cooking, clear the stovetop of anything that could catch fire (such as pot holders, food wrappers, or wiping rags).
- Make sure you’ve turned on the proper burner.
- Stay in the kitchen while you’re using the stove. If the phone rings or you have to leave the room, turn the stove off.
- Check baking or roasting food periodically.
- If you smell gas before or while you’re cooking, immediately shut off the stove, leave the kitchen and call the fire department.
The US Fire Safety Administration offers a variety of cooking safety tips and information.
David J. Albert, CSP, is a property & casualty risk engineer for Chubb.