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Knowledge is Power: Cooktop Safety

Fires originating from cooking appliances account for the largest shares of home structure fires and associated fire injuries in North America, and electric ranges are by far the leading cause of home cooking appliance fires.

In 2012, an IAFC Fire and Life Safety Section (FLSS) task force analyzed the characteristics of the home fire problem, assessed the potential of various protection technologies to reduce these fire losses and developed recommendations to reduce these fire losses. Based on this work, the IAFC adopted a Residential Range-Top Safety position paper (PDF) so fire chiefs and other fire safety professionals can better respond to inquiries about residential cooking safety and more effectively develop community risk-reduction outreach programs.

In addition to the position paper, the FLSS published a comprehensive report on fires originating on home ranges (cooktops). Both of these documents are available on the FLSS website.

Here are some key take-aways for fire chiefs to understand about cooktop safety:

  • Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in North America – Fires beginning with cooking appliances account for the largest share of home structure fires and fire injuries, and electric ranges are by far the leading cause of home cooking appliance fires.
  • Most home cooking fires involve frying on electric ranges – Range fires accounted for 84% of all fire deaths involving cooking appliances. Unattended cooking is a major factor associated with this problem.
  • Technologies are available that can address the cooking fire problem – The task force identified several technologies designed to prevent fires or mitigate cooking fires, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
  • Ignition prevention looks the most promising – Given the nature of fire injuries associated with range-top fires, the best way to eliminate these injuries and range-top fires is to prevent ignition from occurring in the first place. One way to reduce the frequency of ignition is to design range-tops so they won't readily ignite oils, greases and cooking materials. This can be done by limiting range-top temperatures, which can be done in a variety of ways. Temperature-limiting technologies may be the best solution to reducing cooking fire injuries and range-top fires.
  • Ignition prevention is used in other countries – Around the world, several companies produce temperature-limiting electric and gas burners and appliances designed to prevent ignition of common cooking materials. One concern with temperature-limiting solutions is whether the cooking appliance can meet the user’s cooking expectations, such as being able to sear meat and boil water quickly. Existing installations of temperature-limiting technologies suggest that users are satisfied with cooking performance.

Fire safety groups are taking action to help address the cooktop fire problem. The FLSS cooktop-fire safety report (PDF) included an action plan designed to reduce home cooking fires and related injuries; a FLSS task force is working on completing action-plan items.

In addition to the FLSS effort, Vision 20/20 sponsored social-marketing research, documenting the effectiveness of the message “Keep an Eye on What You Fry.” NFPA, USFA and other public-safety experts are also promoting greater public awareness of safe cooking practices. The Fire Protection Research Foundation is examining ignition resistant test protocols.

Fire Service Call to Action

It's important for you and your staff to be knowledgeable in this area so you can better respond to inquiries and take action to address the cooktop-safety problem.

  • Read the position statement and share it with others; it's short and concise and provides a good summary of the situation.
  • Review the cooktop safety report for a more detailed look at this fire problem. Both of these are excellent resource documents to use when the need arises.
  • Email Fire Marshal Greg Rogers, co-chair of the FLSS cooktop-safety task force, for ideas on how you can help address this problem.

Together we can address this fire problem.

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