Holiday favorite: no fire damage

Temperatures are dropping, football is in full swing, and festive holiday decorations are popping up in stores all around you.

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Yep. Already. All signs point to it. Indeed, the holiday season is quickly approaching. And so it begins: shopping, family get-togethers, and the best part, the food. Who could forget the food? Turkey, dressing, and Grandma’s recipe, mouth-watering pecan pie. But before you get carried away dreaming about Granny’s pie, heed a warning from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The kitchen might be the most dangerous place you’ll visit this holiday season. (No, not because of the tempting treats in your fridge.) The holidays, Thanksgiving Day in particular, are the peak time for home cooking fires and for apartment living, that’s danger on a grand level. Cooking is the leading cause of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings–and second place ain’t even close.

The USFA’s numbers tell the story, and they’re alarming. Thanksgiving Day boasts more than double the number of residential cooking fires than an average day. From 2006 to 2008, nearly 4,300 fires occurred in the U.S. on Thanksgiving–and they caused over $20 million in property damage.

Beyond Thanksgiving, the number of reported residential fires increases in the winter months, with December being the peak month. Even during the New Year, in January, February, and March, the leading cause of residential fires is–you guessed it–cooking.

So what is it about the holidays? Why is cooking more dangerous? Why are kitchens more vulnerable? The increase in fires can be attributed to unattended cooking. On Thanksgiving Day, food left unattended is the leading factor in the ignition of residential cooking fires. The hustle-and-bustle of the season means residents are distracted,preoccupied by ringing phones or wandering in-laws. It’s these distractions that take us out of the kitchen. And it’s a neglected kitchen that’s most likely to erupt in flames.

While distractions are bound to happen, many of us know better. We know to be extra careful in the kitchen this time of year. Believe it or not, we may still be at risk, despite taking extra precautions.

Apartment dwellers, for example, can be paragons of cooking safety, but innocently and unfairly victimized by the accidents of others. In an apartment, a fire on a neighbor’s stove could spread and damage your property unit–or even destroy it.

Even typical residential safeguards, like smoke alarms or fire extinguishers, are oftentimes not enough to protect you. Fire extinguishers require your presence to pull the pin, and may require you to get dangerously close to flames; and working smoke alarms will alert you to a fire, but can do nothing to stop it. In fact, the USFA reported smoke alarms as present in close to half of non-confined Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings.

It’s a grave reality: you can’t altogether prevent the careless cooking or unattended kitchens that cause grease fires to spread out of control. And you can’t completely rely on smoke alarms or extinguishers.

But you can be prepared. Easily.

In contrast to alarms, Automatic Extinguishment Systems (AESs), which suppress fires without human intervention, were present in only two percent of Thanksgiving Day fires. Simply put, they work. But many residences are not equipped with them, for a variety of reasons. Sprinkler systems, for example, are controversial: they may be expensive or labor-intensive to install, and they may cause costly water damage in the process of extinguishing a fire.

Other AESs can be just as expensive, and may introduce a host of new complications: they may require professional installation; void your stove’s warranty; or require tedious maintenance, cleaning, or inspections. In addition, some may not work for gas stove-tops or modern smooth-stove-top designs.

Fortunately, there’s a compromise. For those of us with chaotic kitchens but without sprinklers, many companies offer affordable, automatic fire-suppression systems.

Denlar Fire Protection has developed 30″ or 36″ range hoods that incorporate a triple protection system: a high-capacity exhaust fan, dual halogen lamps, and a nozzle discharge system. Systems like SMARTX and StoveTop FireStop are stove-top fire-suppression systems that work automatically, suppress fires completely, and warn you immediately with a sound or alarm. Each system is slightly different, but each possesses important similarities.

They’re automatic: they rest above the cooking surface (or in Denlar’s case, they are the range hood) and suppress stove-top grease fires by releasing a fire-suppressing agent when flame activated. (Smoke or high temperatures will not set them off, so you avoid unnecessary cleanup and aggravation.)

They’re safe: each uses a non-toxic agent in either a powder or liquid state.

They’re suitable for all stove-tops: they work for stove-tops with vent hoods or micro-hoods above them. And each is designed uniquely, with styles sure to match your kitchen’s decor.

They’re easy to install: each one is quick, simple, and do-it-yourself.

They’re tested and proven: they have obtained varying levels of certification from Underwriters Laboratories, an independent, OSHA-approved, nationally recognized product safety-certification organization.

In addition, customers–property managers, fire professionals, satisfied residents– report significant reductions in fire claims, even rating AESs as essential as smoke alarms.

And here’s the best part: these systems can be purchased and installed for as low as $60. For apartment communities, assisted living centers, or student-housing dormitories, outfitting properties with AESs can be a cost-effective, hassle-free, foolproof way to guarantee your residents’ safety and comfort into the New Year.

Author: Mitch Wright