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Flintshire Council and North Wales Fire and Rescue Service – a study of the efficacy of BS EN 50615 technology using Airis Sense​

Flintshire County Council logo

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service has experienced a number of incidents at the Flintshire Council- run tower blocks Bolingbroke Heights, Castle Heights, and Richard Heights, resulting from unattended cooking fires.

In response, the fire service set up a study in cooperation with the council and Unicook Ltd to assess the effect of stove guard technology in preventing the tower block fire and smoke incidents. The Unicook Airis product was chosen in part for its built-in data recording.

The council has experienced incidents placing residents at considerable risk with extensive (multi- apartment) damage from the sprinkler systems. In June 2021, an elderly gentleman was admitted to hospital with burns caused by a flash-over in an oil pan fire. Ten apartments were damaged by water following this incident.

The council was therefore keen to find a cost-effective solution to protect the lives and wellbeing of residents as well as the properties. Having served in the fire service myself, I was particularly interested to see what impact stove guard technology could have.

Mike Dymock, Contract Surveyor (Fire Risk), Flintshire County Council

A brief introduction to stove guard technology​

A ‘stove guard’ is a device that cuts the power to a cooker or hob to prevent a fire. These are distinct from PIRs and timers etc as they only intervene when they determine there is a risk of fire. They prevent fires, and to a large extent smoke, resulting from unattended cooking.

Stove guard origins​

The first stove guard was invented by a Swedish company called Cabinova in the 1980’s. The technology has now advanced considerably. In 2010, Norway mandated stove guards for all domestic kitchens. In practice, this meant that a stove guard must be installed in a new house or when a kitchen is renovated. Norway’s action created a substantial market for stove guards and led to considerable investment in developing the technology. There are now over 1 million devices installed in Europe. In the UK, 3 brands are available, namely Firechief Kitchen stove guard, Prefect Hobsensus and the Unicook Airis Sense.

BS EN 50615 standard (Part B)

In 2015, several manufacturers were consulted to create a pan-European standard to ensure stove guard products are tested and proven effective and, ultimately, to prevent stove guards from being confused with non-compliant cut-off devices triggered by timers or PIRs.

How they work

Stove guards consist of a sensor unit which fits to the wall/splashback behind the hob/cooker, to the underside of the extraction hood, or on the ceiling. A power controller (‘interrupter’) is wired between the power outlet at the wall and the hob/cooker. This is mounted behind a cooker or, in the case of a hob, usually behind the oven below. The sensor and power control units are linked by radio. An electrician is required for the installation, but no specialist training is needed.

Potential benefits​

Stove guards prevent fires and, in some cases, greatly limit smoke. This reduces false as well as real alarms. This in turn can reduce calls to telecare alarm receiving centres and the fire services. As cooking is the root cause of 50% of domestic dwelling fires, the impact of a stove guard can be significant. Stove guards prevent sprinkler systems from activating.

Methodology​

A sample of 42 apartments was fitted with a stove guard following individual assessments by the fire service and the council to identify residents considered to be at higher risk. At the end of the study, incident data from the council’s community alarm system both prior to and during the study would be compared.

Data from the stove guards would give detailed information about cooking sessions and potential incidents prevented. It would also provide a comparative risk profile of individual residents.

The stove guards were installed between March and August 2021 and the results were assessed using data collected up to 20th June 2022.

Findings​

Flintshire community alarm data​

During the study period, there was one community alarm triggered by cooking. This compares with 9 during a similar period preceding the introduction of stove guards.

While the Airis stove guard can in many cases react before significant smoke is produced, this depends on many variables and it is not possible in every case. However, in one such case, the community alarm was triggered by a smoking pan and the fire service was called. When the firefighters gained access to the property, they found that the stove guard had cut the power and had likely prevented a fire.

Assessment by Unicook​

Airis cuts the power to prevent smoke, fires and damage to pans by analysing data from many sensing devices, and not all shut-offs would have prevented a fire. Although we cannot say with certainty how many fires may have been prevented, surface temperature data suggested that fires could have occurred without the stove guard’s intervention.

The widely varying ratio of activations to the number of times someone cooked reflects the varying degree of risk that a resident might leave cooking unattended or accidentally leaving a ring on after cooking. Most people occasionally leave cooking unattended or leave a ring on after cooking and therefore an occasional shut-off can be expected. However, as the data illustrates, in one case, the system intervened in almost 1 in 3 cooking sessions.

Summary​

The study has helped to reinforce our knowledge of the efficacy of BS EN 50615 certified technology.

I would like to thank Flintshire Council and Unicook for their cooperation.