Image by Pixabay via Pexels - An hourglass sand timer running down
Image by Pixabay via Pexels

In this post, we’re taking a look at stove timers for vulnerable people and an alternative that might just change your mind about hob safety. The safe use of a hob is still the responsibility of the person cooking, but do hob timers really improve hob safety? Are they really good enough for an elderly person or someone suffering from a cognitive impairment or disease such as dementia? As a carer or relative, you will likely have many concerns about hob safety and the people under your care. Hob fires are almost always caused by human error and this risk is greatly increased in elderly and disabled users. So, it’s never a bad thing to install a safety device to protect those in need and prolong their independence. Let’s look at what a hob timer is and what’s involved with using one. We’ll also show you why an alternative device provides far greater safety and value for money.

The what and how of hob timers

A hob timer is a device that is installed to an existing electric hob, or is included as part of a specific electric hob design. The unit cuts the power to the hob either when the timer runs out, or after the timer has run out and a subsequent alarm has sounded and been ignored. Some are user programmable but most are preset to a specific time limit, usually 15-60 minutes. Timers often require the user to activate them before, or in conjunction with, turning the hob on, adding an extra step before cooking can start and an extra step for the user to learn. They are also indiscriminate toward temperature so it makes no difference whether the hob is set to simmer or on full power.

So, knowing this, do you think hob timers can help with forgetfulness, loss of functional capacity, or unintentional misuse? Are they suitable for people with a mental disorder or disability that affects memory, or for an elderly person who just wants to turn the hob on and start cooking, without setting a timer first? Does a timer also present a false sense of security, encouraging you to leave the hob unattended while something is cooking, knowing that in 15 minutes it will turn itself off?

Hob Fires and Hob Timers

Image adapted from Pixabay via Pexels
Image adapted from Pixabay via Pexels

How long does it take for a hob fire to start? You might be surprised but a hob fire can start in well under 10 minutes, so timers rely on the user being present and able to turn the power off if anything goes awry before the timer runs down. This is fine if you’re simmering a soup or a casserole, but if you’re unable to react immediately to an issue with a hob on high power then the risk of a fire starting remains as high as before, regardless as to whether you have a timer fitted or not.

The fact that timers do not take into account how an incident develops can be a major problem as they are unable to react to dynamic situations and act before a fire starts. It is complete guesswork as to whether a fire will start before or after the timer runs out, and therefore whether it will leave the hob safe, or remain blind to a potentially fatal situation in full swing, unbeknown to the person it is trying to protect. It becomes a moot point if a fire starts before the timer runs out. And the risk is increased further if the pan is already hot when the timer is set. A fire could be only seconds away.

So, in practical, everyday use, a hob timer can in fact turn out to be wholly unsuitable for a vulnerable person, or anyone for that matter.

"A stove fitted with a timer is not safe enough in the home of a person with a memory disorder."

Southwest Finland Memory Association

But before we look at an alternative, let’s get a better idea of the pros and cons of a timer.

Pros and Cons of Hob Timers

A table showing the pros and cons of hob timers

The table above gives a good idea of the pros and cons of hob timers so you can more clearly decide if they are suitable for you or not. But before you make a final decision, we are about to throw a cat amongst the pigeons and show you something that is far more effective and that connects the issue of hob safety directly with the risk of fire.

Stove Guards: the Sensible Alternative

A close up of the Airis stove guard sensor by Unicook
Airis proctively avoids fires by disconnecting the power to the hob if a dangerous situation is unfolding.

It’s a little bit of a misnomer calling a stove guard an alternative to a hob timer. They both sit in the same market under the same remit of fire safety, but one of them proactively prevents fires from occurring, no matter how long you have been cooking for, and the other one – as you will have discovered above – is just a timer that may or may not actually do anything productive, or just cause an inconvenience. So a stove guard is less of an alternative, and more like the right product for the job. So, let’s have a closer look at the trick card and delve into stove guards.

Rapidly evolving hazards like hob fires aren’t interested in whether or not you have set a timer to shut off the power, but shutting off the power would prevent a fire starting if it was done in time. This is where stove guards come into play. They monitor the environment using extremely intelligent technology and an array of clever sensors. Products like Airis monitor the temperature of the pan and hob, taking into account the smoke points and flash points of oils (the temperature at which oils smoke and then ignite). They also monitor human presence at the hob to determine if the cooking has been left unattended and the risk increased.

Airis - How it Works

Using this information, Airis calculates when a risk of fire is present and alerts the user with the usual alarm. If the hob is not manually turned down or off, then it cuts the power before a fire actually starts (this could take only a minute, long before a timer would activate). So if there is a problem and the user can’t act to prevent a fire, Airis will have you covered. Airis monitors throughout cooking and responds in real time to prevent rapidly evolving hazards. It can also tell if a pan is boiling dry and act before food burns. It also meets fire prevention standard BS EN 50615. Conforming to this standard involves passing stringent tests in which the device must prevent a fire from starting.

It really does make all the difference and can prolong the valued independence of a vulnerable person.

"A stove guard is a valuable purchase. When it prevents a fire, it pays for itself many times over."

Southwest Finland Memory Association

How does Airis prevent fires?

Play Video

Airis for Those with Memory Loss

A middle-aged man in his kitchen, cleaning a frying pan with the Airis fire safety device protecting the hob in the background

Airis is perfect for people with memory disorders as it does not require any user training. There are no complicated starting procedures or extra steps for someone to learn or become frustrated with. Install it properly, and it just works. So, you can easily see that it’s not an alternative to a timer, but it’s the only thing you should be considering for hob safety. What’s more, it can be installed easily to an existing stove that is already familiar to the user.

If necessary, Airis can also alert carers or loved ones to any dangers, allowing the situation to be investigated, and ensuring repeat issues can be dealt with effectively rather than ignoring them to the detriment of the user.

But What About Cost?

You might be surprised to learn that installing Airis on your existing hob is cheaper than replacing the hob with a new one and a timer. Replacing the entire hob with one with a timer can be extremely problematic if a similar model cannot be found, meaning extensive modifications to the work surface and lower cupboards may be required if the kitchen has a separate hob. This is because most hobs with timers are 50-60cm wide and come as separate units. And that’s before you consider the true cost of a fire, the potential loss of life, lost belongings, disruption, alternative accommodation, insurance claims and premium increases, potentially moving into an assisted home or care facility, and the mental trauma from the event. So, in reality it costs even less than you think!

We have seen what a timer is and how it operates, falling far short of the mark when it comes to practical fire safety, and how a stove guard such as Airis provides proactive fire safety that actually works. We’ve also seen that Airis can be far cheaper than a replacement hob when considering the true cost of a fire. Even so, we would rather pay for an Airis ten times over, safe in the knowledge a fire will never start, rather than take a gamble with a hob timer which doesn’t conform to fire prevention standards.

If you are interested in proactive, practical fire safety then contact us or arrange a callback.

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

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Ok, so you’re now an expert on proactive vs. reactive safety and you’re here. We’ll be delving into the aftermath of David and Angie’s situations and we’ll help you stay in the loop and ahead of the game by making the most of Airis’s capabilities. Fantastic if you’re a property/building manager or a discerning relative and you want to look after your loved one more effectively to help retain their independence. Sounds good, right? To refresh your memory, we’ve included the cases again below. Let’s have a better look now.

A flow diagram comparing reactive and proactive fire safety

The Aftermath: David and Angie

David (Reactive)

Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels - A middle-aged man unpacks his food shopping
Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

For David, if he is lucky enough to escape harm and avoid starting a fire, there won’t be any records of the incident ever occurring. If the alarm isn’t connected to a telecare system, the alarm will be reset and forgotten about.

If this happens often, it leads to complacency for wardens or building managers just rendering it an annoyance and inconvenience. The root cause of the issue isn’t addressed, and David remains at risk. This, after all, is the exact reason David has moved into sheltered accommodation, but for what benefit?

If the accommodation has robust reporting procedures and formally logs the event, that will mean lots of questions for David, lots of forms to be filed and lots of margin for human error. The data is easily inputted incorrectly and vital needs that it highlights can be ignored or overlooked. The fire service will likely be called out to check the property over, ventilate the kitchen from the thick smell of smoke, or just find everything is in order and head off to another case where a real fire may have started.

If the situation is worse and a fire has started, or if multiple near misses are recorded, David may face a cohort of strangers coming into the property, lots of smoke and fire damage, rehoming, people asking even more questions, assessing his health and competency, telling him his cooker will be disconnected for his own safety and that of the other residents.

It’s confusing and intimidating that things will be changing, and that he can no longer cook for himself. Meals will have to be arranged at a greater cost and he can’t make his favourite dishes any longer. David is now greatly unsettled and fears that even more of his independence will be taken away from him. He feels angry that he let the hob get out of control, even though he was only away from the kitchen for a few moments. It’s quite a change for David, but this situation is likely when relying on reactive equipment – we see it all the time. We know reactive safety devices do work, but they only operate after the situation has escalated too far. In a modern world, they just don’t hold up against proactive devices like Airis. They’re good failsafes but shouldn’t that be all they’re used for?

And what about Angie, is she in the same boat?

Angie (Proactive)

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels - A young woman prepares a meal in the kitchen
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The student accommodation that Angie lives in has the benefit of being equipped with smart fire safety equipment, so she doesn’t receive all that unwanted attention and change, leaving her to concentrate on making a dent in her thesis. When she steps away from the hob for a minute, Airis’ intelligent detection algorithms notice that the heat is too high and the oil is reaching its smoke point. The alarm sounds before an issue occurs, and Angie is alerted so she can respond. She acknowledges the alarm, turns the heat down and continues to cook. Airis detects her presence and knows that everything is under control again.

Now, if Angie doesn’t respond, Airis recognises the situation is running away with itself and a fire is imminent. Airis cuts the power to the hob long before the flash point of the oil. Crisis averted – no smoke to ventilate, no building evacuations, no stress for the building/accommodation manager, no sirens down in the street, no interrogation from strangers, and no disconnections or loss of independence. Angie can reset the unit and start cooking again when things have cooled down.

Here’s what’s interesting. These cases apply not only to students or elderly residents in sheltered accommodation. They apply to everyone. You and me. Independent living of any sort comes with the same cooking risks and you can benefit from proactive safety too.

What’s more, Airis logs the data in its memory which can then be downloaded at source (we’ll discuss why this is so important later). But that’s not all. In this modern age, you want to see data at the touch of a button from wherever you are in the world, on whatever device you have at your desk or in your pocket. It’s your lucky day, Airis has you covered.

Airis Sense WiFi: Data that Works for You

The Airis Sense WiFi Multisensor and PCU
Airis Sense WiFi provides all the fire and smoke safety features of Airis Sense, but allows for remote monitoring and data collection

In a smart world, isn’t it best to make smart choices? Mounted on the wall behind the hob, Airis Sense WiFi is the internet-connected model from Unicook. It unlocks all that data so you now have it at your fingertips, wherever you are in the world. No need to physically visit the resident – you can see it all right in front of you. It will even send you SMS and email alerts when an incident occurs so you will know instantly if a resident or loved one has run into difficulty.

The data is a real lifesaver for building managers and for conscientious relatives. It’s without human error, it’s easier to handle, and provides much greater visibility of what’s actually going on, especially if multiple incidents occur. Trends can be seen easily and the appropriate actions taken. It’s precise and it’s accurate, and that’s better for everyone, not just Angie. You can see how often and what times incidents occur.

This is perfect for building managers who need the right information to create an action plan and ensure all residents are safe, especially with the pressures of tightening fire safety legislation and residents’ demands in the wake of Grenfell. It’s perfect for relatives who want to rest assured that their loved ones are safe and can hold on to their independence as long as possible, avoiding the stress of fire service visits and major disruption to their lifestyles.

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels
Photo by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels

Airis is also incredibly flexible. It can be connected to telecare services and be configured to send alerts automatically when it acts. Additionally, it can be set to send alerts if it has been triggered more than a certain number of times within a specified time frame, or even if the stove has not been used in a certain amount of time (i.e. they have stopped cooking for themselves). This supplementary data can be used in support of assessments of the resident.

So what does this mean? It becomes more a question of the person’s overall wellbeing, rather than whether or not their independence and right to cook should be taken away from them. That’s a huge step in the right direction. Airis removes all the guess-work, dramatically increases safety and peace of mind, improves data collection, prevents damage, and saves money that would be spent on repairs, care, or meal provision. It’s proactive fire safety, and it does much more than save lives.

A Quick Recap

So, we’ve looked at David and Angie’s cases in more detail and shown you what the wider consequences are. The life-changing events for David with his potential cooker disconnection, loss of independence, and decline in wellbeing, and Angie’s unobtrusive Airis that helps rather than hinders.

We looked at why the data Airis collects is important. It’s accurate and enables a proactive, constructive approach to addressing any issues that are apparent, and you can access it from anywhere!

If you have questions about Airis and how it can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help.

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

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You may well be wondering, what is proactive or reactive safety? Well, look no further, we have the answers to all your questions! It may not help win the pub quiz, but it will certainly help you better understand your home and how it is protecting you from those life-threatening risks.

We only have one question for you – would you rather know about a fire after it has started and taken hold, putting you and others in very serious danger and causing panic, or would you rather the fire never started in the first place? We know it’s the latter of the two, and we’re here to help you protect your home or those in your care so you have one less thing to worry about.

Hand turns dice and changes the word reactive to proactive.

What is Reactive Safety?

Today, technology alerts us to risk in all walks of life. The car horn when you’ve pulled out of a junction too soon and cut someone off, and the airbag that showers you in talcum powder if it really goes wrong. The incident has happened already and the airbag deployed to mitigate injury when the impact couldn’t be avoided.

In the context of fire safety this would be a smoke detector sounding and the subsequent sprinkler system trying to put the fire out. These are what we call reactive safety features; they react to a certain trigger such as flames or smoke and alert you after the fact.

Most devices on the market fall into this category – smoke and heat detectors, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and foam suppression systems. Not to mention the ones that require human action such as portable extinguishers and fire blankets, which put you directly in harm’s way. Some insurers don’t like you using them for that reason. That said, they are important devices to have in the event of a fire. How many can you identify in your home? Did we miss any off?

A picture of reactive fire safety devices and apparatus

What is Proactive Safety?

Now, say you were driving a vehicle with automatic safety features at that junction instead of a standard car and you tried to pull out when it wasn’t safe. The intricate and mind-bogglingly clever algorithms in the car’s safety system would kick in before you could even take your foot off the brake. It would see the imminent danger in the unfolding events long before they happen and decide the best course of action is to avoid pulling out, full stop, protecting you and your family from a nasty t-bone or side swipe. Then you resume control once it’s safe to move off again. Thank you technology.

In fire safety terms this could be a product that senses the conditions in which a fire will start and intervenes before the first wisp of smoke leaves the pan. This is proactive safety. It’s intelligent, intuitive, forward thinking, and it really does save lives. We welcome smartphones, smart watches, and smart TVs into our lives because they make them that much easier, it’s simple. But why haven’t we embraced smart fire safety yet?

Photo adapted from Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels - woman pointing at chalkboard with fire safety
Photo adapted from Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The truth is, like the car with advanced safety features, devices that sense and react to such rapidly dynamic conditions with a degree of accuracy and confidence that are actually useful and not frustratingly inconvenient are far more difficult to develop at a price point that is attractive to the discerning consumer. But wouldn’t it be fantastic if those older safety products shifted toward proactive, smart design and avoided all the danger, drama, and disruption in the first place?

In the case of something as lethal as a fire, the more proactive you can be, the better, right? It lowers the risk to life and to property, including those painful financial repercussions. Well, you might be excited to find out that this shift has been happening for over a decade, and at a price point that does not even come close to breaking the bank. Want to know more?

Embracing Proactive Fire Safety

Airis Multisensor Proactive Fire Safety
Airis proctively avoids fires by disconnecting the power to the hob if a dangerous situation is unfolding.

Airis is one of the few existing proactive approaches to fire safety, and it is extremely effective at preventing fires. Here’s how it works: using smart technology, Airis first recognises the hob type and whether or not someone is cooking at the hob, it keeps monitoring the heat from the pan, if it recognises the heat is too high and approaching the oil’s smoke point (you can learn more about smoke points here) it then alerts you so the heat can be reduced, if you’re not there because you’re incapacitated or your attention has strayed from the hob and don’t respond, it will cut the power before the oil starts smoking.

Thanks to its incredible sensors and programming, all this happened well before a fire could ignite, completely removing the risk of hob fires, especially for vulnerable people. It’s even smart enough to know when a pan has been removed or knocked off the stove so it can spring into life and prevent a fire. It’s completely proactive, affordable, and undeniably essential in modern times, especially when you think of the other costs associated with fire damage. But there’s more.

If you opt for Airis Sense WiFi you can see all the data wherever you are, meaning you can check in on loved ones to see if there have been any triggers or issues that need addressing (check out our next blog post to learn more on how Airis Sense WiFi can make things easier for you). It then leaves all the reactive products to collect dust (please don’t actually let them collect dust, they work more effectively when clean and tested regularly). No fires, no false alarms, no raised pulses, no sirens, and no loss to life or belongings.

Do you think you, a loved one, or those in your care could benefit from that peace of mind? Don’t believe me? Well, see for yourself, here are a few case examples to show you why it’s so important…

A flow diagram comparing reactive and proactive fire safety

Who would you prefer to be? David, where his safety relies entirely on him being present and his capacity to respond, or Angie, who installed Airis and is completely safe, whether she is able to respond or not? She has protected herself, her property, and the other residents from mishaps in her kitchen, and the property managers or her loved ones have been alerted that there was a potential fire so they can ensure she is OK. We know which one we would choose.

Further Implications of Proactive Fire Safety

We’ve looked at the differences between proactive and reactive fire safety, so you should have a clear idea now of what they are and why proactive safety is leagues ahead in avoiding hob fires and saving lives. David and Angie’s cases show you the potential outcomes in two different scenarios. But what are the implications for all involved beyond those cases? What will happen afterwards? Does proactive safety really make life that much easier? We have the answers here…

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

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Photo by Pixabay from Pexels - Blue Smoke and Yellow Flame from a Lit Matchstick
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Some of us love to cook, for others it’s a means to an end. In the kitchen we can explore creativity, self expression, learn new skills, experience achievements and satisfaction, bonding with wise parents and friends over family recipes, and stake an unwavering independence just for a start. Or perhaps we just want to stuff our faces after a long day’s work, or a quick bite before we rush out to the pub or a gig, whichever way we choose to prepare our food, we more often than not take it for granted.

And wherever we live, our responsibilities extend way beyond ourselves. Cooking with any hob type can quickly get out of hand. So, why shouldn’t we do it safely? After all, a whopping 50% of home fires start in the kitchen, most of which are from the stove, simply because heating oil to a high temperature can be a risky business if things go wrong. Let’s have a look at how to reduce that risk.

Be there or be square

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels - A Grandmother Baking Cookies with her Granddaughter
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If there was one piece of advice we could give, this is the big one. Just as a watched kettle never boils, a watched pan never catches fire. A pan will start to smoke excessively before it catches fire, giving us a handy warning sign that we’ve been absent-minded or overzealous with our temperature control! So stay in the kitchen and keep your eyes on the prize. It also means you won’t burn that culinary masterpiece in the making! No excuses… just popping to the toilet? The contents of a pan can catch fire in fewer than two minutes from the moment you turn it on. If you don’t believe us, you need to watch this video…

Play Video

Unless you are an experienced cook or professional chef, don’t leave cooking unattended, and even then the potential for mishap is greatly increased. You just won’t know until it’s too late. Which leads us to our next point.

Experience

Cooks with a lot of experience know when it is safer to leave a pan on the heat. But experience is fuel for knowledge, and a cook who really knows what they are doing will know exactly how long to cook different foods and what the properties of the different cooking oils are. Here’s a quick summary of the smoke points (the point at which oil will start to smoke) of the most common oils used for cooking, in degrees C:

A diagram showing the various smoke points of different oils and fats

We know that flavor preference is high on the list when creating that special dish, so we hope that helps choose the right oil for the job!

In addition, it’s extremely important to know the type and quality of the oil before you buy or use it. For example, although refined rapeseed oil has a smoke point of 205 degrees C, an unrefined version can be as low as 107! To put that into practical terms, 107 is not even hot enough for most frying. You’ll notice that flaxseed oil is therefore also ruled out for this purpose. What oils do you have in your cupboard? Check out our comprehensive list below so see where your oil types stack up!

A table showing the various smoke points of different oils and fats

Important! Not all oils are created equal. Do your research before you start frying and reduce that fire risk!

But what about vegetable oil? It’s difficult to say because the ingredients are a mixture of various sources, who knows what’s in there… It’s better just not to use it. Fire safety aside, there are far healthier choices available so we opt for those. Go with an oil with a smoke point above 180 degrees whenever possible.

Mental and Physical Wellbeing

There are a number of mental illnesses and degenerative conditions that can put someone at risk, from depression through to all forms of dementia. Ultimately, anything that affects someone’s mental wellbeing will increase their risk when cooking, especially if it makes them more accident-prone or affects their cognitive clarity. In these cases it can be best to get assistance when cooking, or fit a safety device that will provide better protection for you, such as a smoke alarm or, better still, an Airis stove guard.

Naturally, anybody who is physically challenged is also vulnerable. If an elderly person starts cooking, falls over and is unable to get up again, this can put them in serious danger. Again, a telecare-connected Airis stove guard is the safest solution, because it will stop a fire from even occurring and the monitoring station will be alerted to a problem and can send help immediately.

Usually, the first port of call after a near-miss or an accident occurs is to disconnect the resident’s cooker, leaving them unable to cook, more dependent on others, and feeling a sense of loss or failure. In the worst cases it can result in a permanent move to a care home which is a life-changing event and can be extremely unsettling. Aside from the expense of it all, those well-being benefits we mentioned earlier will no longer exist and this can easily lower self-esteem and cause faster decline in mental and physical health.

Pets and Children

Photo by Dimitry Zub from Pexels - A Cat Sitting on the Stove in the Kitchen
Photo by Dimitry Zub from Pexels

If physics dictates flat surfaces attract objects then cats dictate that those objects will be pushed off again, and that includes pans. As bizarre as it sounds, that curious feline wandering around the worktop in the kitchen can easily knock a pan off the stove and start a house fire.

Inquisitive children are also at risk, with those overhanging handles offering temptation. There are products available that can provide a low ‘wall’ around the stove, which may help to protect pets and children (and therefore your home) from these dangers, but the best thing is often to keep fluffy ones out of the kitchen and a beady eye on the youngsters at all times.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels - A Girl Cooking Eggs on the Kitchen Stove
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

If you are looking for something super intelligent and far less intrusive then Airis will turn off the stove if the power is left on but no pan is on the hob.

Technology

We’ve already mentioned smoke alarms – they’re an absolute must when it comes to homes, especially when it comes to cooking. Make sure you have one installed and that it gets tested regularly (by using the button, not burning the toast!). Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are also a wise investment, and combi smoke and CO alarms do exist as well.

Whilst these devices are essential life savers in the event of a fire, they do not prevent the fire from starting in the first place – rather, they alert to a dangerous situation that has already unfolded. We are only able to react to the smoke and fire in the kitchen and either attempt to resolve it (if it’s safe to do so) or make an escape from the home before alerting emergency services. Prevention devices on the other hand, are far more effective and act way before an issue even arises. It’s a sound investment for peace of mind, especially if you or a loved one is in a vulnerable situation.

A family prepares a meal together while Airis stove guard protects the kitchen from fires
Airis protects the home against fires and smoke by stopping a fire on the stove before it even starts.

Learn more about Airis and how it can protect vulnerable and elderly people without taking away their independence.

We hope that has sparked some thoughts on how you can improve fire safety and reduce risks while cooking in your home. Thank you for reading and please get in touch if you are interested in reducing fire risk further.

Please note that the fire safety advice in this post is for informative purposes only. Unicook cannot be held liable for your safety in the kitchen.

Source Links

Smoke Point – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

Smoke Point of Oils for Healthy Cooking – Jonbarron.org
https://jonbarron.org/diet-and-nutrition/healthiest-cooking-oil-chart-smoke-points

Unconventional Cooking Oils – ideafit.com
https://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/unconventional-cooking-oils

Where to buy Airis stove guard

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Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels - Two chess pieces
Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

Life is risky, there’s no way around it, and we all want to feel safe when we are at home with our loved ones. As soon as the front door is closed we can relax, secure within our own four walls, throw some food in the pan quickly and kick back with the TV on when the food is ready. We don’t want to think about the few minutes that separate our downtime after a long day’s work from an inferno engulfing our entire home and changing our lives forever. The reality is that we all live with a high level of risk within our homes. The kitchen contains a plethora of ignition sources from toasters, to ovens, hobs, microwaves, deep-fat fryers, toastie makers, and the list goes on. Not to mention the abundance of fuels, gas, electricity, all kinds of exotic cooking oils and fats, and the combustible items never far from the lick of a flame.

About 60% of all accidental fires in the home start in the kitchen. They kill or injure nearly 20 people every day in the UK, that’s 7300 people a year! So how can we prevent kitchen fires and spend more time doing what we love? Check out our top tips below…

Tip Top Fire Prevention

Photo by moein moradi from Pexels - Photograph of a fire
Photo by moein moradi from Pexels

Here are our top kitchen fire prevention tips:

  1. Those tasty meals deserve your full attention, so dedicate some time to cooking! Play some music or make it a social activity by cooking with friends or family. It takes just a few seconds for a fire to start and if you’re not in the kitchen to keep an eye on things then the potential for a fire becomes a serious risk.
  2. It’s easy for your mind to wander when you’re tired, had a tipple or two, or you’re taking medication that might make you drowsy. Probably best to avoid cooking until you can enjoy it fully and safely.
  3. The laws of physics dictate that flat surfaces naturally attract items, so it’s easy to collect all sorts of weird and wonderful paraphernalia on the stove top when it’s not in use. It sounds obvious, but hobs are safest when they’re clear of any items. Even electric hobs can be switched on easily and will start to cook whatever is atop them. Tea towels are a favourite combustible so it’s best to put them away instead. They’re also not that tasty, so it’s a win-win situation.
  4. A clean oven, hob, grill, and cooker hood not only look great and are more hygienic, there are no fat or grease deposits that can build up and catch fire, so don the gloves, get the scrubber out and give your stove a treat!
  5. Other cooking appliances benefit from being clean too and they like a lot of headroom so avoiding using them under cupboards is also a good idea.
  6. Fit a smoke alarm and test it every week, it’s too easy not to do!
  7. Lucky number seven: Be careful when using microwaves. In particular, never put anything metal inside a microwave or attempt to use the microwave for drying clothes.
  8. We’ve all gone out and wondered if we’ve turned the hob or oven off properly, double check after every use just to be sure. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  9. Last but not least, fit a cooker safety device like Airis, which prevents kitchen fires by automatically turning your cooker off if it gets too hot or is left on too long. It can also be programmed to turn off the power if the hob is left on by accident. It’s marvellous, really!
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels - A mother and daughter eating cake
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of one or two risky behaviours in the past, but hopefully we can avoid any mishaps with these simple tips. Let us know if you can think of any more that aren’t listed, we’d love to hear!

Please note that the fire safety advice in this post is for informative purposes only. Unicook cannot be held liable for your safety in the kitchen.

Where to buy Airis stove guard

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It goes without saying that chips are one of the nation’s favourite sides or quick bites. Ketchup, mayo, BBQ, piri-piri, cheesy-chips, even curry sauce, the choice is endless. And they’re once, twice, even thrice cooked: the more the merrier! However they come, nothing beats a good chip. We love them. Sitting around a table with friends and family, sharing good food and great memories. But how do you cook them at home?

Photo by kei photo from Pexels - Close Up Photo of Deep-fried Chips
Photo by kei photo from Pexels

We all know they’re best with that super crispy coating and so you probably use a chip pan with a good dousing of nice hot oil. But that’s the hidden danger in the home, isn’t it? It’s all going fine until it’s not. It’s easy to leave unattended, just for a moment, only a few seconds, just while you sort the kids and the dog out, or answer the door, or pop to the toilet before guests arrive. Or perhaps a loved one is vulnerable and can be forgetful in the kitchen, even just for a moment. But that’s all it takes, and suddenly the pan is on fire and you’re in a state of panic. In fact, it could have already happened by the time you have finished reading this article, it’s that quick.

Photo by Tim Eiden from Pexels - Firefighter Holding Water Hose
Photo by Tim Eiden from Pexels

Chip pan fires are the UK’s biggest cause of injuries from fire in the home. There are around 12,000 chip pan fires every year, leading to almost 50 deaths, and some 4,600 injuries, and that puts rather a downer on the evening’s plans with friends and family. So, let’s have a look at safety and how we can prevent chip pan fires all together.

Chip Pans & Safety Considerations

Chip pans are deep sided and usually come with a lid and a basket to help remove and drain the chips. They are filled with oil and heated to around 160 degrees Celsius, that’s pretty hot by all accounts and can vaporise water instantly, expanding it to 1500 times its volume. Not so good if you’ve just washed your potatoes. That’s why we make sure food is dry before frying and always avoid attempting to extinguish the fire with water. More on that later. Most vegetable oil has a smoke point of about 230 °C and a flash point of 315 °C, so it’s easy to see why an unattended pan might become a serious problem extremely quickly. Oil can cause serious burns – it’s volatile and can easily overheat when cooking and burst into flames. In fact, Fire Services now encourage people to use oven chips or modern deep-fat fryers, due to the risk of chip pan fires when cooking on the hob. In some counties, they’ll even provide you with a deep-fat fryer in exchange for your chip pan.

But fret not, if you’re set on using a chip pan it is possible to use it safely. You just need to be sensible and consider how fires can be avoided. Luckily, there are some products on the market that can help us already such as Airis by Unicook.

Airis can virtually eliminate the risk of chip pan fires. Its smart technology uses multiple sensors to detect when the oil and pan contents are heating up too quickly, switching the hob off completely before anything goes awry. Airis achieves this well below the danger zone where cooking oil catches fire and can also reduce smoke considerably.

A diagram showing how Airis acts before most smoke is produced, preventing fires
Airis can prevent the risk of fires and almost all smoke when using the stove

Devices like Airis can take away worries completely. After all, people are only human and accidents can happen to anyone, especially those more susceptible to fires such as inexperienced kitchen users or vulnerable people who want to remain as independent as possible without the risks of fire and its unthinkable consequences. Airis is not only effective at preventing stove top fires but does so without the need for human input, which is the best option.

How does Airis prevent chip pan fires?

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Chip Pans & Safety Considerations

In addition to a product like Airis, there are some easy steps you can take to avoid chip pan fires and make those luscious crispy fries a safe and delicious treat:

  • Keep the oil level in the pan below one third full.
  • Smoking oil is too hot. Turn the heat off and leave it to cool, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Treat that pan like your favourite soap or movie and keep your eyes glued to it as unattended pans can quickly get out of control especially with induction hobs.

    NEVER! Deep fry when you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs or if you are feeling tired.
    – Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.
  • Pick up a thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature.
  • Test the temperature of the oil before using it with a small piece of whatever you’re frying. If it crisps quickly, it’s hot enough. Adjust the heat accordingly so it doesn’t reach the danger zone.
  • Remember we said earlier that water can vaporise instantly and expand 1500 times its volume? Avoid an explosion or hot oil spitting by ensuring all food is dry before frying.
  • Never throw water on the fire for the same reason! If you do have a fire and can safely do so, turn off the heat then leave the room, shut the door and call 999. A purposely designed fire blanket can be used, but you should never use a damp tea towel.

    It’s a common mistake to make, so we want to make sure everyone knows that if you have a fire involving any sort of fat or oil, DO NOT let any water come into contact with the oil, never use a damp tea towel and do not attempt to tackle the fire if it is not safe to do so. Even one drop of water could cause a huge fireball and cause serious injury.”
    – Gary Bannister, Watch Manager, Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

  • Finally, get a smoke detector and test it regularly.

The bottom line is this: if using a chip pan, be extremely careful, and never, ever, leave it unattended.

Thanks for reading and enjoy those chips!

Please note that the fire safety advice in this post is for informative purposes only. Unicook cannot be held liable for your safety in the kitchen.

Where to buy Airis stove guard

Are you looking to protect a loved one or your own home?

Are you a contractor, construction professional or an organisation?

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The European stove guard Standard BS EN 50615 has been in force since 2015, helping consumers identify effective cooking safety products, but in reality few conventional products actually meet the standards set out by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation, let alone exceed it. The standard covers the detection, prevention, and suppression of fires originating from cooking appliances or from flammable materials left on the hob. Category B, specifically, is for Prevention of Ignition, where many existing products just don’t cut the mustard.

Sprinkler systems, fire doors, smoke hoods, fire extinguishers, smoke and fire alarms, intumescent strips, and fire blankets: these are all reactive products that, whilst being important in their own right to prevent the spread of fire, offer a false sense of security when it comes to fire safety and prevention. By the time they are in use it is too late, the fire has taken hold and focus turns to controlling its spread and damage control, not to mention saving lives. They simply don’t comply.

Compliance with the Standard

To be compliant with BS EN 50615 category B, 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 product does not 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/rings simultaneously to boil water to make the environment more complex and challenging
  • Testing all burners/rings one by one

So it’s easy to see that traditional products fall short of the mark in meeting the criteria of BS EN 50615 Category B.

Compliance with the Standard

This is where Airis comes into play. It easily satisfies the criteria under BS EN 50615: Prevention of Ignition, and will stop a fire before it’s even begun, but it does so much more than that. It really is strides ahead of the older products. So what makes Airis so far ahead of the curve in fire safety innovation?

A close-up of the Airis Sense Multisensor
  • In-situ operation directly at the point of risk allows immediate response
  • Multiple smart sensors analyse the cooking environment for tell-tale signs of potential fire and avoiding frustrating false alarms, including:
    • Detection of burning food or pans boiling dry
    • Much earlier smoke detection directly from the hob
    • Smart algorithms analyse human presence before acting prematurely
    • Infrared sensors detect and analyse steam and smoke
    • Direct cooking temperature and ambient temperature are measured for precise operation in dynamic environments and differing climates
  • Automatic hob identification ensures correct sensor analysis
  • Fail-safe digital communication between the sensor and the power controller
  • A tamper proof design allows installation in even the most challenging environments
  • Wireless cloud monitoring allows external monitoring making protecting vulnerable people and building management easier
  • Expandable functionality allows daisy-chain plug-and-play leak detector modules to be connected to the control unit, alerting you to leaks from other kitchen appliances such as fridge-freezers, washing machines, and dishwashers
  • Quick installation to new and old appliances and no ongoing maintenance or servicing make it as hassle-free as possible
  • Long battery life and built-in test facility offer peace of mind to even the most cautious user
  • Integrates seamlessly into existing Telecare connections for call centre responses

No False Alarms and No Surprises

Under BS EN 50615, the electricity cut-off must not be triggered by a false alarm. If you’ve seen our blog post on false alarms you’ll know they’re not only frustrating but can be dangerous and cost lives. So avoiding a false alarm is a key focus of Airis, not only for compliance, but it enables normal cooking to continue without the need for specialist training or behaviour changes which can be costly, annoying and especially confusing to residents. And if the situation does get dangerous, Airis can be reset easily by the user when things have cooled down a bit and a safe hob is restored.

Airis is therefore a completely unobtrusive solution which can be applied to any kitchen, regardless of the type of resident or user. The list of users benefiting from Airis is growing and growing and covers an abundance of applications owned or operated by large developers, universities, councils, and individuals including: apartments and built-to-rent, high-rise residential, co-living, aparthotels and AirBnBs, student accommodation, assisted living, extra care and sheltered accommodation, social housing and retirement living! The remote monitoring functionality is a real winner with building managers, rental owners, and family members checking in on loved ones.

With Airis Cloud, relatives, carers or maintenance personnel can receive SMS and email notifications from Airis devices

Furthermore, Airis complies with the essential requirements and other relevant provisions of EMC directive: 2004/108/EC, Low Voltage Directive 2006/95/EU, EMC Requirements EN 60730-1:2001, Electromagnetic compatibility EN 300 220-1, Appliances requirements IEC60335-2-31 clause 30 and Council Directive 76/769 EEC Dangerous Substances Used in Products. Airis is also resilient to insulation testing at 500V and to earth fault loop impedance testing.

Thank you for reading!

Airis has been tested for compliance with BS EN 50615 by SINTEF, the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia. Feel free to contact us here if you would like more details.

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

You can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462. We offer an accredited CPD presentation on the BS EN 50615 standard.

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Photo adapted from Nothing Ahead from Pexels - Smoke
Photo adapted from Nothing Ahead from Pexels

The toaster smokes away happily in the corner on the kitchen counter, it hasn’t been turned down since that frozen bread you last toasted and the fresh bread is now being quickly overdone. The already-toasted crumbs are glowing red and gold and quickly fading one by one in the tray. The warm bread smell drifts up to the ceiling and kicks the smoke detector into a frenzy causing panicked footsteps to come rushing. At the least, that’s all it calls for. Sometimes it calls for much more.

Linked detectors will trigger a central alarm system, in a block of flats, for instance, so that burned toast or an overzealous stove or microwave or oven could stir up quite a storm for some residents and agents. If a sprinkler system is involved, the situation gets far worse, with huge unnecessary cleaning and repair costs to resolve issues caused by the water damage, not to mention the laborious battle with the insurers to recoup some of the money, potential rehousing, and premium increases in the coming year.

Photo by Nothing Ahead from Pexels - False Fire Alarm in Student Accommodation
Photo by Nothing Ahead from Pexels

The system could also be linked to the fire department and before you know it you have a street full of sirens, flashing lights, and fully geared-up disgruntled fire officers – something that will land you with a hefty fine nowadays. The more serious consequence, of course, is that they might be attending to your burnt toast while someone’s house or block of flats is ablaze in a different part of town. False alarms are not only a nuisance to all involved but also cost lives elsewhere.

What’s more, false alarms easily propagate a culture of complacency, leaving legitimate emergencies to be ignored and precious time wasted in dealing with them. How many times have you heard a car alarm or burglar alarm sounding in the street outside and barely raised an eyebrow to it, or been in an office with a fire alarm buzzing away only to condemn it to being nonsense as you turn your gaze back to those reports or client emails that need doing? We’ve all been guilty of that, I’m certain.

Photo by Ferbugs from Pexels - Used matches
Photo by Ferbugs from Pexels

A safety device might react in a situation when it didn’t need to. While it’s always better to be safe than sorry, it can also be an issue because it shows that the product is not behaving as it should.

So in the home, a false alarm might be a mild inconvenience, but in flats, student accommodation or care homes it could result in widespread disruption. Leaving people unable to work or study or, worse, vulnerable people confused and anxious and support staff overworked until the “all clear” is given by the authorities.

Proactive fire solutions such as Airis, which prevent smoke and false alarms before they occur, are a simple and effective solution, leaving the alarm systems to deal with real fires in real emergencies and save lives. So a small outlay in proactive fire management can save a huge cost further down the line, not to mention all the aggravation.

The Airis stove guard fire safety device protects an elderly couple while they cook on the stove.
Airis protects the stove proactively by stopping fires from starting, cutting the power in a dangerous situation.

With cooking being a major cause of fires and the tendency of elderly and other vulnerable people to be forgetful, Airis can reduce false alarms by acting early enough to minimise smoke as well as prevent fires. Independence is maintained, additional care costs are avoided and the resident and their loved ones can rest assured, knowing they are protected.

False Alarms and Mental Health

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels - An Elderly Person Holding a Ball
Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

For a vulnerable or elderly person living alone, alarm activations can be distressing. The simple act of burning toast or smoking oil could easily cause panic, or existing health problems to exacerbate unnecessarily and create a dangerous situation where aid is far away. This is especially prevalent in the wake of Grenfell where many residents questioned the integrity of their homes and how they could remain safe in the event of a fire.

A recent study by The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence has shown that stress is further increased with Covid-19 leading to lockdown restrictions, workplaces being closed, increased enochlophobia (fear of crowded places), and so, much more time being spent at home which can lead to poorer mental health. It’s clear the landscape is changing rapidly and fire safety policy is slow to catch up. Should we not be staying ahead of the game when solutions like Airis already exist at an affordable cost? Perhaps if we all had one, we wouldn’t be tutting at fire alarms, but acting promptly and conscientiously to real calls for help, saving countless lives, and not wasting anyone’s time.

Thanks for reading!

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

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Are you a landlord? Did you know there are certain legal obligations when it comes to fire safety in your properties – which differ depending upon the type of property? Let’s cut the wheat from the chaff and have a look at what needs to be done.

Fires in the home or the workplace can be devastating, even if you’re lucky enough to have it extinguished without injury or loss of life, or before it sweeps through the building and guts everything in sight. All that water and foam used to put it out goes everywhere – through the whole fabric of the building, affecting you and your neighbours – and that does some serious damage on top of the scorch marks.

The Law (the boring bit)

Photo by CQF-Avocat from Pexels - Scrabble tiles arranged to spell the word 'law'
Photo by CQF-Avocat from Pexels

The Law says we need to manage fire risk. This is assessed by undertaking Fire Risk Assessments or FRAs, which must be carried to identify any fire hazards or risks to people on the premises or within its vicinity – and anything that can be done to remove or reduce them. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in the wake of Grenfell, has now been amended by the Fire Safety Act 2021. This brings legislation in line to better suit the requirements of residential dwellings, rather than focusing solely on commercial and trying to mash a square brick into a round hole by applying the old framework to a residential building.

Commercial properties still need an assessment that covers all parts of the property, but the important part is that it states a “responsible person” must carry out an FRA and that this now applies to residential properties, specifically the common areas and entrance doors to flats opening into communal areas, so there is no avoiding doing one. But how do you know if you’re a responsible person? Well, the Government states that a responsible person is one of the following:

  • You own the building (only in relation to the non-domestic parts)
  • You have control over the premises

If you need further clarification you can check here.

The residential areas that must be covered by the FRA are:

  • The structure and external walls of the building (such as cladding, balconies, and windows)
  • Entrance doors to individual flats that open into communal areas

It’s worth noting that some parts of the building fabric such as balconies and windows may be demised to the flat so they won’t be covered under the freeholder or managing agent’s obligations. It’s worth having a re-read of your lease to clarify exactly who is responsible for what so you can undertake an FRA to cover any gaps.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels - A man in a hard hat and high-vis jacket conducts a survey
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

So what is actually being assessed here? In brief, an FRA assesses what in the property may present a hazard, who it affects, how likely that hazard is to occur, and what the consequences may be and their severity if that hazard does occur. A scoring system may be employed to provide a quantitative approach to understanding the risks. Scoring system or no, risks are grouped into “low”, “medium”, and “high” categories, each with their own time limit by which mitigating actions must be completed. The FRAs are then reviewed regularly or if any significant changes occur to the use or fabric of the building. This is an important point, and you can bet your bottom dollar the first questions the authorities ask if the unthinkable happens will be “where is the FRA?” and “when was it last reviewed?”.

Regular review ensures you keep on top of risks, especially in dynamic environments. There is an example template FRA below but if you are nervous about completing an FRA effectively, they can also be undertaken by professionals.

FRA template example from Scribd.

A fire risk assessment template

If you want to get down into the nitty gritty on the FSO then you can see it in all its glory here and the Fire Safety Act 2021 here.

Essentially, the changes will see responsible people (often landlords) moving closer to fire safety issues and having a wider scope of responsibility when it comes to their properties and the people within them. So what do you need to do as a responsible person? Well, you need to have an FRA, but what should you look out for?

Fire risk assessments – what you need to do

Here are some (but not all) things to look out for when carrying out your FRA:

  • Ensure there is an adequate fire escape and that this is clearly marked and kept clear at all times.
  • Keep ignition sources and flammable substances away from each other.
  • Make sure hobs and stovetop cooking devices are clear of obstructions and flammable articles.
  • Checke electrical and gas fixtures are in good order and meet legal requirements (such as having a valid gas safety certificate or fixed electrical inspection where required).
  • Provide signs telling tenants what to do if there is a fire. These signs should use language they can understand – maps and images are also useful for non-english speaking tenants.
  • Let people know where the fire assembly point is.
  • Draw up a fire action plan which sets out the steps which need to be taken if there is a fire. Some buildings such as modern flats may have integrated alarm systems and “stay-put” policies that affect how occupiers throughout the building react, even if the fire is not in their dwelling. It is important to know if there is a Fire Action Plan in place already and read it thoroughly.

The fire risk assessment needs to be reviewed if anything changes which might affect fire safety in the building, for example if the building has been altered, or a tenant with particular needs – such as limited mobility or cognitive difficulties – moves in.

Landlords, you can do a few things to help keep your tenants safe:

  • Fitting an Airis for maximum hob safety
  • fitting smoke and heat detectors – interlinked smoke alarms are a legal requirement from February 2022 in all dwellings in Scotland – find out more here.
  • making sure corridors and escape routes are kept clear
  • if tenants are hard of hearing, you should consider an alarm for them that does not rely on being heard, such as a visual or vibrating alarm
  • Obtaining the fire action plan from a managing agent and informing the tenants

Something for free – did you know that older people living in sheltered accommodation and people with impaired vision, mobility or hearing, are entitled to a home fire safety visit from the fire and rescue service? Firefighters will assess their home, offer advice on how to make it safer, and fit a free smoke alarm if needed. Furthermore, if you are concerned about a vulnerable loved one using their stove, you can always fit an Airis to prevent hob fires, which account for around 43% of all house fires in the UK alone.

Airis stove guard installed in a kitchen, protecting the hob from fires and smoke
Airis stove guard prevents fires on the stove

Thanks for reading and please get in touch if you want to know more about reducing fire risks.

Useful links

Where to buy Airis stove guard

Are you looking to protect a loved one or your own home?

Are you a contractor, construction professional or an organisation?

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If you have any questions or if you need advice, we’ll be happy to help.