Today, technology helps us to avoid risk or unwanted consequences in all walks of life. This can be proactive – for example, a traffic light or an alarm clock – so as to prevent accidents or undesirable situations. Or it can be reactive – such as an airbag or a burglar alarm.

In the world currently, most technology comes under the second category – it reacts. Proactive technology is becoming more commonplace but still has a long way to go, simply because it’s much more difficult to predict or prevent accidents or emergencies than it is to detect that they have already happened.

Smoke alarm
Most fire safety technology is reactive

If we apply the above to fire safety, it’s usually quite a surprise when one realises that in almost every case, the technology available is reactive; smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, suppression systems – all of these literally wait for a fire to start before taking action. Of course, having them is infinitely better than not having them, but in the case of something as lethal as a fire, the more proactive the technology, the better. The earlier a fire is caught, the lower the risk to life and the less serious the financial consequences.

Airis is one of the few existing proactive approaches to fire safety, and it is extremely effective at preventing fires. However, whether something is reactive or proactive is not quite the whole story. Measuring data is just as important, maybe even more important. Acting on it, though, is beyond important; it’s vital, because otherwise people die.

Prevention vs reaction

If a smoke alarm reacts to smoke, it’s (obviously) because there is smoke present. At this point, there might not be a fire, though there might be a lot of smoke.

If the smoke alarm has reacted to unattended cooking which is beginning to burn, the resident – if they are able to – can rush back to the kitchen and rescue the situation, thereby avoiding a fully-developed fire.

In the above example, if Airis had been present, there would have been little to no smoke because it would have seen the warning signs and began sounding the alarm much earlier. If the resident didn’t come to the rescue, it would cut the power – disaster avoided.

Let’s assume that the person in the scenario discussed above is an elderly resident in a sheltered accommodation complex, or a university student living in student accommodation…

Case one – smoke alarm

The pan produces smoke – perhaps a lot of smoke – and the smoke alarm reacts. Assuming someone is around, he or she enters the kitchen and removes the pan off the heat.

Case two – Airis

The pan starts to reach a high temperature – higher than that of normal cooking – and Airis starts to beep. If nobody arrives to attend to the situation, Airis cuts the power.

In both cases, assuming a resident is able to get to the kitchen, the end result is the same – there is no fire. The main difference is that the smoke alarm requires a person to act, whereas Airis does this by itself.

Aftermath – the importance of data

In case one, in the aftermath of this situation, the warden or caretaker will probably arrive on the scene and investigate, hopefully making a note of who was involved and what exactly caused the situation. The fire service will be automatically or manually called out. They may have to ventilate the kitchen or property, or they may arrive on the scene to find that the kitchen is okay and be on their way. If the organisation or university has a robust and proactive approach to their data logging/incident reporting, it soon becomes clear who is most at risk of causing a fire, because there will be several recorded instances of that person having had a ‘near miss’. In the case of a sheltered accommodation complex, it might be decided that the best course of action is to disconnect the resident’s cooker for their own safety, and instead provide them with meals.

In case two, the warden or caretaker will not be alerted because there will usually be no alarm. Instead, Airis will record the incident itself. The warden or caretaker will instead visit the kitchen every few weeks to get the data off the Airis unit. This is when it becomes clear who is causing Airis to act. The big difference here, though, is that there has been no ‘near miss’, no fire service call-outs, no smoke ventilation, and in the case of sheltered accommodation there is no direct need to disconnect the person’s cooker for fear of them causing a fire in the future.

This aside, there are two important factors to take into consideration here: firstly, there has been no relying on manual incident logging. Secondly, in case one, we have assumed that someone was present and able to get to the kitchen to avoid further danger, that the manual data logging is consistent, and that the information available will be acted on effectively.

That’s a lot of assumptions. In the case that the student is asleep or the elderly resident is lying on the floor following a fall, a fire would have developed, causing significant damage – with a high chance of injury or even death. If data is not recorded properly or consistently, or acted on, there is no accurate way of telling who is most at risk.

Cooking independently

What we haven’t touched on is the possibility that the resident is neither a student nor an elderly person living in a sheltered accommodation complex. What if this person is independent and living in their own home? Let’s revisit the two cases above, looking at the aftermath.

In case one, there will be no record of the incident having ever occurred, unless the smoke alarm used is connected to telecare or another transfer system, or stores the information itself to be downloaded later. If we were to assume that the smoke alarm is one of these more advanced types (most are not), there are three courses of action typically taken as a result of the alarm being triggered by stove usage: it is decided that it’s a ‘one-off’ and that the person is unlikely to cause a fire, the cooker is disconnected, or the person is taken into care. This brings to light another consideration: the reason that someone is even in a sheltered accommodation complex in the first place may be due to the fact that they had one too many near-misses in their own home!

In case two, Airis will cut the power before a fire. If it is connected to telecare, it can be configured to send alarms automatically when it acts. Additionally it can be set to send alarms if it has been triggered more than a certain number of times within a specified time frame, or even if they have not used the cooker in a time frame (i.e. they have stopped cooking for themselves). This provides supplementary data which can be taken into consideration when carrying out assessments of the resident. In other words, it becomes more a question of their overall wellbeing, rather than whether or not their independence and right to cook should be taken away from them.

Airis removes 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 is proactive, not reactive.

Being able to prepare food for ourselves is something we all take for granted, but it’s worth remembering just how much it brings to our lives – learning, creativity, satisfaction, self-worth, social benefits and inclusion, and of course independence.

As it’s such a vital part of our day-to-day living, therefore, it’s important that we all know how to do it safely. A massive 50% of home fires originate from the kitchen, and the majority of these come from the stove, simply because heating oil up to a high temperature can be a risky business if things go wrong. Here’s our advice on how to stay safe.

Presence

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 a pan catches fire, giving us a handy warning sign that we’ve been absent-minded or overzealous with our temperature control! Just popping to the toilet? The contents of a pan can catch fire in less than two minutes from the moment you turn it on. If you don’t believe us, you need to watch this. Unless you are a careful, experienced cook, don’t leave cooking unattended. Which leads us to our next point.

Experience

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

Flaxseed (unrefined): 107

Butter: 150

Pumpkin seed: 160

Olive oil (extra-virgin): 160

Hemp seed: 165

Olive oil (refined): 199

Rapeseed/Canola (refined): 204

Walnut (semi-refined): 204

Olive oil (virgin): 210

Sesame oil: 210

Grapeseed: 216

Peanut: 227

Sunflower oil (refined): 232

Coconut (refined and dry): 232

Sesame (semi-refined): 232

Clarified butter/Ghee: 250

Avocado (refined): 270

Note that it’s extremely important to know the quality of the oil before you buy or use it. For example, although refined rapeseed oil has a smoke point of 204 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 about vegetable oil? It’s difficult to say because the ingredients are a mixture of various sources. It’s better just not to use it. Fire safety aside, it’s generally considered to be unhealthy anyway. Go with an oil with a smoke point above 180 degrees whenever possible.

Bottom line: not all oils are created equal. Do your research before you start frying!

Mental and physical wellbeing

There are a number of mental illnesses and degenerative diseases that can put someone at risk, from bipolar disorder 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. It’s advisable to keep a very close eye on someone who is afflicted with a mental illness or a mental degenerative disease. For maximum safety, protect them with technology 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 there won’t be a fire and the monitoring centre will be alerted to the situation.

Very often, the standard solution if a near-miss or accident occurs is to disconnect the resident’s cooker, or put them into care. Both of these options are very expensive. More significantly, though, it deprives that person of all of the positive elements of being able to cook for oneself that we mentioned earlier. This can result in lower self-esteem, but also a faster decline in their physical or mental health because they will have become more dependent and less active than before.

Pets and children

It sounds somewhat bizarre that a cat could cause a house fire, but a curious feline wandering around the worktop in the kitchen can easily knock a pan off the stove. Inquisitive children are also at risk. 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. Airis will turn off the cooker if the power is left on but no pan is on the hob.

Technology

There are some products available that will help to reduce risk. We’ve already mentioned smoke alarms – if you don’t have one, get one immediately, and check the battery regularly. Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are also a wise investment, and combi smoke and CO alarms do exist as well.

The important thing to bear in mind with CO and smoke alarms, however, is that they are not prevention devices; rather, they alert to a dangerous situation that has already unfolded. This is clearly very important because it allows us to react and deal with the situation in the kitchen, or escape from the house if there is a lot of smoke or if a fire has started. But these devices are far less effective than prevention devices. To truly ensure the highest-possible level of safety for a vulnerable person, invest in a fire prevention device.

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

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.

Sources

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

Fire prevention in the kitchen is fundamental – because the kitchen is the riskiest area in the home. Around 60% of accidental home fires start in the kitchen, which isn’t really surprising, with cookers, microwaves, toasters and deep-fat fryers all potentially a source of danger. They kill or injure nearly 20 people every day in the UK, so it’s clearly important to prevent kitchen fires.

Fire Prevention – Some Recommendations

Here are our top kitchen fire prevention tips:

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.

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, in which around 50 people die, and some 4,600 are injured. 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 how can chip pan fires be prevented?

Chip Pans & Safety Considerations

It is possible to use a chip pan safely, but you need to be sensible and very careful. Oil can cause serious burns – it’s volatile and can easily overheat when cooking and burst into flames. You should never leave a chip pan unattended, even for a few seconds. It’s in those few seconds that fires can start.

Airis can virtually eliminate the risk of chip pan fires, as it uses temperature sensors to detect when the hob is getting too hot or heating up too quickly, and switches it off immediately. The temperature at which this happens is well below the point at which cooking oil catches fire. Airis is installed in over 250,000 homes across Europe.

Below are a few of our tips for preventing chip pan fires. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that people are human – they can get distracted when they are cooking, they can forget advice and they can panic in the event of a fire. They’re particularly at risk if they’re inexperienced in the kitchen or have difficulty remembering things. Installing a device like Airis, which is not only effective at preventing stove top fires but does so without the need for human input, is the best option.

Tips for Preventing Chip Pan Fires

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

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.


In March 2015, the European Commission’s European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation announced the new European stove guard Standard BS EN 50615. The BS EN 50615 standard was designed to help consumers identify effective cooking safety products. Airis falls under Category B of the standard: Prevention of Ignition. Airis fully meets the requirements of the standard, and in fact exceeds it in several ways. Older products, such as timers and presence detection systems, don’t meet the requirements because they are unable to prevent a fire.

BS EN 50615 compliance – what it means

To be compliant with BS EN 50615, a system must:

Testing

Before a product can be certified as compliant, a series of tests must be carried out, including:

Airis and BS EN 50615

Under BS EN 50615, the electricity cut-off must not be triggered by a false alarm. This is highly significant as it means cooking can take place as normal without the need for training, changes in behaviour and without causing frustration to or confusing residents. In being compliant with BS EN 50615, Airis is therefore a completely unobtrusive solution which can be applied to any kitchen, regardless of the type of residents.

Airis complies not only with BS EN 50615, but 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:

Airis has been tested for compliance with BS EN 50615 by SINTEF, the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia. More details are available on request.

Sometimes, a safety device might react in a situation when it didn’t need to. On the one hand, this can be an issue because it essentially shows that the product is not behaving as it should. On the other, clearly, it’s better to be safe than sorry. But there are other ramifications to a false alarm.

Examples of false alarms

In the home, a false alarm might be a smoke alarm reacting to burning toast, or a burglar alarm being tripped by a pet (or even by nothing at all if there’s a fault with the device).

In the context of fire safety in accommodation complexes, a false alarm usually refers to an alarm system being activated by the overzealous use of a toaster, stove, microwave, or oven, where food has been burnt and smoke has been created. In situations where there’s no fire or risk to life in these situations, these alarms can be more of a nuisance than a life-saver – at least on the surface.

False alarms matter. A lot

False alarms can have far wider consequences than it may at first seem.

In some cases, they involve the automatic call-out of the local fire and rescue service, something which many fire services now charge for, if false alarms occur regularly. Even if the fire service don’t charge, a false alarm will inevitably take them away from another potential fire, costing time, money and potentially lives as well. Ultimately, everybody loses in this situation and this does not exclude the residents themselves; they might need to be evacuated from the building, detracting from their quality of life and, in student accommodation, the ability to study.

If a sprinkler system is activated too, the financial costs can be significant – temporary rehousing, repairs and insurance premium increases being just a few examples.

Proactive fire solutions such as Airis, which prevent smoke and false alarms, are therefore the best answer. The alarm systems are still there, but factors that trigger them unnecessarily are removed. This saves money and time, and improves living standards.

Mental health

For a vulnerable or elderly person living alone, alarm activations can be distressing.

If false alarms are ignored and a fire occurs, the consequences could be serious; in the worst-case, fatal. In the best-case scenario where a resident has managed to escape from a house fire and the fire service called out, the traumatised individual may require medical attention, and they will need somewhere to live while their home is repaired. The sad reality, though, is that in many such situations he or she will likely lose independence due to safety concerns.

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 of vulnerable people is maintained, additional care costs are avoided and the resident and their loved ones can rest assured, knowing they are protected.

As a landlord, you have certain legal obligations when it comes to fire safety in your properties – which differ depending upon the type of property. You must carry out a fire risk assessment in all areas of the property to identify any fire hazards or risks – and anything that can be done to remove or reduce them. Fire risk assessments are usually completed by fire safety professionals.

Fire risk assessments – what you need to do

Your responsibilities as part of the fire risk assessment include:

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. Things you can do to help your tenants include:

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.