With over 2.3 million students in the UK, student accommodation has been a growing sector for many years. More than ever before, young adults are choosing to leave home to pursue further education and experience the university way of life. This rapid increase has seen billions of pounds invested in the construction of new student accommodation buildings as well as the renovation and modernisation of older blocks. With the advent of induction hobs and their potential to cause fires, preventing fires in student accommodation and raising awareness of the dangers has never been more important.
Safety for Students – Preventing fires in Student Accommodation
For the university or private student accommodation provider, this brings a unique set of challenges. Younger adults rightly want to enjoy their new-found independence and the university social life, and the priority is therefore to allow them this right without putting them in harm’s way or restricting their freedom.
There is perhaps no better example of the challenges in finding this middle ground than with kitchen safety. A vital part of student life – in fact, life for anyone – is the freedom to cook for oneself. However, almost all fires start in the kitchen, and when inexperienced or distracted people are the ones in the kitchen, this risk is exacerbated; in 2018/19 the rate of non-fatal casualties among those aged 17-24 was higher than in the 55-64 and 65-69 age groups (source: Fatalities and non-fatal casualties by age, gender and type of location, England). Technology that can prevent fires in student accommodation, without affecting the ability to cook, is therefore the ideal solution.
The Impact of Fires in Student Accommodation
A fire in university accommodation affects both the university and the students in several ways.
From the university’s perspective, depending on how serious the fire was, part or all of the accommodation block will be out of action until repairs have been carried out, or at the very least until the affected part of the block has been ventilated. Students may be harmed by smoke, fire, or during the evacuation. Costly temporary rehousing will be required. In some cases students might need counselling or other help, and may have lost belongings in the fire. The fire service will be called out, and could even charge for it depending on where the university is. An insurance claim may also be necessary. The upheaval in any case can be significant both financially and administratively.
From the student’s perspective, their studies will be negatively impacted, they may have to move elsewhere to live with people they don’t know or even with people that aren’t fellow students. They might have lost treasured possessions, and they may find themselves living quite far away from their friends.
Even in the very best of cases, a fire or smoke still causes significant disruption.
False Alarms in University Accommodation – the Importance of Preventing Activations
There are many ways of significantly reducing risk of injury or death from smoke or fires. Comprehensive evacuation procedures are mandatory, and fire and smoke detection technology saves lives every day. When these solutions work as intended, they are extremely effective, which is why smoke alarms have been a legal obligation for landlords in the UK for several years.
The problem with fire and smoke detectors, however, is that they are prone to false alarms. In student accommodation, this is a well-known fact; only the minority of alarm activations are actually the result of a real fire. In principle, this shouldn’t be a serious concern – it’s clearly “better to be safe than sorry” – but these false alarm activations have undesired consequences.
In fact, false alarms from fire and smoke alarm systems are now so common in student accommodation that students often don’t even take them seriously. This was no more evident than in the recent fire at The Cube in Bolton on 15th November 2019, after which a student reported that she didn’t react to the fire alarm until one of her flatmates alerted her to the urgency of the situation (source: BBC).
An unavoidable downstream effect of this desensitisation is that the more often fire alarms are activated, the less effective they are at actually protecting people.
Means of Protecting Students from Fires
There are several ways in which false alarms in universities can be effectively reduced:
- Not installing smoke alarms in the kitchen. Given that smoke is more dangerous than the fire itself, this is less than desirable despite the fact that it is the de-facto solution
- Raising awareness of the importance of staying in the kitchen while cooking. This is effective but only to a limited degree
- Discouraging cooking while tired and/or under the influence of alcohol. Again, given the university lifestyle, this is difficult to enforce
For the university, this seems to present a difficult choice; is it better to have fewer real and false alarms, or more?
For the students, false alarms cause two downstream effects. The first, discussed above, is a diminished respect for the alarm system. The second is the disruption to their sleep, studies and everyday life every time a fire alarm goes off.
How Can We Prevent Fires in Student Kitchens?
So what can be done to further reduce the risk of kitchen fires? Older technology such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets exists, but universities rightfully advise against manually tackling fires.
Technology already exists to put out fires and smoke. Automatic systems such as sprinkler systems are highly effective at putting out fires, and suppression hoods ensure that fires on the hob are promptly extinguished. But there is a fundamental problem with this approach…
It relies on a fire starting.
A sprinkler system will not activate unless a fire is detected; nor will a suppression hood. This is not only less than ideal, it’s ineffective – smoke is more dangerous than a fire, and a kitchen can be full of it without these systems even activating.
This is why genuine fire prevention is by far the best choice, because all of the below is avoided:
- expensive installation and purchase costs
- insurance claims
- water damage
- fire service call-outs
- ventilation of the building
- recharging or servicing costs
- false alarms
- loss of belongings
- temporary rehousing and its costs
- disruption to sleep, studies and normal life
What is Fire Prevention?
At Unicook, a common conversation we have goes something like this:
“What fire prevention methods do you have in place?”
“We have smoke alarms and suppression hoods”
As neither smoke alarms nor suppression hoods are fire prevention, we see time and again that the term ‘fire prevention’ has in part been hijacked and misused for a long time.
However, with modern technology, fire prevention is now a reality.
Airis was created to prevent fires in student accommodation without the risk of fire and without affecting normal cooking. It will also prevent almost all toxic smoke. The hob user will never even know Airis is there unless it has saved them and their flatmates from smoke inhalation, or fire, or the embarrassment of having set off the central alarm system.
If you would like to learn more about how Airis can significantly reduce costs and fire service call-outs while improving safety, why not get in touch with us?
Stove guard technology has existed for many years, although it has only recently become widely used in the UK since we introduced it here in 2014.
We are sometimes asked why Airis can be considered a ‘next generation’ stove guard, which is an important question. Before we answer this, let’s examine what exactly a stove guard is.
What is a stove guard?
Stove guards were invented to keep elderly and vulnerable people safe when cooking on the stove. In the most basic sense, they cut the power to the cooker if there is a chance that a fire may develop. Stove guards conform to an EU standard called BS EN 50615: Particular requirements for devices for fire prevention and suppression for electric hobs (cooktops) – you can find out more about the BS EN 50615 standard here.
In essence, all stove guards are comprised of two components: a sensor, which monitors the stove, and a controller, which controls the power supply. The sensor will send messages to the controller if it detects signs of risk, and the controller will act accordingly. Stove guards prevent fires, reduce smoke, and are partially or fully compliant with BS EN 50615 depending on the use case (see below). However, not all stove guards are created equal.
Differences in stove guard devices
Airis is a stove guard which goes beyond fulfilling this minimum criteria in a number of ways…
Compliant with 900mm-width hobs – Airis is the only stove guard which complies to the BS EN 50615 standard when used on a larger, 900mm-width hob. Others do not.
Greater sensing capability – a stove guard must monitor the temperature of the hob in order to be compliant. Airis does so and goes several steps further by also monitoring human presence, fumes and other parameters. It intelligently combines all these measurements together to simultaneously maximise safety and minimise interference for the person cooking. Additionally, Airis is able to detect if a pan has boiled dry and it will cut the power to stop the contents burning.
Replaceable battery – surprising as it may sound, most stove guard sensors do not allow for the batteries to be replaced. This means that after a few years, when the batteries have worn down, it is necessary to buy an entirely new sensor, which is costly and wasteful. Airis uses two AA batteries which are easily replaced by removing the cover, allowing for another 3-4 years of use.
No learning period – many stove guards feature a ‘learning period’ which is intended to allow the sensor to learn how the user behaves when cooking. However, this presents two problems; firstly, this initial time-frame can be very frustrating for the user because the device may beep often or cut the power unnecessarily; second, it does not take into account the fact that there may be more than one resident who uses the cooker (in student accommodation, for example). This learning period is not necessary with Airis.
Locking feature – Airis provides the capability of ‘locking itself’ when required, for example to prevent a particular user from using the stove, or to stop a child or pet from turning it on.
Self-diagnosis – At the time of installation, if the sensor has not been mounted correctly or any other fault is detected, Airis will automatically pick it up and let the installer know. This is unique to Airis and with all other stove guards any verification or problem-solving is left up to the user, usually involving browsing through a manual and a series of button presses and sounds. This self-diagnosis is not limited to the time of installation, however, and any problems will be made clear at any time during its lifetime. With other stove guard devices these faults can only be picked up by manually checking every device and interpreting sounds and beeps.
Two-way communication – a stove guard sensor, as mentioned above, sends messages to its controller. Usually, though, this is not the case for the opposite direction – the controller cannot communicate with the sensor; the communication is ‘one-way’. With Airis, the controller and sensor are able to communicate in both directions, which means that any faults with the controller are automatically picked up. In addition, all cooking information is recorded, allowing for the retrieval of invaluable data showing the user’s cooking habits, power consumption, and how often Airis has acted, if at all.
Advanced telecare/building management system messages – although some stove guards feature a telecare connection, the functionality this allows is usually limited to sending an alert when the stove guard acts to cut the power. This is important, but Airis has the ability to send other alerts to telecare or building management systems too; for example, if there is a fault or the battery is running low, this will automatically be reported. Furthermore, at any time Airis can be set up to raise the alarm if someone hasn’t cooked for a given time period (for example, three days), or if it has intervened more than a specified number of times, allowing for additional reassurance of the resident’s wellbeing.
Multiple colour options included – when buying an Airis there is no need for guesswork when it comes to choosing a colour to match the kitchen – instead, the cover of the sensor is transparent, and multiple colour inserts are included.
Leak sensor connections – up to four leak sensors can be connected to the Airis controller, allowing Airis to collect data and send any alerts to telecare or a building management system.
Optional auto-reset after activation – once a stove guard has cut the power, it is normally up to the user to press a button on the sensor to reconnect it. If this is not desirable, Airis can do this by itself once the situation is safe.
As it is clear to see, Airis does not take the same ‘bare minimum’ approach of other devices, and goes far and beyond that which is required by the BS EN 50615 standard. Airis is the ultimate stovetop safety device.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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:
- Fire prevention tip one: Never leave cooking unattended, especially a grill pan or a chip pan. It takes just seconds for a fire to start. It’s best not to cook if you’re tired, have been drinking alcohol or are on medication that might make you drowsy, as it’s more likely that your attention will wander. Cooking should be enjoyable, but never forget it’s also a potentially dangerous activity too, to which you need to give your full attention.
- Fire prevention tip two: Don’t leave things on top of the cooker. Never store things on top of an electric hob, as it’s easy for the heat to get switched on by accident. Keep tea towels and cloths away from the hob too.
- Fire prevention tip three: Keep the oven, hob, cooker hood and grill clean to avoid a build-up of fat and grease, which could catch fire. Keep toasters clean too and away from anything that could ignite. In particular, don’t keep your toaster under a cupboard.
- Fire prevention tip four: Fit a cooker safety device like Airis. Airis prevents kitchen fires by automatically turning your cooker off if it gets too hot or is left on too long – drastically reducing the risk of a fire ever happening. It can also be programmed to turn off the power if the hob is left on by accident, even if it is not too hot.
- Fire prevention tip five: Fit a smoke alarm too of course, as the cooker is only one potential source of fire. And test it every week – there should be a test button.
- Fire prevention tip six: Always double-check that the cooker and hob are turned off when you’ve finished cooking. It’s so easy to forget.
- Fire prevention tip seven: Be careful when using microwaves. In particular, never put anything metal inside a microwave or attempt to use the microwave for drying clothes.
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
- Never fill the chip pan or deep fat fryer more than a third full of fat or oil. If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot – turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
- 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.
- Make sure the food is dry before putting it in – if it’s wet, the oil can explode or spilt oil droplets as the water turns into steam when it expands 1500 times in volume! For this reason, you should NEVER throw water onto a chip pan fire or any frying pan. Instead of calming the fire, the water sinks to the bottom of the pan, where it instantly vaporises, throwing out a fireball of burning oil. If you 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.
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:
- 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 electricity cut-off is not be triggered by a 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 simultaneously to boil water to make the environment more complex and challenging
- testing all burners one by one
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:
- Resilient to insulation testing at 500V
- Resilient to earth fault loop impedance testing
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.
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:
- ensuring there is an adequate fire escape
- providing signs telling tenants what to do if there is a fire. These signs should use language they can understand
- letting people know where the fire assembly point is
- drawing up an evacuation strategy which sets out the steps which need to be taken if there is a fire. The strategy should cover the evacuation of tenants with particular needs; for example, disabled tenants may have more difficulty getting out of the building
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:
- Fitting Airis
- fitting smoke and heat detectors
- making sure corridors 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
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.