According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking was involved in a reported 156,400 home fires in 2010. These fires caused 410 deaths, 5,310 injuries and almost $100 million in direct property damage.
Yes, those were the reported fires, but it is estimated that more than 12 million unintentional home cooking fires go unreported and cause 640,000 injuries annually. As many as 45 house fires are reported every hour in the U.S., and 60 percent of apartment fires are started by cooking equipment.
Home owners and apartment dwellers are at most risk for fires because of inattentiveness. The phone rings, you answer an email, the baby cries. There are so many distractions in today’s busy world, it’s easy to start to cook a meal and then forget about it. Next thing you know, a fire starts on the stove and quickly spreads to curtains and other flammable material in the kitchen like curtains and dishcloths.
I have to admit that I am puzzled why the insurance industry has not aggressively promoted or required some method of preventing the $100 million spent annually on property damage. At the very least, apartment and condominium insurers should require new buildings to install some sort of automatic fire suppression system when the stoves are installed in a structure. These suppression systems can be retrofitted into existing kitchens as well.
With the recession and the concurrent reduction in fire fighter staffing seen in cities big and small, it is smart to encourage cities to look at fire prevention, reduction and suppression equipment and require that it be mandatory in new buildings just like sprinklers and earthquake shut-off valves are in many communities. Among the simplest of existing products available for residential use are range top fire suppression systems available from a number of national distributors. Surely it is cheaper to quickly snuff out a small fire before it grows to consume an entire building.
I’d like to suggest that 2013 is a great year for introducing legislation mandating such safety equipment in new buildings of any type with installed kitchens. The insurance industry is the most likely group to lobby for safety changes protecting lives and property, and I am willing to help.