Reducing Insurance Claims from Home Cooking Fires

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.

Comments (0) Markets, Residential

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Saving Older Adults from Cooking Fire Risks

Pick up the paper or turn on the news. About 45 house fires are reported every hour in the U.S., and 60 percent of apartment fires are started by cooking equipment. More than 12 million unintentional home cooking fires go unreported causing 640,000 injuries annually. It just takes minutes for a fire to start https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2FCgtlITUM.

Unfortunately, many fire injuries and deaths are among those over 50. As we age, poor hearing and vision, as well as health problems affecting mobility contribute to putting mature adults in the highest risk group for cooking fires. In addition to the destruction of property estimated at $7 billion per year in the U.S. alone, the National Fire Protection Association reports that 43 percent of people who have died in cooking fires were asleep at the time. It’s easy to see that the growing baby boomer populations is at higher risk because they generally fall asleep early and are more forgetful.

According to US News, between 2000 and 2010, the number of people age 65 to 84 in the U.S. grew by 3.3 million, and the 40 million senior citizens in 2012 will balloon to 89 million by 2050.

This a wakeup call to not just those who live alone or with a spouse now that the kids have grown and moved out, but also for those in the senior housing industry, and the adult children who care for elderly parents. Developers spend millions building beautiful retirement communities with many amenities that cater to people over 50, but do not consider that distraction, forgetfulness and memory loss can pose significant dangers to the residents who cook. We increase cooking safety by requiring that all new senior housing requires, at the very least, a range top suppression system in both private apartments and community kitchens.

Further, with the recession and the concurrent reduction in fire fighter staff seen in cities big and small, it would be equally smart to stop fires before they start. States should require mandatory range top suppression equipment in new buildings or remodels just like sprinklers and earthquake shut-off valves are.

In the meantime, there are some safety precautions that boomers can take to prevent cooking fires:
Never leave cooking unattended. A serious fire can start in just seconds.
Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and practice using it.
Have a pot cover close by to put out a cooking fire quicklyWipe up spills from the stove which could catch fire.

  • Always wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook.
  • Keep towels, pot holders and curtains away from flames.
  • Don’t overfill pans with grease or cooking oil.
  • Never use the range or oven to heat your home.
  • Double-check the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Never leave the kitchen to answer the door, grab the telephone, or change clothes while something is cooking without shutting the gas or electricity off.
    It is dangerous to cook while on certain prescription medications or drinking alcohol.

    I’m a boomer too, so I have a vested interest in safety for all of us.

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