Let’s Put A “Lid” on Cooking Fires: Part III

By:  Fire Chief (Ret.) Stan Tarnowski

Welcome back!  If you missed Let’s Put a “Lid” on Cooking Fires: Part I or Part II, or if you want to take a quick refresher, fear not—it’s only a “click” away.  (We’ll be right here when you come back).

Welcome Back!

In Part II, we talked about three accepted strategies that have to be addressed if we are going to make a significant difference in how the general public will be able to prevent these “stove top fires”/”food on the stove fires”/grease/pan fires”, that cause such destruction in the lives of millions every year.

Since that last posting, we’ve received information from Rob Neale, Deputy Superintendent at National Fire Academy, that the “3 E’s” have “grown” to the “5 E’s” which are:

Education: Teaching the public and responders what risks threaten their community and what they can do to help prevent and/or mitigate the impact;

Engineering: Suggesting the use of technology, such as smoke alarms and residential sprinklers, to help prevent and/or mitigate target risks;

Enforcement: Passing, strengthening and enforcing codes, laws and ordinances;

Economic incentive: Working to incorporate incentives that support risk reduction such as tax incentives for installation of residential sprinklers or free smoke alarms; and

Emergency response: Support the existence of an adequately staffed, equipped and trained group of emergency responders.

Source:  National Fire Academy. Coffee Break Training—Fire Prevention and Public Education.  Leading a Fire Prevention/Risk-Reduction Bureau. No. FM-2013-2, April 4, 2013.

Since not everyone “thinks like a firefighter”, it is incumbent upon us, those who are firefighters to continue on our mission to enhance our “life safety & fire prevention” initiatives within our Fire Department organizational structure and in our communities!

In the 21st century fire service, we are expected to be all encompassing” and ready to handle “any and all hazards” responses.  Most people are confident that when they dial 911, what will arrive are firefighters totally equipped to handle and mitigate their emergency.  As we move forward, we have to develop an equally confident attitude on their part that we are doing everything in our power to prevent fires from ever happening.

In Parts I and II of this blog series, we introduced a new technology that can have a dramatic impact on the number of fires that result from unattended cooking on an electric range stovetop, High-End Heat-Limiting Technology (HEHLT).  The following is a case study that looks at how one organization, the Union City (GA) Fire Department (located 20 minutes south of downtown Atlanta) successfully introduced this new technology into their communitUnion City Demographicsy in September 2012.

Union City Fire Department staffs three stations with full-time career firefighters and provides fire suppression, EMS (BLS and ALS levels of service), and rescue services.  The Fire Prevention Bureau is led by a Fire Marshal (Battalion Chief rank) who is a direct report to the Fire Chief.  (Our discussions here, i.e., the sequence of events and timelines, will of course include a larger audience for larger organizations, larger communities, and more diverse communities, but the concepts and procedures should remain the same).

In every successful company or organization, we know that it takes the entire TEAM effort to bring any new program or initiative to fruition.  Below are the initial steps we took in Union City:

Step One:  Problem Identification

Any new idea, product, tool, process, system, service, etc., that we in the fire service come up with, will never come to fruition unless we put it into a recommended evaluation process or cycle.  In this case, the Fire Chief, Deputy Chief, Fire Marshall, all Operations Commanders, Captains, Lieutenants, and firefighters of all tenured levels understood that over 95 percent of their residential structure fires had originated from “unattended cooking on the stove” over the last four decades.

Step Two:  Identify Potential Solution to the Problem

Department personnel, including the Fire Chief, became aware of “HEHLT” (High-End Heat-Limiting Technology) that was designed to prevent an unattended “stove top pan fire” from occurring.  When properly installed as a replacement for the standard electric stovetop heating element, HEHLT prevents the element temperature from reaching the 698 degrees F, the auto-ignition temperature of common cooking oils. This was an ideal situation and it underscores the necessity of having “buy-in” from throughout the organization.

Step 3:  Getting Local Government “on board”

We conducted briefing sessions with the Mayor and City Council members of Union City to inform and educate them about HEHLT and its potential to have a positive impact on the leading cause of fires in Union City.  We showed them the technology and its supporting documentation.  We also gave them concrete examples of how other Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) had successfully “bundled” three of the “5-P’s”—Engineering, Enforcement, and Economic Incentives—into ordinance changes.

Step 4:  Getting Customer “buy-in”

The Union City Fire Marshal then met with all community residential managers that would fall under the new ordinance mandate.  Together company representatives for the HEHLT, the Fire Marshal delivered presentations—that included a “table top” demonstration showing how the HEHLT prevented a stove top fire, alongside a fire occurring on a stove element without HEHLT installed—to community stakeholder groups. (A real “WOW” moment!).

At the conclusion of the demonstration, we handed out a questionnaire to the residential managers present to determine how likely they believed that HEHLT was a tool that would prevent fire and property damage and make their residents feel safer. The residential managers in Union City had a lot of experience in dealing with property loss from stove top fires and their questionnaire responses strongly supported the enactment of a city-wide ordinance to embrace the use of HEHLT.

Step 5:  Write, Approve, and Enact the Ordinance

In the Union City case, it took approximately 60 days to get from the first meeting—involving the Fire Department leadership, the Mayor, and City Council—to the adoption of the city-wide ordinance requiring the installation of HEHLT on all electric-coil cooking devices located in all tax-supported housing, apartments, triplexes, residential board and care occupancies, small nursing homes, convalescent homes, assisted-living occupancies within the Union City.  (The entire ordinance follows).

In Part IV of this series, we’ll provide a “road map” that you can use in your department and community to bring HEHLT to bear on the stovetop fire problem in your locality.  See you soon!

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF UNION CITY:Union City Ordinance 2012

SECTION 1.  That in Chapter (6) of the City Code, entitled “Fire Prevention and Protection”, Article II, entitled “Fire Prevention Code” that a new subsection 6-23, entitled “Electric Cooking Devices in Tax-Supported Housing, Apartments, Tri-Plex, Residual Board and Care Occupancies, ,Small Nursing Homes, Convalescent Homes, Assistant Living Occupancies ” be incorporated as follows:

All electric coil cooking devices in said housing shall be equipped with listed and approved high end heat limiting technology as recommended by the Fire Marshal, or Authority Having Jurisdiction.  Initial requirement will be for this technology on all new coil type electric ranges purchased for the purpose of replacement in existing housing, or as standard equipment for all new tax supported housing    Apartments, Tri-Plex, Residual Board and Care Occupancies, Small Nursing Homes, Convalescent Homes, Assistant Living Occupancies,  being built

.  All electric coil type ranges in all existing tax supported housing, Apartments, Tri-Plex, Residual Board and Care Occupancies, ,Small Nursing Homes, Convalescent Homes, Assistant Living Occupancies. Must comply with this requirement by the end of 2016.

Definitions:

  1. Electric Coil Cooking Devices:  All cooking devices that utilize a coil for the cooking heat source.  This includes free standing and built in electric ranges, “drop in” type counter-top cook tops and hot plates.
  2. High End Heat Limiting Technology:  A device that is hard wired into the electric coil range (tamper proof) that limits the high end cooking temperature to a safe level that prevents auto-ignition of common cooking and household materials.
  3. Tax Supported Housing:  Any housing that is initially constructed by, and/or rent subsidized by the taxpayers for the purpose of providing affordable housing for the at-need citizens within the  Union City  jurisdiction.  Also included are privately owned properties for the purpose of rental, in which the rent is subsidized by the taxpayers.
  4. Apartments Building: A building or portion thereof containing three or more dwelling units with independent cooking and bathroom facilities.
  5. Residential Board and Care Occupancy:  A building or portion thereof that is used for lodging and boarding of four or more residents, not related by blood or marriage to the owners or operators, for the purpose of providing personal care services.

Residential Board and Care Occupancy. The following are examples of facilities that are classified as residential board and care occupancies:

(1)         Group housing arrangement for physically or mentally handicapped persons who normally attend school in the community, attend worship in the community, or otherwise use community facilities

(2)         Group housing arrangement for physically or mentally handicapped persons who are undergoing training in preparation for independent living, for paid employment, or for other normal community activities

(3)         Group housing arrangement for the elderly that provides personal care services but that does not provide nursing care

(4)         Facilities for social rehabilitation, alcoholism, drug abuse, or mental health problems that contain a group housing arrangement and that provide personal care services but do not provide acute care

(5)         Assisted living facilities

(6). Nursing Home. A building or portion of a building used on a 24-hour basis for the housing and nursing care of four or more persons who, because of mental or physical incapacity, might be unable to provide for their own needs and safety without the assistance of another person.

SECTION 2. That this ordinance may be enforced by any one, all, or a combination of the remedies authorized

SECTION 3.  That all ordinances, or parts of ordinances, in conflict with this ordinance are hereby repealed to the extent of such conflict.

SECTION 4.  That if any section, subsection, paragraph, sentence, clause, phrase, or portion of this ordinance is for any reason held invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, such portion shall be deemed severable and such holding shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions hereof.

SECTION 5.  That this ordinance shall become effective immediately upon its adoption.

DULY ADOPTED this _____ day of __________, 2012.

About the Author

Fire Chief (Ret.) Stan Tarnowski is the President of FIRESAFE Consulting Group.  Previously, Chief Tarnowski held key leadership positions in the State of Georgia with Henry County Fire Department, the Georgia Fire Academy, and the Union City Fire Department.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

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Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.