What if your appliance could sense a fire was about to start—and stop it? It’s more than science fiction. A slate of new technologies is being developed that could help prevent fires.
In August 2012, a Consumer Product Safety Commission study found that temperature-limiting controls for kitchen ranges were effective at preventing fires from unattended cooking, without compromising the appliance’s ability to perform high-temperature tasks, such as searing steaks. The CPSC concluded that “it is long past due to commit to changes to the range standards to reduce the likelihood of these food fires.”
The Fire Protection Research Foundation, an affiliate of the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association, received a grant in September 2012 to develop test methods and performance criteria, which would lead to standards and help their adoption. Manufacturers, however, remain skeptical. “Whirlpool has looked at the solutions, and it appears that most of them would negatively impact how consumers use the product,” says Larry Latack, Whirlpool’s director of global safety.
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires in the home, despite decades of outreach efforts promoting safe cooking practices and some think it’s time to move in this direction. “We’ll continue to address this issue through public education, but it’s clear we need to develop another strategy,” says Kathleen Almand, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation.