Issue # 19– April 17, 2011
Fire Safety - Some Important Information Everyone Should Know!
by: Sharon Kompalla, Center for Residence Life - Assistant Director
As many people know, a few weeks ago there was a significant campus fire in the Riverknoll apartment complex. Additionally, within the past ten days, there have been four minor kitchen fires caused by cooking oil catching fire and/or grease and debris under the stove burner igniting. For your own well-being as well as the protection of others living throughout the apartment area, below is a review of some important safety information.
First and foremost, always treat any fire alarm as a true emergency. Immediately exit your apartment and wait for Public Safety and/or the Henrietta Fire Department to arrive on the scene and provide you with further instructions. Never assume it’s a false alarm!
Although some residents perceive the fire alarms in the RIT apartments are too sensitive, the alarm and sprinkler systems that exist are there for your protection. Never cover or tamper with these systems! Doing so can impede their ability to warn you of an emergency and delay your escape and you in an emergency situation. Additionally, tampering with, altering or changing any building system (safety equipment, fire alarm, fire extinguisher, smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, sprinkler, etc.) is prohibited. Tampering with any emergency equipment is a criminal offense and the responsible resident will face a student conduct hearing, restitution charges, and/or termination of his/her housing contract.
Cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Cooking equipment is also the leading cause of unreported fires and associated injuries. At RIT, there are several important things to remember when cooking to avoid a kitchen fire:
Never leave your cooking unattended – if you cannot watch over what you are cooking on your stovetop – turn off the burners and remove the pot or pan from the heat source. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
Stay alert! To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won't be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy. Also don’t cook if you’ll be distracted by talking on the phone, Instant Messenger, or working on academic projects and papers. Take a break and focus your full attention on whatever you’ll be cooking.
Clean your oven and stovetop on a regular basis. The stove burners unplug from the stovetop and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. The drip pans should be removed and washed with hot, soapy water to remove and grease and debris. The stovetop fan has a removable filter that pops out easily for cleaning. It can be washed with hot, soapy water and air-dried before replacing it back into the fan unit. Cleaning this filter on a regular basis will ensure the fan is working more efficiently to remove smoke and steam from the stovetop when cooking. Clean up any oven spills immediately after they happen so that you’re not burning off the debris the next time you cook and possibly causing smoke in the oven which could lead to setting off the fire alarm when the oven door is opened.
Always turn the stovetop fan on while cooking.
Start your cooking on the stovetop burners on the lowest heat setting then gradually increase the heat to the desired temperature. Starting your cooking on the highest setting is often the cause of many avoidable fire alarms.
In the event of a kitchen fire:
- When in doubt, just get out! When you leave your apartment or suite, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 or Public Safety’s Emergency number – 475-3333 after you leave.
- If you do attempt to put out the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
- Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. NEVER ADD WATER TO A GREASE FIRE! To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the outlet.
- After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again – you must report any fire to Housing Operations and/or Public Safety for this reason.
Cooking with grease or oil is a common cause of fires and/or fire-related injuries. If you do choose to cook with these products, be sure to follow these recommended guidelines:
Choose a deep, very heavy skillet to fry with. Add oil to the cold pan, leaving space at the top of the pan -at least two inches. This allows a safety margin when the oil bubbles up as the food is added.
Make sure that the food you're going to fry is dry. Letting it sit on paper towels, or coating it in flour or bread crumbs is a good way to ensure this.
Begin heating the oil over medium high heat. Use a deep fat frying thermometer - the best temperature is 350 to 375 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a 1" cube of white bread dropped into the oil browns in 60 seconds.
Don't overcrowd the pan! Carefully add the food, leaving lots of space around each piece so the food will cook evenly. If you add too much food at once, the oil temperature will drop.
Watch the food carefully as it cooks, regulating the heat if necessary to keep that oil temperature between 350 and 375 degrees F. Remove it with a slotted spoon or a heavy stainless steel sieve with a long handle. Drop it onto paper towels to drain.
An alternate suggestion for frying is purchasing a covered deep fryer from a store such as Wal-Mart, Kmart or Target. This will reduce odor, steam/smoke, and the risk of the oil catching on fire since the temperature is regulated electronically.
Additionally, cooking oil should never be dumped in the kitchen sink or in the toilet bowl in your apartment. The proper way to dispose of oil is to put it in a sealed non-recyclable container and discard it with regular garbage. Placing the container of oil in the refrigerator to harden also makes disposal easier and less messy.
Following these simple tips and suggestions is recommended for you safety and the safety of the RIT apartment community. If you have any specific questions about safe cooking, cleaning and maintenance of your kitchen appliances, or fire safety – please feel free to contact Housing Operations, the Center for Residence Life, or Public Safety for additional information. You can also check out the US Fire Administration’s website at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/cooking.shtm.
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