Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires according to research conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the number of cooking fires increases significantly around Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Cooking fires are also one of the most preventable losses in real estate. With regular maintenance and inspections, use of fire suppression devices, working smoke alarms and safe cooking practices, one can nearly eliminate the chance of a catastrophic cooking fire.

Alarms & Fire Suppression Tools

#1: Smoke alarms and CO detectors

Working smoke alarms cut home fire deaths in half according to the NFPA. Test alarms monthly and change standard batteries at least twice a year. Some newer alarms come with five- or 10-year batteries, but they still need to be tested regularly. Detectors will also need to be replaced, typically once every 10 years. Most investors prefer interconnected alarms that all sound when one sounds. This alerts occupants no matter where they are in the house.

When checking or installing your smoke detectors and alarms, be sure your property has working carbon monoxide detectors as well. CO, the “silent killer,” is colorless, odorless and tasteless, so a detector is the only way residents will know if they have a CO problem.

#2: Fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers can help put out small fires before they become uncontrollable. Just be sure to educate your tenants on how to properly use them prior to moving in. Multi-purpose extinguishers like ABC or BC can put out a variety of fires, so they may be the best choice for this application.

#3: StoveTop FireStop

This inexpensive fire suppression device can help put out a stove-top fire even before the cook has time to grab a lid or standard extinguisher. StoveTop FireStop products are positioned above the stove. In the event of a fire, the flames activate a small fuse on the bottom of the container, which then releases extinguishing powder down onto the stove. There is also a loud “pop” when the container opens, which can alert the distracted cook so they can return to the kitchen to turn off the burners.

Fire Escape Plans & Practice Drills

You know the floor plan of your property better than anyone. Share that information with your tenants. Identify two escape routes out of each room, if possible, and advise your tenants to keep these escape routes unblocked when they are considering where to place furniture. They may roll their eyes at your “Safety Sam” ways, but this advice may save their life. The NFPA also has all kinds of fire escape planning resources on their website.

Cooking Safely

Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires involving cooking equipment (NFPA), followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. To help your tenants cook safely during the holidays, share the following cooking tips:

  1. Test your smoke alarms to be sure they are working before guests arrive.
  2. Stay in the home when using the oven and check on your dish frequently.
  3. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stove top so you can keep an eye on the food.
  4. Use a timer to help you multi-task and avoid burning food.
  5. Ask a reliable “sous chef” to help you in the kitchen. Four eyes are better than two.
  6. Keep oven mitts, wooden utensils & other flammable items away from the stovetop.
  7. Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  8. Keep kids away from fire hazards & other dangerous items such as the stove, hot food and liquids, knives, electric cords, matches, lighters and candles.
  9. Keep a lid or cookie sheet close by in case a small fire starts. You can smother the flames by sliding them over the pan and turning off the burner.
  10. Fires can spread quickly, so when in doubt, just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you, get to a safe location, and call 9-1-1.

Won’t Insurance Cover These Losses?

The quick answer is…maybe. While insurance is an important part of your risk mitigation plan, it typically doesn’t cover every type of loss, and each policy is different. Always check with your agent if you are unsure about your coverages. Even if your insurance does help, you can avoid a variety of expenses and hardships (think stress, loss of sleep, lost profits, lawsuits, guilt and more) by taking the proactive steps above.

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  • BreAnn Stephenson

    BreAnn Stephenson is assistant vice president of Affinity Loss Prevention Services. Contact her at

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1 Comment

  1. Kathy Hunter

    #3 Should also include Auto-Out Cook Top Fire Suppressors as well. They are made onsite and only when you order to ensure product is always fresh and prolongs the longevity. You can buy single pairs on Amazon or if buying for an apartment complex you can order directly from them. Auto-Out is the best!

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