Vigilance key to combat safety concerns in kitchen

With the 2009 fires at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house and an apartment building at the intersection of John Street and Locust Avenue, fire safety has recently been an area of concern to the campus community. And in the thick of the summer barbecue season, cooking safety is even more important than usual.

Craig Grant, associate director of campus code compliance and fire safety, stressed the importance of residents becoming familiar with their new living spaces to survive in the case of a cooking-related incident.

“They might want to know where the nearest fire extinguisher is, whether it’s located in the corridor or in their individual unit,” Grant said.

“So they might want to know where that stuff is at, just to get familiar with it because it’s not home … Do they really know the building well enough to know where to go and how to get out?”

For students living in University residence halls, cooking safety is less of a concern, but it still is something to be aware of, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing. Residents cannot cook with any appliances featuring open-heating elements in individual residence hall rooms, but microwaves are allowed. Residents also have access to kitchens located in residence halls for large-scale cooking endeavors.

“Microwaves are good for snacks and in-between-meal type of things, but any cooking is prohibited in an individual room,” Ruby said.

“Things like George Foreman grills, or fancy egg things or a Panini maker are not allowed in our residence halls. Those things pose a fire hazard, so we don’t allow them.”

Students living in apartments have more freedom in what they can use to cook, but that choice comes with more responsibility when it comes to cooking safely and preventing a fire.

Some apartment complexes check for fire code violations and check smoke detectors on a regular basis, but others do not.

Hillary Haen, junior in business, said she doesn’t mind that her landlord does not check to make sure her smoke detectors are functioning properly.

“I’m not really worried that there’s going to be a fire or anything,” Haen said.

Grant said the best way to prevent a fire is to have a clear cooking space, which includes keeping nearby counters free of clutter.

Grant said many fires start because a counter fills up with groceries or other items, and a person puts a larger pot than usual on the stove, which makes contact with the items on the counter.

Besides clutter buildup, the most important thing to do is remove grease from the stove.

“Keep your stove clean,” Grant said.

“Don’t let grease build up, that’s important. Don’t leave pots or pans or anything that you’re cooking with unattended. That’s usually when you run into some problems. You fall asleep and forget about something. It boils dry and the pan gets hot. Those kinds of things really lead to a lot of problems.”