How to prevent student kitchen fires

  • Kitchen fires are a major risk for universities, and are often caused by cooking left unattended
  • The risk of kitchen fires increases when students attempt to cook after a night out drinking alcohol
  • We look at how universities can educate students on the dangers of cooking food late at night, and how to prevent kitchen fires

Fires in student accommodation are a significant risk for universities.

There have been a number of university fires that have forced evacuations of student accommodation.

Kitchen fires are a particular risk, especially in the early hours of the morning when students can be tempted to make hot food after a night out.

Research shows that two-thirds of students have cooked food after midnight and half have done so while under the influence of alcohol.

If students are tired or experiencing the effects of alcohol, there is an increased risk of injury to themselves or others, extensive damage to property as well as disruption of studies.

Managing the risks of student kitchen fires

So, what can universities do to manage the risks?

The most important thing is to make sure that students are made aware of the dangers of cooking late at night, especially after drinking.

Fire safety guidance for new students is really important. However, universities should also share fire safety messages regularly during the term, using a variety of methods of communication.

The University of Sheffield, for example, has produced a video highlighting some of the main fire risks students face, and offering tips on how to minimise these risks.

Other institutions, such as North Kent College, have invited local firefighters to carry out live chip pan fire demonstrations, to give students a better understanding of the risks posed.

Regardless of whether a fire has happened, either at your university or another institution, you should take the opportunity to reinforce key fire safety messages to your students.

Top student tips for avoiding kitchen fires

There are a number of important pieces of guidance that are worth sharing with students, to ensure they are safe in their kitchens:

  • After a night out, plan to get a takeaway rather than cook in the kitchen
  • When you are cooking don’t get distracted or leave food unattended on a hob
  • Take care if wearing loose clothing as it can catch fire easily
  • Keep tea towels away from the hob
  • Remove any bread jammed in toasters – but make sure the toaster is unplugged first
  • Ensure your grill pan is clean, a greasy pan can ignite quickly
  • Keep fire doors shut to prevent fire spread
  • Never cover up or tamper with smoke alarms
  • Don’t mess around with fire extinguishers or safety equipment
  • Don’t set off fire alarms as a joke
  • Always know your evacuation routes

Fire risk strategy

Educating students should be just one part of your university’s fire risk management strategy. This plan should encompass everything from how buildings are designed and constructed to minimise the risk of fire spreading, to ensuring that buildings and equipment such as alarms and fire extinguishers are regularly maintained.

Universities should also ensure that staff are given appropriate training on what to do in the event of a fire.

Fire safety may not be the last thing on the minds of students returning home from a night out, but they should be made aware that cooking while tired or under the influence of alcohol can potentially put their lives in danger.

By being proactive in warning students about the risks they face, universities can ensure they are doing all they can to help their students avoid these situations.