Preventing Kitchen Fires in Apartments

An inexpensive device can hear a smoke alarm and cut power to an electric stove, removing the source of many devastating fires.

My real estate clients have seen their share of fires, especially in apartments, and I have seen first-hand the devastating impact of a fire on an apartment complex. Often, these fires happen because of tenants' carelessness, especially with fires that start in the kitchen. So, in the spirit of Fire Prevention Week this week, I wanted to share information about a device that can prevent many fires from ever starting. The product, called Fire Avert, simply plugs into the wall socket behind an electric stove, and the stove is then plugged into the Fire Avert device. If a smoke alarm sounds in the apartment, the device hears the alarm and shuts off the stove. This simple step will prevent the many fires that start because someone forgets that the stove is on (perhaps even leaving the apartment), steps outside for too long and leaves the stove untended, etc. There are subtleties to the device (which the inventor describes here), but that's the basic approach: cut off the source of many fires before they ever start. A fire loss is disruptive and time-consuming. It hurts tenants and places hardships on the local property manager, who has to deal with the fire marshal, cause and origin experts, contractors and consultants hired by the insurance carrier. It affects the corporate insurance manager, who is often responsible for working with the insurance adjuster, documenting all costs, navigating through coverage disputes and providing extensive information to the forensic accountants to assist with calculating the loss of rents. Reconstruction can takes weeks, months or even more than a year. If law and ordinances increasing the cost of construction apply, the rebuilding is delayed further.  When all is said and done, the insurance carriers then scrutinize losses and often raise the premiums on renewal. Suffice it to say, a fire loss is an exhausting and costly endeavor for apartment owners. Just ask anyone who has been through one. After recently tracking a property owner that installed the Fire Avert device in all its units, I have become a true believer in its ability to prevent fires. There are many devices being sold today that "stop" a fire, but this is the only product that prevents the fire from ever starting. Don't get me wrong: The devices that "stop" a fire are better than no protection. Products that "stop" the fire often reduce the impact substantially. Instead of burning the entire building down, a fire might only take out the kitchen.  An $8,000 to $20,000 loss is better than a $250,000 to $1 million loss. However, no loss is the best outcome. Fire Avert can make that happen. I know many property owners that incur two to four kitchen fires a year. These fires have cost $60,000 to $2 million. Had the owners not had these kitchen fires, their portfolios would be loss-free. I am confident the premiums for these owners would be at least 30% less without kitchen fires. All property owners budget capital improvements each year. The cost of the Fire Avert (listed on the website for $196 a unit) can easily be rolled in over a two- or three-year period. If the current success of these devices is an indication, Fire Avert will pay for itself through future insurance premium savings. I have no stake in this company. I am just a fan of the product and the owner/inventor, Peter Thorpe, a firefighter. His inspirational story and more about this remarkable device can be found at If all apartment owners installed this product, placing insurance would be much easier, insurance premiums would be substantially less, insurance carriers would pay less in claims and, most important, lives would be saved.

Maureen Gallagher

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Maureen Gallagher

Maureen Gallagher is the Michigan managing director and national real estate and workers compensation brands leader in Neace Lukens. Gallagher previously held the position of president and CEO of Acordia of Michigan (Wells Fargo). Gallagher is on the national teaching faculty for the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research.


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