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Safety feature being tested in housing units

  • The SmartBurner has been installed in kitchenettes in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center.
  • The SmartBurner has been installed in kitchenettes in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center.

Posted on August 03, 2017

Facilities Services is conducting a pilot program to test a device that turns off stove burners when it senses a fire hazard. The device is called SmartBurner and 25 of them have been installed in kitchenettes in a living center on the Allendale Campus.

Facilities Services conducted a study to assess the number of cooking-related fire alarm incidents on campus in order to reduce the number of fire alarms. 

David Cox, safety manager with Facilities Services, said his office worked with several other campus departments, including Housing, Risk Management, Statistics, Maintenance, and Occupational Safety and Health Management, to identify locations where the SmartBurner would be the most beneficial.

Their study, using statistics from the fall 2015 semester through the winter 2017 semester, showed that 68 percent of fire alarm incidents were cooking related.

"The prevalence of alarms within buildings is strongly related to the accessibility of kitchens," said Cox. "SmartBurners were tested in six units in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center and results show a decline in the number of times an alarm sounded."

Rence Meredith, maintenance supervisor, said, "Safety is our first priority in housing, so if there is a way to be more safe then we owe it to our students and their families to test it out."

Meredith said a decision about installing more units will be based on results of the pilot program during the 2017-18 academic year.

How the SmartBurner works

Each SmartBurner is an electronically controlled solid cast iron plate that replaces existing electric coils. A control unit installed inside the burner controls the temperature of the plate and limits the highend temperature to 662°F. When the cast iron plate reaches just over 662°F, the element automatically shuts off. 

As soon as the element has cooled to below 662°F, the thermostat kicks in and starts heating up the cast iron plate again. The cooking surface maintains a steady, constant and safe cooking temperature.