An annual report compiled by USHA (The University Safety and Health Association) shows that there are over 95 alarm activations per 1000 bedrooms on average in University accommodation. Now that’s a lot of standing outside in your PJs for no good reason. In the eyes of fire protection agencies, this makes student housing ‘high risk’ for domestic fires. But why?

Perhaps it is inevitable – with all those people living close together it’s bound to be more risky. But aside from those hilarious fire alarm pranks that wake everyone up at four in the morning, something must be setting off those alarms. Well, something is, and it might surprise you.

In 2010, over 300 of their 400 residential fire alarms at the University of Surrey were down to cooking mishaps. Just over 35% of Durham’s accommodation alarms occurred because of cooking fumes, and according to Bath Spa, ‘more than a third of boarding house fires are caused by the misuse of cooking appliances.’ In fact, there don’t seem to be many Universities that aren’t concerned by the fire risks posed by students abusing their kitchens. It’s not as glamorous as, say, setting fire to your books at the end of the year, but unfortunately it is the truth. If you don’t know how to cook, you won’t know how not to cook. And evidently that is a dangerous thing.

Not only can it be infuriating to have to shuffle out of your room at the crack of dawn because someone failed in their attempt at crispy bacon, but it can also be expensive. Damages, insurance, health and safety equipment – all of these are considerations for higher risk accommodation. Unfortunately they are probably considerations when Universities decide how much rent to charge, too.

Fortunately for students, learning how to reduce fire risk (and therefore save money) in University kitchens is simple. Just follow a few easy tips and you’ll be eating more and potentially spending less, as well as keeping everyone safe.

Know Your Alarms

You can prevent fire alarms simply by knowing what kinds of alarms are installed in your flat or house, and where they are located. Heat-sensing (optical) alarms are less likely to activate accidentally, but smoke (ionisation) alarms can be set off by cooking fumes and aerosols. Opening windows can stop this by dispersing any smoke.

Know Your Equipment

Learning how to use cooking equipment seems easy, but in actual fact the appliances operate differently from model to model. Toasters, grills, hobs and ovens can cook food at different rates than those you are used to, so being unaware of the type of equipment you are using can cause your food to burn. This guide will help to familiarise you with what you have.

Know Your Oil

Cooking oil is a science all by itself, but the most important thing to know about oil is that it gets hot – very hot. For this reason deep-frying is a no-no for most student accommodation, and frying anything after a night out is equally dangerous. Learn how to deal with hot oil here.

Know Your Timings

Sometimes things need a long time to cook in the oven, and unlike other cooking methods, you do not need to watch over it constantly. For this reason, oven timers or phone alarms are invaluable. It takes just a few seconds to set and will stop anything from catching fire. However, if you are using the grill function on your oven or any other appliance, do not leave it unattended.

For more simple tips of reducing fire risk in the kitchen, go here. To learn more about cooking, check out these video tutorials from Channel 4. And, of course, discover more student food on and my blog The Fresh Fresher.