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Grease fire demonstrated for annual Emergency Awareness Day

As a part of Emergency Awareness Day, EHS set fire to a pan of hot cooking oil then doused the pan with water, demonstrating what not to do in the event of a grease fire. (credit: Angel Gonzalez/Photo Staff) As a part of Emergency Awareness Day, EHS set fire to a pan of hot cooking oil then doused the pan with water, demonstrating what not to do in the event of a grease fire. (credit: Angel Gonzalez/Photo Staff)

Members of the campus community were invited to a grease fire demonstration in Donner Ditch last Wednesday afternoon as part of the second annual campus-wide Emergency Awareness Day.

As part of the demonstration to inform students of the dangers of kitchen fires, James Gindlesperger, Rick Caruso, and Robert Anderegg of Carnegie Mellon Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) intentionally set fire to a pan of hot cooking oil on a propane-powered stovetop range. Then, showing “what not to do” in response to grease fires, Caruso stood from a distance and poured water on the flames using a long funnel. Flames reached a height of 15 feet before members of the fire department extinguished the fire.

EHS Loss Prevention Manager Jim Gindlesperger hoped that the event was effective because of the visual demonstration.

“If we had just said, ‘Don’t put water on a grease fire,’ people may not have remembered that important advice long-term,” he said. He hopes that everyone in the campus community will be aware of the following steps to properly control a grease fire: “If you can, safely turn the burner power off. To smother the fire and deprive it of oxygen, put a lid or cookie sheet on it using an oven mitt. Do not try to pick it up or dump it out. The key is not to panic.”

The visual demonstration was a highlight of the experience for students attending the event.

“They gave good information, but the demonstration really reinforced what they were saying,” said biomedical engineering and civil and environmental engineering double major Emily Bayer. “I’ve always known not to put water on a grease fire, but seeing the catastrophic results really helped to explain the existence of that rule.”

Caruso, a fire safety manager in EHS, explained that last week’s dramatic demonstration had two main goals. “The first goal was to demonstrate the proper method of how to control and extinguish a grease fire. The second: to show how quickly you can lose control of a kitchen fire in a matter of seconds, making a bad situation worse.” He explained that the event was partially in response to several fire safety tests administered by EHS this past summer that showed students were not well-informed about how to respond to cooking-related fires.
Also, according to Caruso, there has been one kitchen fire in a fraternity within the last month. Caruso, a Pittsburgh city firefighter and captain of 28 years, said, “I’ve been trying to protect people from fires for years. This is my passion.”

This fall’s Emergency Awareness Day also featured two police dog demonstrations on the Cut. The first demonstration showcased a dual-purpose dog named Frodo who is used for both criminal apprehension and for bomb-sniffing.

The second demonstration involved a University of Pittsburgh police dog named Riggs. Riggs detected suspicious powder intentionally planted in a toolbox by his trainers.

Other information sessions were given by various campus safety and health organizations in Kirr Commons. Representatives from EHS were also on hand to help students and staff sign up for Carnegie Mellon’s emergency alert system.