Madam Lim Kim Choo used to either return home to a strong smell of gas, or rush into a smoke-filled kitchen from her room to salvage a burning pot of food on the stove.
"I am getting older and more forgetful so that can happen once every month," said the 67-year- old retiree in Mandarin, who has thrown out five to six pots in the last few years.
Damaged pots aside, her forgetfulness could have cost her her life. On average, there was at least one fire, caused by unattended cooking, every day last year.
Fires involving unattended cooking accounted for the second largest source of fires in residential buildings last year. These fires rose by 7 per cent to hit 396 last year, reversing the declining trend observed for such fires since 2011.
Many of these fire or gas leak cases involve forgetful elderly users, said City Gas, the sole provider of piped gas in Singapore. To address these safety concerns, City Gas has come up with a new series of gas hobs, the first of its kind here.
The hobs come with a flame failure device that cuts the gas supply if the flame goes out, is blown out by strong winds or when boiling water and soup overflows and extinguishes the flame. The fear is if the gas continues to flow even when the flame goes out, a fire may result if a spark ignites it.
The hobs also have a digital timer that can be pre-set to up to 120 minutes. When the time is up, the gas supply cuts off automatically and an alarm alerts the user. This allows the user to do other things while the food is being cooked, instead of standing by the stove.
A City Gas spokesman said: "The hobs are also useful for busy people who tend to multitask and forget about the pot that is bubbling away at the stove, or get their cooking times wrong."
With the time-controlled gas hobs, gas wastage and energy use can also be reduced. However, the new hobs cost about $500, twice the price of a basic version.
The new type of hobs was rolled out late last year. They were developed by City Gas in partnership with home appliance company Aerogaz and schools such as Republic Polytechnic and Anglo-Chinese Junior College .
On average, one such hob is sold every day.
City Gas currently delivers gas to over 750,000 households. Other households here use cylinder gas or electricity. Some electric hobs do come with the timer function.
City Gas is now working with North West Community Development Council to install the new gas hobs for free for 50 needy residents in the precinct by year end.
Madam Lim, who lives with her son and daughter-in-law in a four-room HDB flat, got the new hob last year. Now, she can set the timer when cooking and not worry about forgetting to return to turn off the gas.
Instead of waiting by the stove, she waters the plants or watches television in the living room.
"Sometimes, I forget that I am cooking something and I have even gone out to shop for half a day but, thankfully, things are fine when I get back because it switches off automatically," she said.
This article was first published on June 12, 2016.
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