Did you know that one in every six civilian fire deaths involved cooking equipment? According the National Fire Protection Association, the U.S. fire department responded to an average of 162,400 home fire structures between 2009 and 2013 that cooking equipment as the common culprit.
Unattended cooking was considered to be the biggest contributing factor to fires and fire-related deaths. Distractions are common when cooking everyday dinners, considering children needing attention, pets under feet, and an evening to-do list in desperate need of multitasking. If that’s the norm, then your attention is sure to be pulled away when extended family is visiting for the holidays. Instead of keeping a close eye on the stove top or grill, it’s easy to find yourself reminiscing past memories and catching up with people you haven’t seen in months or even years.
As you head for the kitchen this holiday season, avoid a recipe for disaster with these helpful and potentially life-saving tips.
DO replace the batteries in your smoke alarms. If you don’t already follow the rule to change your batteries when you set your clocks forward or back, then add batteries to your holiday shopping list and get them replaced before the bird goes in the oven.
DON’T leave too much to do on the big day. The holiday meal tends to take a lot of time, with a lot of dishes moving in and out of the oven. It’s easy to get distracted by the tasks at hand, leading to burning food and stove top fires.
DO have a working fire extinguisher nearby. Accidents happen, so it’s best to be prepared. While you should always call the fire department instead of risking your own safety when a fire starts, a fire extinguisher can help your respond to issues before they get out of hand.
DON’T leave cooking unattended. You can only respond to a problem or avoid it completely if you’re there when it starts. If you need to leave the room, turn off your stove top or other pieces of cooking equipment. Or, ask another responsible adult to watch the food until you return.
DO ask for help. Whether it’s getting assistance in the kitchen or asking guests to bring dishes to cut down on your to-do list, a helping hand from others can reduce stress and potential problems in the kitchen.
DON’T let your kitchen become party central. Yes, the kitchen tends to be where everyone gravitates toward, but too many people in the room can lead to pots and pans getting knocked over and burns caused by hot dishes. Encourage the gathering into another room by putting out foods, drinks, and entertainment in an area easy for everyone to hang out comfortably.
DO clear out clutter. Too many pots and pans on the stove top can lead to a grease spill or a boil over.
DON’T wear loose-fitting clothing when working near an open flame. A long flowy sleeve can easily catch fire over a gas flame. The same goes for long hair–keep it tied back.
DO keep oven mitts and potholders nearby when cooking. Also keep pot lids handy, which can be used to eliminate the oxygen source of a fire should one ignite.
A happy holiday starts in the kitchen, but only if use good common sense and always err on the side of safety.