Often, we consider cooking as a relaxing and fun undertaking that brings friends and family together. During Thanksgiving, in particular, one thing that we look forward to is some nice food. Through cooking, we get to showcase our creativity and love for quality and scrumptious food. However, we should be mindful while cooking. This is because cooking is and has been a top cause of home fires and injuries. With guests around, a distraction away from the stove is inevitable.
As per the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving Day has been ranked number one in cooking fires followed closely by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
The NFPA recommends technology as one way to deal with the growing problem. Learn more about one solution for this here.
The Main Causes of Cooking Fires
Cooktops and Ranges are involved in a majority of cooking fires. In the U.S., 62% of the reported cases of home fires involved cooking equipment, and 88% of the cooking fires have caused fatalities. Households that use gas ranges are less likely to experience losses associated with fire compared to those that use electric ranges.
Ovens are very useful in cooking especially during Thanksgiving Day. However, they are among the top causes of home fires. Roasting a duck or cooking something, which has a lot of grease, can be disastrous as flame-up is often experienced. Leaving the equipment unattended has been a leading factor in cooking fires. In the U.S, 33% of the fires reported have been due to unattended cooking equipment such as an oven. 49% of the victims in such cases have lost their lives.
Deep fat fryers are a major concern when it comes to cooking fires. They cause one-fifth of all accidental home fires. Most of the fatalities reported have been due to deep fat fryers. If we are to use a deep fryer, we should make sure that we do it safely. When deep fat frying, bear in mind that we are heating oil to high temperatures. This oil can cause severe burns and go up in flames. In fact, it is an ideal fuel for a fire, which is hard to put out.
The NFPA is regularly discouraging us from using outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers. The turkey fryers are designed to use hot oil. They use a substantial amount of cooking oil heated to high temperatures. In some instances, the burners heating the oil can ignite the spilled oil causing fire. The use of these fryers has left consumers with devastating burns, injuries, deaths, and destruction of property.
Dealing with a kitchen fire
The fire service recommends that if we have a fire in the kitchen not to take risks. Instead, get everyone out of the house and call the rescue service. If it is a deep fryer, do not attempt to remove it from the stove. It could give severe burns if handled incorrectly.
We should just turn off the appliance if it is possible. Leaning over to the controls could end up being a costly attempt. Some of us usually attempt to throw water over the equipment. This is a bad idea and should be avoided. The only safe fire extinguishers for a deep fat fryer are the wet chemical extinguishers.
What course of action to take before and after a fire
Although spending time in the kitchen can be magic for the soul, it can be brutal to the body. A burning house is definitely not somewhere you want to be. The increasing levels of carbon dioxide, heat, and falling debris pose some health risks. When we are caught up in such a scenario, the most common response should be exiting the house in a timely fashion. However, this is not always the case; sometimes we can get ourselves trapped or even blocked by objects preventing us from escaping. In such a case, it is vital to know what course of action to take. It is also important to be prepared before a fire ever occurs.
• Before the fire
We should ensure that we formulate an evacuation plan. The plan should include a designated meeting point where you can meet your family members once outside. This helps in keeping track of those who have managed to safely escape from the building and those who might still be trapped inside. We should never attempt to go back into a burning house to save a friend or a family member. Such acts are best left to the fire department. Most of those who have gone back to save someone have ended up losing their lives.
Also, we ought to ensure that all doorways, exits, and hallways are clear of obstacles. It can be very frustrating when you are in a position to leave a burning house only to be trapped by objects that impede your escape. Therefore, when moving into a new house, we should develop a clear path.
Fire extinguishers should always be within reach. When living in a big house, having several of these equipment is important. If the fire is small and the extinguisher is within reach, we may have a chance of putting it out before it turns into an outbreak. Never tamper with fire alarms, extinguishers or smoke detectors. Again, all the flammable products must be kept in a safe location, preferably outdoors.
• In the event of a fire outbreak
In the event of a fire outbreak, we should contact our local police station or the fire department. We must never ignore the size of the fire. Hence, contacting the local emergency hotlines is important. Instead of wasting time trying to extinguish the fire, get everyone out of the house and wait for the fire department to arrive. Also, pull any nearby fire alarm to alert everyone about the emergency.
Any smoke crawling under the door should be stopped immediately. This can be achieved by placing a moist piece of towel or clothing to block the smoke from coming in. The smoke is a choking hazard and deprives victims of oxygen. Taking this precaution could end up saving our lives or preventing us from passing out.
If we are trapped in a room, the door should be kept closed while all windows open to help contain the fire. Placing a white clothing on the open window alerts the fire department that there is someone in the room. Also, the survivors should keep a distance from the burning house. This helps in determining who is safe and who is still trapped inside.
How technology can help us avoid cooking fires
For a long time, the safety community has been advising us to avoid unattended cooking. However, unattended cooking still is the leading factor contributing to fire outbreaks. Technological solutions that either shut-off or turn down stoves when no motion is detected can help in the case of a fire. Also, other control measures have been put in place like the control technologies which cuts gas supply to the cooking devices after receiving signals from detectors. Such development has played a pivotal role in minimizing the risk of most kitchen fires.
New technology is now available that detect smoke and shuts off the range. This new technology has made such devices easy to use, and their installation does not require much expertise. By using them, our families and homes are well protected.
Practical steps to prevent cooking fires
1. We should not leave the kitchen unattended
As we have already seen, leaving the stove unattended is the main cause of kitchen fires. Therefore, we should not leave the kitchen when we have food that is cooking. If we must leave the kitchen, turning off the stove should be our priority. Also, the pans and pots should be taken off the heat.
2. We should be aware of the items around the stovetop
Oven mitts, curtains, kitchen towels, and appliance cords can easily catch fire if set close to a hot burner. All the flammable items should be moved away from the stovetop. When using a kitchen towel, we should make sure that it does not dangle and touch the burner.
3. The fire extinguisher should be placed in or near the kitchen
Fire extinguishers can be of much importance in the event of a fire. However, we should know how to use them. They all come with a user manual, which aids in giving us directives on how to use them.
4. We should watch our clothing
Flowing sleeves, aprons, and large-fitting shirts can catch fire. Therefore, we should wear close fitted or short sleeves and ensure that our baggy shirts are tucked in properly.
With Thanksgiving Day or Christmas day being such a hectic holiday, and guests at home, the possibility of us getting distracted and losing track of what is cooking in the oven or on the stovetop is very high. Therefore, we should take necessary precautions to prevent a fire tragedy during the holidays. This in return will help lower the cases of cooking fires during the festive season and raise kitchen safety awareness in our households.
Learn more about a simple way to effectively protect your family and property here.