Being alert is key ingredient in holiday safety recipe

tsj state news 4Unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries

NASHVILLE (press release)—The State Fire Marshal’s Office is urging cooks across Tennessee to practice good safety habits in the kitchen during the hectic holiday season.

Unattended cooking ranks as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home-fire injuries and can take a devastating toll. During 2009-2013, Tennessee fire departments reported 9,847 residential structure fires involving cooking equipment. These fires resulted in 33 civilian deaths, 249 civilian injuries, and $37.6 million in direct property damage.

The risks of home fires only increase as shopping, event planning, and meal preparation increase during the holidays.

“As everyone gets busier, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” said Gary West, deputy commissioner of the Fire Prevention Division, Department of Commerce and Insurance. “Home fires are more likely to occur, especially those in the kitchen, when people are tired or distracted.”

Fortunately, added awareness and following some simple rules of thumb can help the season remain festive and safe for everyone.

Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it. Turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. And if you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office also suggests creating a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

Keep these safety tips in mind as you prepare your holiday meal this season:

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire—oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains—away from your stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn off the stovetop when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.
  • If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
  • If you have a cooking fire, just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • If you do try to fight the fire with an extinguisher, be sure others are getting out and that you have access to an exit.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

As always, be sure to have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home. Test them monthly and keep them equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Plan and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has distributed more than 68,000 smoke alarms throughout the state in two years’ time through our “Get Alarmed Tennessee” program. So far, that has resulted in 71 lives being saved.

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