State Fire Marshal: Be an alert chef this holiday season
NASHVILLE, TN – For most of us, the holiday season represents a time for family festivities and good cheer. What few of us consider is that the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of shopping, event planning, and meal preparation, and the chance for home fires grows even more.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” says State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur, especially those in the kitchen.”
Fortunately, with a little added awareness to holiday cooking, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody. “By taking some preventative steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” says McPeak.
With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, it is essential to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove 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. 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.
During the five-year period of 2008-2012, Tennessee fire departments responded to 9,921 cooking fires in residential structures. These fires caused 29 civilian deaths, 255 injuries, and $34.3 million in direct property damage. A range or cooktop was the equipment involved in ignition 82% of the time.
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 or stovetop.
- 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 after you leave.
- If you do try to fight the fire, 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 is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.