Cooking related fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries and 33 percent of them start as the result of cooking equipment left unattended according the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). In fact, NFPA reports that cooking fires are often traced to people engaging in unsafe behaviors, like removing batteries from smoke alarms and placing flammable materials near cooking surfaces. Take time to understand the fire dangers related to cooking; learn how to prevent them and what actions to take if a cooking fire starts.
Stovetop and Oven Safety
According to NFPA, stovetops are among the most dangerous appliances in any household, causing 57 percent of all house fires and 86 percent of household fire deaths. The next most dangerous is ovens, which account for 16 percent of house fires and 4 percent of house fire deaths.
It’s indisputable that stovetop fires cause more damage and fatalities than other home appliances. Moreover, these fires can grow out of control quickly. Taking the appropriate safety measures when using a stovetop can help reduce the risk of a cooking fire in your home.
Never leave a burner unattended. "Never leave a burner unattended for more than a couple minutes” sounds like an easy rule to follow but is more challenging in practice as distractions arise. Consider setting a timer when you walk away from the range. It not only alerts you when food is ready; it also helps ensure you return to the stovetop before too long after a distraction. Setting a timer at five-minute intervals will remind you to check your stovetop.
Keep smoke alarms in good working order. Ensure your smoke alarms are in good working order before cooking. NPFA says, 29 percent of consumers reported they disabled their smoke alarms while cooking. It may be irritating to burn a meal and hear the shrill sound of the smoke alarm echoing throughout your home, but this short-lived annoyance can help prevent a disaster by getting your attention when an unattended meal starts burning.
Clean and maintain vents, stovetops, counter tops and oven interiors. Properly maintain and regularly clean the area around your stovetop and oven to prevent a house fire from starting. Keep combustible items such as wooden spoons, rags, oven mitts and loose paper several feet away from the stovetop and oven to prevent these items from combusting and starting a fire or helping to fuel a small, manageable fire to quickly spread and consume the entire kitchen. Keeping a fire extinguisher nearby and having it routinely inspected by the fire department is also a good idea.
Grease fires are incredibly dangerous because the fuel source of the fire is liquid and can easily splash, adhering to surfaces, clothing and skin while still burning. Pay close attention when cooking with oil or grease. If you notice the oil starting to smoke, turn the heat down immediately and remove the pan from the heat until the smoking stops. Smoke indicates the oil is too hot and is about to ignite.
If an oil or grease fire does break out, the first thing you should do is turn the heat source off and put a lid on the pan to smother the fire. If you’re unable to do this safely, toss baking soda on the flames or spray the fire with a fire extinguisher. Never use water to put out grease or oil fires. Doing so can cause the oil to spatter and spread the fire. If the fire can’t be put out quickly and safely, leave your house immediately and call 911.
Child Safety in the Kitchen
Use extreme caution when cooking while children are present. Children are unlikely to understand fully the fire danger in a kitchen. They can also cause distractions for the cook. Take proper precautions and routinely educate children on kitchen safety, by following these important steps:
Designate at least three square feet around the stovetop and oven into which children are not allowed to enter. Consider marking this area off with masking tape to create a visual reminder.
Always turn pot and panhandles so they don’t hang off the counter or stovetop. This helps prevent a child from accidentally bumping into or pulling down a hot pot or pan.
Store snacks or anything else a child may be attracted to far away from the stovetop and oven.
Do not leave potholders, towels or tablecloths hanging from an oven door handle or countertops as infants, toddlers and pets may pull on them.
Teach children which appliances get hot and why they should never touch them. This includes not touching any electrical wires.
Remind children that if a fire breaks out in the kitchen they should get an adult or call 911 and never attempt to put the fire out with water.
Meals and recipes may not always work out as planned, but there are far worse things than overcooking a casserole. By following the safety tips above and educating children on the importance of kitchen safety, you can help make your home a safer place for your family and friends to enjoy.