By Michael Campbell
Special to GUIDON
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home-cooking fires. As you begin plans for turkey and stuffing, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind to help prevent injury and property loss due to fire.
— Test the batteries in your smoke alarms. Press the test button on your units to make sure they work.
— Prevent fires by making sure your oven and stove top are clean and free of grease and dust.
Be attentive in the kitchen
In 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,760 home-cooking fires on Thanksgiving. Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths, and cooking equipment was involved in nearly half (48 percent) of all reported home fires.
— Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove top and keep an eye on the food.
— Stay in the home when cooking your turkey, as well, and check on it often.
— If you must step away from your cooking, set a kitchen timer so you don’t get distracted by guests.
— Keep children at least three feet away from the stove, oven, hot food and liquids. Steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
— Keep items that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, and towels, away from the cooking area.
— Make sure the floor is clear of tripping hazards, such as children, toys, bags or pets that could cause you to fall.
— Keep knives out of the reach of children.
— Turn pot and pan handles inward and away from the front or edge of the stove. If handles are turned outward, they could be knocked off the stove and spill, causing burns.
— Keep electric cords from appliances such as electric knives or mixers from dangling off the counter in reach of a child.
Be cautious deep-frying a turkey
Deep-frying a turkey, which involves submerging an entire bird in hot cooking oil, is so dangerous that the NFPA specifically discourages this cooking technique. Hot cooking oil can be spilled if a unit is tipped over or overfilled when a turkey is inserted. In 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there had been more than 168 turkey-fryer related fire, burn, explosion, or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents since 2002, causing 672 injuries and $8 million in property damage.
— Never use a deep fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage, or in an enclosed space.
— Fryers should only be used outdoors on a sturdy, level surface isolated from anything that could burn.
— Keep children and pets out of the three-foot radius around your fryer to protect against burn injuries.
— The pot, lid and handles of a turkey fryer can be incredibly hot. To protect hands and arms against burns, wear long, well-insulated cooking gloves.
— Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
— Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
— Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and thoroughly dried before it is placed in a fryer. The water from a frozen turkey will not mix with the oil in the fryer and can be an explosion hazard. The National Turkey Foundation recommends that you add 24 hours of thaw time in the refrigerator for every five pounds of turkey weight. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest option, and turkeys should never be defrosted on the countertop.
(Editor’s note: Campbell is a Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department fire inspector.)