Prevent kitchen fires

This is Fire Prevention Week in America. The theme for the week is “Prevent Kitchen Fires.” Unattended cooking is still the cause associated with the highest number of single family and multi-family residential fires. When I left the job, 3.7 out of every 10 fires started in the kitchen. Kitchens have all of the ingredients for a fire in close proximity to one another, heat fuel and oxygen. The key is to prevent them from becoming a fire.

Unattended cooking, in other words, cooking that takes a back burner to other things, becomes a problem for everyone living in the home. Cooking is a full-time job. Distractions will come, while cooking. How you handle those distractions will be the difference between cooking your food, and cooking your kitchen. If a distraction comes, then take a large utensil with you when leaving the kitchen. The point is that the utensil will serve as a reminder for you to return to the kitchen.

My grandson reminds me to add a section to safety while cooking. Mothers should not attempt to cook while holding a child in their arms. They make many devices that mothers can put their babies in, while cooking. I know you are saying, you non-mother, you cannot understand, my baby is crying. I would rather have a baby crying because he/she wants to be picked up, than to have a baby crying because they have been burned. Another thing to remember is to keep things out of reach of small children whether the hot thing is on the stovetop, or on the countertop. Handles should always be turned in.

Bad habits are improper behaviors that may eventually have a bad outcome. I remember a lady who died from burns associated with her clothes catching fire while cooking. How did it happen? She used to use dishtowels as the means of removing things from the oven or off of the stove. The evidence was a dishtowel that was checkered with burned spots. After removing whatever from the oven, she would throw the dishtowel over her shoulder. One particular evening, the burning dishtowel ignited her clothing. Dishtowels are for drying dishes by hand; potholders are for removing things from the oven or stove. If you ever feel heat through a potholder, throw it away.

Preventing kitchen fires is the desired action. However, what will you do when the kitchen fire occurs? If the fire is in a pan on a stovetop, then cover the pan with an oversized lid and turn the burner off. Do not remove the lid or the pan until you know for certain that it has cooled. If the fire is in your oven, turn the oven off and do not open the oven door. If you cannot put the lid on a pan on your stovetop, is there a multi-purpose extinguisher rapidly available? Quick reminder: Pull the Pin; Aim the Nozzle; Squeeze the Handle; Sweep at the Base of the Fire.

One last item in this discussion will be smoke alarms in conjunction with a residential sprinkler system. Properly operating smoke alarms should be in every bedroom and one on every level of the home. To place a detector too close to the kitchen is an opportunity to perform a “no-no.” A nuisance alarm will be disabled, serving no worthwhile purpose. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly. The best opportunity for the greatest protection is when smoke alarms are in place and a residential sprinkler system is installed as well. Myths have caused many to be skeptical about residential sprinklers. Most fires are extinguished in the incipient phase when a residential sprinkler system is present.

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