Fire-Prevention: Use these Tips to Prevent Cooking-Induced House Fires

Believe it or not, cooking accidents are the leading cause of house fires in the United States, in fact 43 percent of all house fires are started by cooking equipment. However, most of the time these cooking-related fires are very preventable and many fires can be traced back to laziness or ill-advised behavior. Organizations like the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and The Red Cross offer tips and advice for cooking at home safely, and a home fire alarm system is, obviously the critical first line of defense, alerting your family and giving precious time to escape a dangerous fire. However, here at Supreme, we believe one can never be too prepared, and that when it comes to risk reduction, prevention is as important as preparation. To that end, we have compiled some tips along with some helpful statistics.

Be alert when cooking

This may seem obvious, but as with operating heavy machinery, cooking with hot oil and flames while intoxicated, extremely tired or on the phone can be dangerous. We all believe that we can multi-task efficiently, but the truth is that multitasking is counterproductive. According to CNN, multi-tasking doesn’t result in the completion of two tasks simultaneously, it diverts attention from necessary parts of the brain and results in low effectiveness. To put it simply, multi-tasking doesn’t result in two or more things getting done at the same time, it results in multiple things getting attempted poorly and dangerously. While it may be hard, it’s important to focus all of your attention on the task at hand when cooking.

Stay in the kitchen when you are preparing a meal

The most important aspect of cooking may very well be having the patience to cook properly and safely. Walking away from a boiling pot, frying pan or open flame can be very tempting. Who wants to stand there and watch food cook when you could be watching Jeopardy!?  Alex Trebek is a lot more entertaining than watching perogies simmer, but it simply isn’t safe to walk away from the stove. According to Liberty Mutual, 45 percent of surveyed consumers admitted to leaving the kitchen while cooking to watch television or listen to music. The NFPA reports that unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires. It also helps to use a timer so you’ll remember that the stove or oven is on.

Keep flammable items away from the stovetop

Many people tend to have flammable items like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packages, towels and curtains right next to them when they cook with an open flame. While it may seem like you’re in control when cooking, there’s no way to ensure that cooking equipment will work the way it was intended to. Open flames are simply too dangerous to mess around with. One should also refrain from cooking while wearing loose clothing, for the same reasons.

Keep all cooking surfaces clean

The NFPA reports that a “failure to clean” was a factor contributing to ignition in 17 percent of reported home fires involving ovens or rotisseries. So, essentially, this means that keeping a clean cooking surface can reduce the chances of starting a cooking-related house fire by nearly 20 percent. What we’ve found throughout this blogging process is that it’s often the simple daily practices that go a long way with home safety and security.

Purchase a fire extinguisher for the kitchen

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives. The strongest characteristic of fire is its ability to grow and spread rapidly. However, it’s very important to know how to use a fire extinguisher properly, otherwise it can actually be counterproductive. Only use a fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, like a garbage can. It’s best to call the fire department first and then use the personal fire extinguisher because as they say, it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have. The NFPA has a helpful acronym for remembering how to properly use a fire extinguisher: PASS. Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism. Aim low, point the extinguisher at the base of the fire. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

Introduce a “kid-free” zone around the cooking area

Kids always want to know what’s going on, especially when someone is cooking. The NFPA reports that children under five face a higher risk of non-fire burns from cooking, hot food and drinks than of being hurt in a cooking fire. This means that children have the tendency to reach up and grab dangerously hot cooking equipment. The NFPA recommends that a “kid-free zone” should be introduced at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared.

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Practice microwave safety

Microwave ovens are one of the leading home products associated with scald burns, according to the NFPA.  A “scald burn” is a form of thermal burn that is typically considered a first or second degree burn, but third degree burns can occur with prolonged contact. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, two out of five of the microwave oven injuries seen at emergency rooms in 2012 were scald burns. As with other cooking surfaces, one should keep the microwave clean in order to ensure that it works properly.

Cook smartly with oil

Oil is a key cooking ingredient found in kitchens across the country, it’s used in many daily styles of cooking from frying to sautéing. Whether one is using olive, canola, corn, or soybean oil always realize that that there are safety measures to be taken. Always stay in the kitchen when frying on the stove-top. Keep an eye on what you are frying, if you see smoke or smell strong oil fumes, immediately turn off the burner and/or carefully remove the pan from the burner. Smoke indicates that the oil is too hot. It’s important to heat the oil slowly and use patience, always gently adding food to the pan to prevent splatters.

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It’s important to remember that if a fire does break out in your home, step outside of the house immediately and call the fire department. Use these tips to prevent house fires, but always keep in mind that it is never worth it to fight a fire once it has begun to spread. The NFPA reports that 55 percent of people injured in home fires involving cooking equipment were hurt while attempting to fight a fire themselves.

As always, it’s best to properly equip a home with fire-prevention equipment and smoke detectors and call the authorities when dangerous situations arise.


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