Get togethers are slowly returning with all the COVID-19 protocols and as the extended weekend holidays begin it is time to prepare for gatherings in a safe, healthy environment for family and guests.
But apart from COVID-19 precautions are you cooking with all the safety measures? Studies show that cooking fires represent over 50% of all home fire starters, yet 39% of respondents do not have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen area and 21% do not have one in the home at all. Moreover, 51% of respondents couldn't accurately identify the replacement time for disposable fire extinguishers, which is 12 years.
Follow this advice to help your family host and celebrate the holidays safely:
1. Clean away old grease and fats: Prior to use, remove leftover or residual grease and fats, which can ignite.
2. Roll up those sleeves: Or better yet, wear short sleeves. When cooking, avoid wearing long sleeves or loose clothing that could catch fire from over a burner or other heat source. Short sleeves are a great option.
3. Know how to deal with an oven fire: If you have a fire in the oven, don't open the oven door. Turn off the oven heat and let the contents cool completely before attempting to open the door. If flames escape the oven or the fire does not immediately go out, evacuate family members and pets, and then call 9-1-1.
4. Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: Replace batteries or alarms if needed. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years and installed at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances. A smoke alarm designed specifically for the kitchen will help reduce false alarms from cooking smoke.
5. Check and install fire extinguishers: Disposable fire extinguishers should be checked periodically to ensure they're still functioning properly. Look at the gauge: if the needle is in the green, that is good, but also check the age. If it is older than 12 years, it is time to replace.
P - Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.
A - Aim the nozzle at the fire.
S - Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly to discharge the extinguishing agent.
S - Sweep the nozzle from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire.
6. Clear the stovetop: Remove the items that are flammable like grocery bags, boxes, wooden utensils, and towels from the cooking area.
7. Focus on cooking: Remain in the kitchen while cooking all food. If the doorbell rings or you must walk away, immediately turn off the burners. If you're cooking on the stovetop with oil, give the dish your undivided attention to ensure that the oil doesn't splatter or the dish doesn't burn.
8. Keep a ring of safety: Create a three-foot "safe zone" around cooking areas clear of flammable items, kids, and pets. Curious kids and pets can accidentally turn on stove knobs or other appliances, touch hot burners, or knock over pots and pans.
9. Clean up the area: As you did before the holiday, clean your oven, toaster oven, stovetop and other appliances. Ensure you remove any crumbs or leftover grease. Make sure all appliances are off and/or unplugged.
10. Store leftover food: Avoid leaving food on the stove. Curious pets may attempt to reach leftover food on the stovetop and accidentally start a fire in the process.