Fire safety tips for the holidays

The holidays bring lots of activities and distractions, which can contribute to being unfocused and less safety-conscious. Health Safety & Environment wants to remind us during the holidays that cooking-related activities are the leading cause of home fires and the second leading cause of home fire deaths in the U.S.

Tips for Kitchen Fire Safety

As the holiday season approaches, we spend more time at home with our families and in the kitchen, cooking up traditional holiday meals. The holidays bring lots of activities and distractions, which can contribute to being unfocused in the kitchen. Inattention during cooking can cause accidents.

Our hope is that home chefs will increase their awareness and take action to ensure an enjoyable holiday season for everyone. We offer a few simple tips:

  1. Stay in the kitchen. Don't leave the kitchen when you are frying, broiling, or grilling. If you leave the kitchen, even for a brief time, be sure to turn off all the burners on the stovetop. Nearly half (45 percent) of consumers say they have left the room to watch television or listen to music. Multitasking during the busy holiday season is tempting. If you succumb, it's important not to leave the stove or oven unattended!

  2. Set a timer as a reminder that the stove is on. As mentioned, with all the activities happening during the holidays, it's common to get distracted. Forty-two percent of surveyed consumers say they have left the kitchen to talk or text on the phone, and 35 percent say they have left to use the computer to check email while food is cooking. These activities make it easy to lose track of time. Check your food frequently when it's on the stovetop, and use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. If you tend to do a lot of cooking, invest in a second or third timer. They're an inexpensive way to stay safe while ensuring that your holiday dishes do not overcook.

  3. Keep anything that can catch on fire away from the stovetop. Pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, and other flammable objects should be kept a safe distance from the stovetop. Also be mindful of loose clothing, such as a scarf or tie, which could ignite over a flame.

  4. Ensure your smoke alarms are functional. Install a smoke alarm that is at least 10 feet away from your kitchen and use the test button to check it each month. Replace the battery at least once per year and never disable a smoke alarm. One shocking result of a recent insurance survey was that nearly 30 percent of consumers reported that they have intentionally disabled smoke alarms while cooking.