Make Safety a Tradition in Your Holiday Kitchen
BY STAFF REPORTS
For many families, the holiday season includes cooking or baking traditional foods in the kitchen. With a few simple safety steps, children can join in the fun and make memories for a lifetime.
“When kids are in the kitchen, supervision is key,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “Whether helping an adult cook or simply watching, children should always be in sight and in reach at all times.” If you will be busy with preparations, ask another adult or teenager to watch the children as they perform age-appropriate tasks.
Burns — from spills, steam, hot surfaces and flame — can be especially devastating injuries. Because young children have thinner skin than adults, they burn more severely and at lower temperatures. Scald burns from hot liquid or steam are the most common type of burns among children ages 4 and under. A child will suffer a full-thickness burn (third-degree burn) after just three seconds of exposure to 140-degree water.
Safe Kids Kansas recommends these precautions against kitchen burns:
• Keep within eyesight of a hot stove. Unattended food on the stove is the number one cause of home fires.
• Never hold a child while cooking or carrying hot items.
• Cook on back burners whenever possible, and turn all handles toward the back of the stove.
• Wear close-fitting clothing in the kitchen.
• Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables. Be especially careful around tablecloths — children can pull hot dishes down onto themselves.
• Tie up the electrical cords of small appliances. A toddler playing with a dangling cord can pull a toaster or microwave down from a countertop.
In addition to hot surfaces, hot liquids and sharp objects, the other major hazard in the kitchen is poison. Store potential hazards, such as cleaning products and alcohol (including many baking extracts), in locked cabinets out of reach. Also, install a carbon monoxide detector to alert everyone to get out of the house if there is a buildup of the odorless toxic gas given off by fuel-burning appliances.
Children who can follow directions may be ready to help out in the kitchen with tasks that do not involve knives, appliances, or heat. Some examples of child-friendly tasks include: tearing lettuce, rinsing fruits and vegetables under cold water, stirring ingredients in a bowl, using cookie cutters, measuring dry ingredients, or cutting soft fruits with a butter knife.
“You know your own children. Don’t give them knives or let them handle anything hot until you know they have the maturity and coordination to do it safely,” says Sage. “Some children mature faster than others, so it’s up to parents to use good judgment about each child’s capabilities.”
TOPEKA — The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us and Kansas families will be coming together for a time of celebration and thankfulness. The hours spent in the kitchen preparing turkey, mashed potatoes, pies and all the other fixings, however, comes with an increased risk for household fires. The Kansas Fire Marshal would like to remind Kansans of the importance of taking safety precautions to ensure a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.
Cooking is, and has long been, the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, and according to the records collected from reporting fire departments in Kansas, home cooking fires increase significantly around the times of major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Easter.
In 2014, Thanksgiving Day was the second busiest cooking fire day across the State of Kansas. Nationally, Thanksgiving was the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many fires occurring on this holiday as any average day of the year.
Overall, according to the Annual Report for the Kansas Fire Incident Reporting System, 28 percent of structure fires in 2014 started in the kitchen with a reported $4,263,469 in damage, three deaths, and 28 civilian injuries.
“With Thanksgiving being such a hectic holiday, with all the activity and guests in a home, it can be easy to get distracted and lose track of what is cooking in the oven and on the stovetop,” said Doug Jorgensen, Kansas Fire Marshal. “We encourage all Kansans to take common sense precautions to prevent a fire tragedy on their holiday.”
The Office of the State Fire Marshal recommends the following safety tips for cooking on Thanksgiving:
• Keep an eye on what you fry. Always stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Keep things that can catch fire such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains away from the cooking area.
• Be alert when cooking. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
• Consider installing an automatic suppression unit attached magnetically to stovetop hoods. Shaped like small tuna cans, these units automatically put out fires when flames reach the hood.
If you have a small (grease) cooking fire and decide to fight the fire:
• On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
• If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire: Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from outside the home.
The Kansas Fire Marshal also discourages the use of turkey fryers which can lead to devastating burns and the destruction of property due to the large amount and high temperature of oil used. Those who prefer fried turkey should look for grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkeys.
For more fire safety tips, visit the Website for the Office of the State Fire Marshal at firemarshal.ks.gov.