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Learning how to cook something crazy good can be fun and exciting, especially if what you’re cooking turns out perfect the first time or at the very least edible. There is no question the kitchen can be a thrilling place to create scrumptious appetizers, entrees and desserts with all kinds of ingredients. It can also be a dangerous place, if safety precautions are not put in place and followed. After all, sharp objects, heavy equipment and stoves that breathe fire are housed there. There’s no doubt kitchen safety is important.

Smoke Detector

Susan McKelvey, Communications Manager with the National Fire Protection Association, the leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical and related hazards talks about fire safety.

Courtesy NFPA

 “Your first line of defense in a home fire is working smoke alarms. NFPA requires at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home, in each bedroom and near all sleeping areas. For the best protection of all, they should be combination smoke alarms (ones that include ionization and photoelectric detection) and interconnected, so that when one alarm sounds they all do. It’s important to note that smoke alarms should not be installed in the kitchen, as the close proximity to cooking equipment would trigger false/nuisance alarms. As a result, NFPA requires that smoke alarms be installed at least 10 feet away from the cooking area.”

What is the number one tool a beginner cook should have in the kitchen as it relates to fire safety?

Always make sure you have oven mitts that are in good condition, which can help prevent burns when touching pot handles and taking food out of the oven.

What advice would you give to a beginner cook about fire safety in the kitchen?

As basic as it sounds, simply recognizing that cooking presents potential fire hazards is the first step toward safety in the kitchen. Knowing when and where cooking fires most likely happen, including times when people aren’t keeping a close eye on what they’re cooking or leave the kitchen, can help young cooks avoid those mistakes. Also, avoid cooking when you’re tired or your judgement may be impaired by alcohol or other substances.

Where your audience is younger cooks, it’s important to note that people ages 20 to 34 were at the highest risk of non-fatal cooking injuries.

What is the number one cause of house fires in the U.S.? 

Cooking equipment is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire injuries; nearly half (49%) of all home fires are caused by cooking.

What is the main reason for house fires that start in the kitchen? 

Unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of cooking fires, with frying dominating the home cooking fire problem.

What is the best way to prevent a fire in the kitchen? 

Here are some of NFPA’s leading tips for keeping safe in the kitchen:

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains away from your stovetop.
  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.

What is the best way to put out a grease fire?

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.

How important is it to have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen?

Fire extinguishers can be very effective tools for fighting small, containable fires. However, we don’t proactively advocate their use for several reasons: You need the right type of extinguisher for the fire you’re trying to fight. In a fire situation, when people are likely scared or nervous, it may be difficult to determine if the fire they’re experiencing can be effectively put out with the type of fire extinguisher they have at their disposal. You also need to know how to use an extinguisher properly, which takes training and practice. In fact, if used improperly, an extinguisher can actually spread the fire and make matters worse; this is particularly true with grease pan fires.  In addition, you need to have the wherewithal to fight the fire from an angle that ensures that you and anyone else in your home can safely escape to the outside if needed. (In other words, you don’t want to fight the fire at an angle that may push you into a situation that limits or eliminates your ability to access an exit.)

At NFPA, our priority is people’s safety. In a fire situation, we strongly encourage people to get out of their homes quickly and safely, and to call the local fire department immediately once outside.



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