Nutrition-wise blog

Prevent kitchen fires with these safety tips

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. October 30, 2013

Each year during fire prevention month, public service messages remind us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors and test our smoke alarms. But how many of us think about how to prevent kitchen fires?

More fires start in the kitchen than in any other part of the home. Here are some other little known facts about kitchen fires:

  • The leading cause of home fires is cooking.
  • One in 8 households will have a cooking fire each year.
  • Ranges and cooktops cause the most fires (more than grills, barbecues, rotisseries or ovens).
  • Ranges and ovens are responsible for the majority of cooking burns seen at emergency rooms.

So how can you prevent kitchen fires?

  • Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling. Turn off stove or broiler whenever you leave the kitchen.
  • If you're simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, set a timer to remind you to check it regularly. Don't leave the house and take the chance that you might forget about the food cooking in the kitchen.
  • Keep things that can catch fire, such as potholders, towels and food packages, away from heat. Also be sure to roll up your sleeves and tuck in your shirt.
  • Keep little ones safe. Enforce a kid-free zone of 3 feet around areas where hot food is prepared or served. Turn pot handles away from the stove edge, and when possible use the back burners. Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edge of the table or counter. Never lift or carry a child while holding hot food or liquid.

Everyone in your home who cooks needs to know what to do in case of a kitchen fire:

  • When in doubt, get everyone out! Close the door behind you. Call 911.
  • If a small grease fire starts and is confined to a pan on the stove, put on an oven mitt and smother the fire by sliding a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Don't move the pan and keep the lid on until the pan is cool.
  • In case of an oven or microwave fire, turn off the appliance and keep the door closed. Unplug the microwave if you can reach the outlet. Do not use the equipment again until it is certified safe.
  • If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands, and roll over and over — or back and forth — to put out the fire.
  • If you get a small burn, immediately put it under cool water for 3 to 5 minutes. If the burned area is bigger than a fist — or if you have any questions — seek medical attention right away.

Have you had a kitchen fire? Let's hear from you so we can learn what you're doing differently.


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Oct. 30, 2013