Since the pandemic began, trends showed an increased interest in food production among all ages from gardening to canning and cooking.
Unfortunately, cooking is the number one cause of home fires and injuries, which is why the National Fire Protection Association focused its 2020 National Fire Prevention week on cooking safety and preventing kitchen home fires.
Jana Davidson is an education content specialist with the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. She said kitchens are bustling with activity as many kids are eating at home, and that may be true for major meals this holiday season as well.
“Families may not be traveling like they did in years past due to COVID-19, and some of the restrictions might bring new family traditions including kids helping in the kitchen,” Davidson said.
Davidson shared four key tips to serve up fire safety in the kitchen. The first is to stay focused on food.
“There is the saying that a watched pot never cooks, but you need to be standing close by,” Davidson said. “Whether you are frying, boiling, or grilling food, we have the tendency to get busy and distracted. Cooing really does require your full attention.”
She recommended turning off a burner before leaving the kitchen or asking someone to help if necessary.
Her second tip: put a lid on it. Keeping a lid nearby when cooking can help put out a small grease fire, especially since water can help a grease fire spread.
“You can simply place that lid over the pan and turn off the burner,” Davidson said. “Then leave that pan covered until it is cooled. That’s really going to help the fire from spreading and causing more damage.”
Davidson added baking soda can also help put out a grease fire.
Third, keep the cooking area clear.
“The less clutter the better,” Davidson said. “We all know our kitchens. It is where our families gather. That is sometimes where we are reviewing homework and making snacks. Sometimes, clutter tends to become something big in the kitchen. We want to keep it clean and give your cooking appliances plenty of space, even if it is items like oven mitts, utensils, and food wrappers.”
Such items could catch fire when too close to stovetops.
Lastly, she suggested ways to prevent scalds and burns such as avoiding hot steam and turning pot handles away from the stove’s edge. Hot foods and liquids should also be away from the table and counter edges.
“You can have a little one that might be going by and if that handle is sticking out, they might reach up and pour some hot water or hot food on top of them, or even you could do that yourself,” Davidson said. “I know many times I’ve had my clothing snag on a pot. It can happen in the blink of an eye.”
Preparation for any worst-case scenario is key, including knowing how to escape a fire. Families should have a fire escape plan with a designated meeting spot and practice it just like a drill in school. Additionally, children can practice the stop, drop, and roll technique.
As Daylight Saving Time draws near, the date can serve as a reminder to check smoke detector batteries and make sure detectors are installed around the home.
“Obviously, we think about our kitchen, but it really should be around the bedroom because that is where you are going to want to be alerted, especially if you are sleeping,” Davidson said.
Such techniques are part of the lessons taught at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days throughout North America. In 2019, more than 48,000 participants were reached with hands-on education about fire safety, including how to properly store and use a fire extinguisher.
“We actually hear of success stories,” Davidson said “In one case, a neighbor’s house was on fire, and the adults were looking at each other wondering what to do. The child went into his house, grabbed a fire extinguisher that was in the kitchen, and helped put out the fire. We know these strategies are working.”
Although Progressive Agriculture Safety Days were mostly canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, the nonprofit is still accepting applications for 2021 Safety Days. Davidson said they hope to be back in person, but they still are creating digital and virtual resources. Training to host a safety day is offered online and can be completed at a volunteer’s convenience.