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an orchid flower is sitting on the kitchen counter. There's an island with a sink in the foreground, and a counter stovetop in the background with an exhaust hood over it

5 Ways to Serve Up Fire Safety in your Kitchen

Hello! My name is Nathan Hill, Fire Safety Coordinator / Infrastructure, from the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation. October 4 – 10, 2020 is Fire Safety week and this year’s campaign is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen”.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. I think I speak for most of us when I say we have been spending more time in the kitchen and less time in restaurants over the past few months. That is why I think there is no better time than the present to brush up on some Kitchen Safety tips so you can Serve Up Fire Safety in your own kitchen.

  1. Focus on the Food

The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is when cooking is left unattended. It is important to be present and aware at all times when cooking in the kitchen. It may be a meal that you have prepared dozens of times in the past. All it takes is your food to be left unattended for a few seconds for a fire to start. Set aside the time to prepare the entire meal from start to finish and try to limit multitasking as much as possible while the heat is on. Try to do as much preparation before starting the heat as you can. Ask a family member or friend to assist in the other preparation so you can focus on the cooking.

If you have an item on the stove or in the oven for a long period of time do not leave the item unattended or leave your home for any period of time. It may seem like nothing is happening but if there is heat there is still potential for a fire so stay present and stay aware at all times while in the kitchen.

  1. Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Smoke alarms are a very important and are often neglected when it comes to kitchen safety. From my experience in home inspections, smoke alarms are often removed due to false alarms or when someone (not pointing any fingers) burns the toast in the morning. Mistakes happen and new bread can be toasted.

It is very important not to remove smoke alarms from their installed location. Depending on the layout of your home you should have a smoke alarm installed on the same floor level as your kitchen, but you are typically not required to have an alarm installed inside the kitchen space. Smoke alarms can be hardwired, battery operated or hardwired with battery back up in case of a power outage.

Most smoke alarms have an expiration date listed on them when they are newly installed. Usually this date is 7 – 10 years after the alarm was manufactured. If your smoke alarms have passed this expiration date or are more than 10 years old it is time to have them replaced. Make sure the same style and type of alarms are installed in the same locations. If the alarms are hardwired make sure that new hardwired alarms are installed and not replaced with battery operated alarms. If you rent your home speak to your landlord regarding your alarms. I know false alarms can be annoying but smoke alarms remain a very vital aspect of kitchen and home safety. Do not forget that smoke alarms save lives.

  1. A Clean Kitchen is a Safe Kitchen

Kitchen fire safety always starts with a clean kitchen. Make sure dishes are washed, put away and off the counter before you start cooking. Make sure you have enough room around your stove top to cook safely. Try your best to keep your cooking area clean and clutter free. Keep any utensils and dishes clear from the cooking area so you have enough room to maneuver with hot items upon quick notice. Keep oven mitts close by when moving hot items. Keep all items that can burn away from the cooking surface such as dishtowels, combustible utensils or cutting boards. Try to use the correct cooking utensils so that food can be flipped / moved safely. Remember a Clean Kitchen is a Safe Kitchen.

  1. Put a Lid on it

In the event of a small grease fire contained within a cooking pot or frying pan, the best advice is to turn the heat off and literally put a lid on it. Keep a pot lid nearby while cooking that is large enough to cover the pot / pan that you are cooking with. Make sure the lid is made of metal as a glass lid will likely shatter when exposed to high temperatures.

Fires cannot exist without access to heat and oxygen. Turn the burner off but do not move the pan, this could cause the grease to splash, spread the fire or cause burns. If you smother the pot / pan and cut off the oxygen supply the fire will consume the existing oxygen and the fire will no longer survive. In no event should you use water to try to extinguish a grease fire. This will only cause the burning oil to splash and spread the fire further. In the event of a fire localized in your oven, turn the heat off and leave the oven door closed. Make sure everyone is out of the house and call the local fire department. Please use your best judgement in the event of a fire in your kitchen.

  1. Keep Kids Safe

A lot of people may want to teach their children a variety of cooking techniques in the kitchen while they are young. While this can be done it must be done safely. Start by teaching children basic meals and avoid overcomplicated dishes until they are more comfortable and experienced. Do not leave children unattended while cooking. Make sure any pot / pan handles are turned in over the stovetop and not sticking out so that they are out of the reach of very young and curious children. Try to keep any young children at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the stove while it is in use. 

Conclusion

Whether you are someone who has just started cooking or you’re a very experienced home cook, everyone should practice Fire Safety in the Kitchen. Try to practice these habits yourself to keep your kitchen safe.

I hope you have found these Fire Safety tips helpful and utilize these when in your home. There is no better time than the present to practice Fire Safe habits in and out of the kitchen.

Thanks for reading and stay safe.