Imagine this scenario: You are in your home laughing with your loved ones on this day of thanks. You are so grateful to be in their company and love seeing the similes on their faces once dinner commences. There is an air of togetherness and happiness as the nostalgia begins to enter the room. Then everything changes. The next thing you smell is smoke. There is a black cloud pouring from the kitchen, yet you cannot find where it is coming from. The fire begins to gain momentum and spreads into your living room where the dinner table is set. The heat is so oppressive that you cannot breathe. You wonder where everyone is…‘We have to get out!’ you scream. Please let everyone be safe…
This is an all too common scenario for families on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, 69 percent of fires occur as a result of cooking on this day of thanks. In a Red Cross and National Fire Protection Association study, results showed that 37 percent of people admitted to disabling a smoke detector when it was activated unexpectedly.
The Chicago Red Cross hopes to help families prevent Thanksgiving Day fires by offering ten fire safety tips:
1. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
2. If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
3. Be alert. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.
4. Keep anything that can catch fire—potholders, wooden utensils, food wrappers, towels or curtains—away from your stove top.
5. Make sure your sleeves are out of the way when cooking. Wear tighter fitting clothing with shorter sleeves.
6. Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
7. Never hold a child while cooking, drinking or carrying hot foods or liquids.
8. Turn the handles of pots and pans on the stove inward to avoid accidents.
9. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
10. Test your smoke alarms by pushing the test button. Replace batteries at least once a year.
In addition to preventing cooking fires, families can stay safe all year by following these additional tips:
• Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Talk to children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
• Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button.
• At least once a year, replace the batteries in your smoke alarms; every 10 years, replace the entire smoke alarm.
Make a Fire Escape Plan
• Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home.
• Decide where you will meet outside in case of fire.
• Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Practice waking up to smoke alarms, low crawling and meeting outside. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
• Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.