Serve Up Some Safety During Thanksgiving

Awareness is crucial because of the fire and shock dangers posed by unattended cooking, overloaded circuits, damaged cords and more.

November 21, 2013 | By Paul Netter

It’s Thanksgiving Day and the turkey is in the oven, traditional side dishes are simmering on the stovetop and appliances are scattered everywhere.

But you want to leave the kitchen unattended for a few minutes to check your email, get the laundry or check on the kids playing outside.

Don’t even think about doing it without first turning off the cooking equipment or appliances, says Larry Pena, manager of Corporate Safety Policy and Regulations at Southern California Edison (SCE).

“Cooking appliances can sometimes overheat and cause a fire,” said Pena. “By remaining in the cooking area, the user would be able to immediately turn the device off or unplug the appliance, completely eliminating a catastrophic event.”

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen, says the U.S. Fire Association (USFA). And cooking fires are three times more likely on Thanksgiving Day than any other day, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Electric ranges or stoves actually have a higher risk of fires, injuries and property damage, compared to gas ranges or stoves, but gas ranges or stoves have a higher risk of fire deaths, according to the NFPA.

Awareness is a key message around Thanksgiving since overloaded circuits and extension cords also are leading causes of electrical accidents and home fires during the holiday season, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International. Appliances with frayed or damage cords are dangerous too.

“Frayed or damaged cords no longer have the ability to protect the user from electrical shock or serious injury and should be replaced immediately,” Pena said. “A frayed cord can also be the source of a fire.”

About 2,000 fires occur yearly in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day, causing an average of five fatalities, 15 injuries and $21 million in property damage, the USFA says.

And if an electrical or grease fire occurs, never fight it with water. A fire extinguisher, Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed and rated for electrical fires and grease, is the best option.

And that UL mark is also very important on other items, such as appliances.

“With equipment, always look for something that has the UL listing,” said Pena. “It’s a nationally recognized independent laboratory that ensures product safety. So look for that first.”

Of course, since water and electricity don’t mix, all appliances should be located away from the sink, and countertop appliances should be plugged into Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlets.

“GFCI protection should be provided anywhere there is a receptacle installed in an area subject to moisture, as the presence of moisture greatly increases the danger of accidental shock,” Pena said.

Customers should also never use extension cords with large appliances, such as refrigerators and space heaters, since they generate increased heat in the cord, causing it to potentially overheat, melt or ignite.

To protect children, keep appliance cords out of their reach, keep pot handles turned inward on the range, keep kids at least three feet from the oven and keep the floor clear of items such as extension cords to prevent trips and falls.

“A lot of mishaps and injuries can be prevented simply by being aware and attentive,” said Pena. “We just want to make sure everyone is enjoying the holidays this season.”

Topics: Safety