Keep kitchen fires at bay this holiday season through simple steps.
By BreAnn Stephenson
There’s a lot of preparation that goes into having people over for a meal. Especially holiday meals. But how many people are aware of the increased fire risk on these feast days? And even if they are aware, what are they most focused on? Having everything ready by the time Aunt Shirley and Uncle Roy show up of course. Moments filled with hugs and warm hellos can open the door to a kitchen fire. Because your tenant chefs can get distracted (just like the rest of us), it’s important to help set them up for safety way before Turkey Day arrives.
How is holiday cooking different?
Did you know these stats about cooking fires?
- Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
- Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries.
- Two-thirds of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.
- Ranges or cooktops account for the majority of home cooking fire incidents. (e.g. Rather than the oven.)
- Unattended equipment is a factor in one third of reported home cooking fires and half of the associated deaths.
- Frying dominates the cooking fire problem.
*Based on 2010-2014 annual averages reported by the National Fire Protection Association
What can you do to make a difference this holiday season?
REGULAR MAINTENANCE & INSPECTIONS
One of the simplest practices to ensure your property is always a safe living space is to perform regular inspections. These are easier if you or your property manager have already established a good working relationship with your tenants. Be sure to follow any local laws regarding proper notice, but don’t shy away from “invading” your tenants’ space. It is the only way to truly see if your property is being kept in good condition, and inspections also give you an opportunity to make sure there aren’t any maintenance items that your tenant hasn’t already reported to you.
ALARMS & FIRE SUPPRESSION TOOLS
Smoke and CO detectors – I cannot overstate the importance of having both of these items in constant working order in your rentals. Working smoke detectors cut home fire deaths in half. (National Fire Protection Association) Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are also key because of the nature of CO’s properties. It is often known as the silent killer because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Installing interconnected alarms is recommended by the NFPA because when one alarm sounds, they all sound, alerting the occupants no matter where they are located in the house.
Detectors should be tested monthly and standard batteries should be changed at least twice a year – Daylight Savings is a good time to do this. Some newer alarms come with five or 10-year batteries, but they still need to be tested regularly. The detectors themselves will also need to be changed out periodically – the typical life of a detector is 10 years. Smoke and CO detectors are often required by city code, so be sure you are following any local guidelines too.
Fire extinguishers – Fire extinguishers can help put out small fires before they become uncontrollable, so providing them in your rentals is a must. Just be sure that your tenants are educated on how to properly use them prior to moving in! There are five classes of extinguishers, but ABC or BC are multi-purpose and can put out a variety of fires, so they may be the best choice for this application.
Fire Extinguisher Classes:
- A: ORDINARY MATERIALS – WOOD & PAPER
- B: FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS
- C: ELECTRICAL FIRES
- D: METALS
- K: COOKING OILS
StoveTop FireStop – This inexpensive fire suppression device can help put out a stove top fire before the cook has time to grab a lid or standard extinguisher. StoveTop FireStop products are positioned above the stove and the flames activate a small fuse on the bottom of the container, which then releases extinguishing powder down onto the stove. There is also a loud “pop” when the container opens which can alert the distracted cook so they can return to the kitchen to turn off the burners. You can learn more about StoveTop FireStop HERE.
FIRE ESCAPE PLANS & PRACTICE DRILLS
You know the floor plan of your property better than anyone. You probably looked at it pretty carefully before your purchase. Share what you know with your tenants. Identify two escape routes out of each room, if possible, and advise your tenants to keep these escape routes unblocked when they are considering where to place furniture. They may roll their eyes at your “Safety Sam” ways, but this advice may save their life!
No one expects you to be there to run fire drills for your tenants, but you can lead them to information about fire escape planning for their safety and the safety of your property. The NFPA has all kinds of resources on their website. Click HERE for their page on Basic Fire Escape Planning.
10 cooking safety tips to share with your tenants
As previously mentioned, the peak day for cooking fires each year is Thanksgiving Day. For this reason, it’s important that your tenant chefs are in a “state of readiness” for the holidays. Here are 10 tips to share with your tenants so they can enjoy a turkey-licious fire-free feast.
- TEST YOUR SMOKE ALARMS TO BE SURE THEY ARE WORKING before guests arrive.
- STAY IN THE HOME when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
- STAY IN THE KITCHEN when you are cooking on the stove top so you can keep an eye on the food.
- USE A TIMER TO HELP YOU MULTI-TASK. Thanksgiving equals multiple dishes cooked at once – a lot to keep track of!
- ASK A RELIABLE “SOUS CHEF” TO HELP YOU IN THE KITCHEN. Four eyes are better than two.
- KEEP OVEN MITTS, WOODEN UTENSILS & OTHER FLAMMABLE ITEMS AWAY FROM THE STOVETOP.
- KEEP THE FLOOR CLEAR so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
- KEEP KIDS AWAY FROM FIRE HAZARDS & OTHER DANGEROUS ITEMS:
- The stove – 3 feet or more from that hot oven is a good rule of thumb.
- Hot food & liquids – you don’t want burns from steam or the splash of vegetables, gravy or coffee.
- Knives – any pointy object perfect for sword fighting should be off limits.
- Electric Cords – you don’t want them pulling an electric knife, coffee maker or plate warmer down from the counter.
- Matches and lighters – these should be kept up high in a locked cabinet.
- Candles – never leave a child alone in a room with a lit candle.
- KEEP A LID OR COOKIE SHEET CLOSE BY IN CASE A SMALL FIRE STARTS. You can smother the flames by sliding them over the pan and turning off the burner.
- FIRES CAN SPREAD QUICKLY, SO WHEN IN DOUBT, JUST GET OUT! When you leave, close the door behind you, get to a safe location and call 9-1-1.