Cooking for a family can sometimes feel like you’re producing, directing, and starring in your own three-part Hunger Games series that’s on constant repeat.
Cooking may be an art form, and eating can be a great source of pleasure, but there can also be a fair amount of drudgery in the day-to-day routine of basic nourishment. And unfortunately, drudgery welcomes distraction. The most sure-fire way for your daily Hunger Games routine to turn into a disaster is to leave the dinner on the stove unattended.
According to Fire & Rescue NSW, nearly half of all house fires start in the kitchen2, and the vast majority of those flare-ups result from unattended cooking. A key way to avoid this is to have an attentive and alert cook and minimise distraction. A few other precautions for kitchen fire safety that are recommended by government agencies3 and local fire brigades include:
- Keep tea towels and electrical leads away from stovetops.
- Cover fires in pots and pans with lids rather than trying to put it out with water or taking it outside.
- Don’t leave your cooking unattended. If you must leave the kitchen whilst cooking, turn off the hotplate/gas.
- Don’t wear clothes with loose fitting sleeves.
For extra precaution, you may want to consider the following:
1. Keep a Fire Extinguisher Handy
Consider buying a fire blanket and/or extinguisher and storing it near the kitchen where they will be easily accessible in an emergency. The Western Australia Department of Fire & Emergency Services recommends storing extinguishers and blankets somewhere adjacent to the kitchen. However don’t store them so close to a heat source (like the stove) that they themselves become a hazard.1
2. Keep Your Stove Clean
It is very important to clean your stove grill after each use and clean the range hood filter and all kitchen appliances regularly. Fires can be unpredictable, and grease build up on stovetops, countertops, and inside ovens is exactly the kind of fuel that will set a fire free from the confinement of the burners to roam all across the range and beyond. So it’s very important to keep stovetops, ovens, and exhaust hoods clean and free from grease, and food build-up.
3. Always Supervise Kids in the Kitchen
Some children just love to help with the cooking. Some are just curious to see what all the fuss is about. And some are busy chasing daydreams in imaginary dimensions that sometime happen to overlap with kitchen space. For whatever reason children are present while you are cooking, precautions should be in place to ensure their safety. Pots and pans should always have their handles turned inwards to prevent a small child from reaching up and dumping the hot contents onto themselves. Depending on the child, it may also be wise to restrict their proximity to the hot stove.
4. Have an established Fire Escape Plan in place
There is only one kind of fire emergency; the unexpected kind. While we do the best we can to plan and prevent, fire has the annoying tendency to show up uninvited and unannounced. And since hoping for the best is no kind of fire prevention strategy, fire prevention, safety, and escape plans must be established in advance. Devising such a plan should involve the entire household. Everyone should familiarise themselves with the living space, and identify two ways to safely escape from every room, then share and discuss that knowledge with one another.
An effective fire escape plan should deliver everyone to a predetermined rally point at a safe distance outside the building within thirty seconds. NSW Fire & Rescue recommends performing drills with fire escape plans at least twice per year. The detailed information on how to create your home fire escape plan can be found here. You can also download the empty grid and draw your own home fire escape plan.
5. Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan. A working smoke alarm can save lives. According to the Queensland Government, homes without smoke alarms in your home, your risk of death from a house fire is up to 3 times higher. In Queensland, about three-quarters of all home fire deaths happen in homes without smoke alarms.3
Photoelectric alarms are best for areas near to kitchen. These alarms are generally more effective than normal ionisation types because they work by detecting the visible particles of combustion. These alarms are not as prone to false alarms from cooking etc.
In case the worst does happen, make sure you have a right Home and Contents insurance policy in place. Not having the right kind of cover can leave you in a financially vulnerable position.