Recipe for Success: Oct. 8-14 is National Fire Prevention Week (FPW)
PW 2023: “Cooking Safety Starts With YOU: Pay Attention to Fire Prevention!”
What should be the first step in serving up a delicious meal? Not the recipe (although we've got plenty of tasty ones for you this month!)...the first ingredient in any meal is fire safety in the kitchen! There’s nothing like spending time in the kitchen cooking a delicious meal for family and friends or an appetizing treat for yourself. But do you know the important steps to take long before anyone takes the first bite?
It may sound like a no-brainer...but did you know that cooking is the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, and that unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen? According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), almost half (49%) of all home fires involving cooking equipment. Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires and related deaths. In addition, NFPA data shows that cooking is the only major cause of fire that resulted in more fires and fire deaths in 2014-2018 than in 1980-1984.
“These numbers tell us that more public awareness is needed around when and where cooking hazards exist, along with ways to prevent them. We know cooking fires can be prevented,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice-president of outreach and advocacy. “Staying in the kitchen, using a timer, and avoiding distractions such as electronics or TV are steps everyone can take to keep families safe in their homes.”
This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Cooking Safety Starts With YOU: Pay Attention to Fire Prevention” works to educate everyone about the simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves, and those around them, safe in the kitchen. The NFPA and FPW offer these tips for keeping your kitchen cooking safe.
🔥 Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
🔥 If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, or making something with an extended cook time, check it regularly, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
🔥 Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner.
🔥 Clear the cooking area of combustible items and keep anything that can burn, such as dish towels, oven mitts, food packaging, and paper towels.
🔥 You have to be alert when cooking. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.
🔥 Always keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner, and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.
🔥 Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
If you'd like to learn more about fire safety and prevention or FPW 2023, or want to download safety tip sheets, kids' games and activities, or lesson plans for Cooking Safety, visit the NFPA's Fire Prevention Week Toolkit.
Download and print our FPW 2023 infographic below for a quick guide to kitchen and cooking fire prevention tips. Then, read on for additional tips from the NFPA on fire safety for your home and family.
Be Safe and Smart: Additional Tips
According to NFPA statistics, in 2017 U.S. fire departments responded to 357,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,630 fire deaths and 10,600 fire injuries. On average, seven people died in a fire in a home per day during 2012 to 2016. In fact, the majority of U.S. fire deaths (four out of five) occur at home each year, and the fire death rate (per 1000 home fires reported to the fire department) was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.
“These numbers show that home fires continue to pose a significant threat to safety,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out.”
A fire at home can start for many reasons—candles, cooking, electrical issues, heating, and smoking materials—to name a few. Because the causes are myriad, practicing fire prevention can keep you and your family safe. Fire Prevention Week is the perfect time to brush up on prevention tactics and prepare your family in case disaster strikes.
Here are a few additional tips to consider during this very important home safety week—and all year long.
5 First and Foremosts
1. First and foremost, install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home–including the basement. Three out of five home fire fatalities happen in homes with no or non-working smoke alarms.
2. Next, identify potential fire hazards. Do you have frayed or exposed electrical wires? Are space heaters located near curtains or other flammable materials? Fix what you can and know where other potential dangers lie.
3. Install fire safety windows and doors. If that is not an option, use fire retardant products to fire proof windows and doors. This slows down the fire and helps prevent it from spreading.
4. Plan and practice an escape route. Determine at least two ways to escape from your home and select a location outside for everyone to meet. Also, plan what to do with family pets and know who to call for emergency assistance.
5. Many children are not aware of potential fire hazards. Check out these fire prevention tips for kids to ensure proper fire safety and prevention is practiced by the entire family.
Remember the 3 L's
🔥“LOOK” for places fire could start. Take a good look around your home. Identify potential fire hazards and take care of them.
🔥 “LISTEN” for the sound of the smoke alarm. You could have only minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Go to your outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance from the home and where everyone should know to meet.
🔥“LEARN” two ways out of every room and make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.
Develop an Escape Plan
A solid fire escape plan is one of the cornerstones of your family's home safety tool kit. It should include working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole, or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home.
Ready to get started? Visit the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) website and download their handy home escape plan grid. The planning grid is also available in Spanish.
NFPA offers these additional tips and recommendations for developing and practicing a home escape plan:
🔥 Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
🔥 Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
🔥 Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound.
🔥 Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
🔥 Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, including guests and pets. Make sure your home escape plan meets the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
🔥 Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
🔥 Close doors behind you as you leave if you can — this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
🔥 Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone should meet.
🔥 Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
Know the Sounds of SafetyOne of the key components in home safety--and the trigger for those fire safety plans you've been developing, is your alarm system. That system is made up of both your carbon monoxide (CO) detector, as well as your smoke detector.
What's the difference between the two alarms? Do you really need both? The answer is, in short, yes.
Remember--once a fire starts, you may have very little time to get yourself and your family out. Because smoke detectors can sense smoke long before we can, they are essential to alerting us to danger. They should be placed in every bedroom, outside of the sleeping areas (like a hallway), and on each level (including the basement). Smoke alarms should not be placed in your kitchen or bathroom (where they could be erroneously triggered).
When looking for a smoke detector, you can choose one that has replaceable batteries you swap out every year, or a 10-year unit that lasts for a decade, and then needs to be replaced. Both provide protection, provided you choose an alarm that is listed with a testing laboratory, meaning it has met certain standards for protection.
Carbon monoxide detectors are not looking for smoke, but rather CO—an odorless, colorless gas that displaces oxygen in your body and brain. Because it is not something we can detect with our own senses, CO can render you unconscious before you even realize something is wrong. Unconscious, and without oxygen, you are at risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning in a short time. CO alarms throughout the home and garage detect the presence of this gas and alert you so you can get out, call 9-1-1, and let the professionals check your home.
As you would with a smoke alarm, be sure to choose a CO detectors that is listed with a testing laboratory. Also make sure to select a unit with a battery backup if it is an outlet or hardwired unit.
According to the NFPA, some of the best protection comes if you use combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. These can be installed by a qualified electrician, so that when one sounds, they all sound. This ensures you can hear the alarm no matter where in your home the alarm originates.
Knowing what the different alarms mean, and what actions you should take when you hear an alarm can help keep you and your family safe.
“It’s important to learn the different sounds of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. What is a 'beep'; what is a 'chirp'? What do the sounds mean? When an alarm makes noise—a beeping sound or a chirping sound—action is needed.” says Carli.
But what action do you need to take for which sounds? Do you know what to do and when? “Make sure everyone in the home understands the sounds of the alarms and knows how to respond," says Carli. "Knowing the difference [in the sounds] can save you, your home, and your family," she continues. "To learn the sounds of your specific smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, check the manufacturer’s instructions that came in the box, or search the brand and model online.”
You may ask, “What if someone in my home is deaf or hard of hearing? How will they know if an alarm is sounding?” For deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, there are smoke alarms and alert devices that include other notifications, such as strobe lights that flash to alert people when the smoke alarm sounds, says the NFPA. Pillow or bed shakers designed to work with your smoke alarm also can be purchased and installed. The NFPA has a great resource sheet to learn more about fire safety for the deaf and hard of hearing.
The NFPA and FPW offer these additional tips for detector maintenance and interpretation:
🔥 A continuous set of three loud beeps—beep, beep, beep—means smoke or fire. Get out, call 9-1-1, and stay out.
🔥 A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.
🔥 All smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years.
🔥 Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.
🔥 Make sure your smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
The National Fire Protection Association is the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week, which is held every year the week of October 9 (the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire). To learn more about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign and find other home fire safety tips, visit firepreventionweek.org.