By Lois Kugler, American Red Cross
It‘s Thanksgiving morning and Rebecca Johnson, Regional Volunteer Service Officer for the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region is “up at the crack of crazy.” She gets up before anyone else when the house is still quiet and starts her cooking by preparing the stuffing. Rebecca has guests coming and likes to recruit them to help with the cooking because that is always fun and says, “The more hands the better.” This year her three-year-old granddaughter will be helping with the fresh cranberry sauce by mashing the cranberries with the potato masher. While Thanksgiving and the holidays bring much joy, it is also a stressful time and accidents happen when people feel pressured and are trying to do a lot at the same time. Rebecca cautions, “Plan ahead for your holiday cooking and your time in the kitchen. Don’t rush. Take your time. Make fewer side dishes. Keep it simple so that it is less stressful and you enjoy yourself more.”
The Red Cross wants to remind everyone about the importance of cooking safety because the majority of home fires start in the kitchen. The upcoming holidays place a huge emphasis on celebrating with family over a special meal and the Red Cross reminds everyone to be careful and heed cooking safety precautions. If you are heating up something very flammable such as oil or butter, keep a lid close by so that if something happens, you can easily smother it. If you are cooking, stay in your kitchen. When you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended and if you need to step away, turn off the stove.
It’s also important to keep flammable items away from heat sources. Potholders and towels should be kept away from the stove and avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves because they can catch fire quickly. Towels hanging on the oven door are also a fire hazard and are safer stored elsewhere. Even wooden cutting boards shouldn’t be placed right next to the stove.
Rebecca also suggests that before you take anything out of the oven, you should know exactly where you are going to put it. Where is the next pot going? Is there enough room on the counter for the turkey and the potatoes? Before you open the oven door to take something out it’s important to have oven mitts ready, check that everyone is out of the way and make sure you know where small children are. In addition, a small home fire extinguisher in the kitchen is the first line of defense and can prevent a small fire from turning into something much larger and it is important to install smoke alarms near the kitchen. When you have been cooking, check the kitchen before leaving the house or going to sleep and make sure that you have turned everything off.
As the holiday season gets underway, Rebecca emphasizes, “Be mindful. It’s important to focus on what you are doing in the moment. That way, you will avoid mistakes that can lead to accidents.” As you are getting ready to celebrate, protect your home and love ones from the possibility of a home fire by taking precautions when you are cooking. This is also a great time to talk to your friends and family about cooking and fire safety, for more information, visit redcross.org.
The holidays are about spending time with loved ones and the Red Cross wishes you a very safe and happy holiday season!