There are plenty of things that can go wrong with Thanksgiving dinner — with a little luck and some good advice, the worst crisis the cook will face on turkey day will be lumpy gravy.
Thanksgiving shopping list: turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, green beans, pumpkin pie, eggnog. And don't forget batteries for your smoke detectors, says Fire Chief Albert Melillo of the Golden's Bridge Fire Department. It's advice, he said, everyone should heed — because Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for household fires associated with cooking and cooking appliances and equipment, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
"Thanksgiving dinner starts in the kitchen, but, unfortunately, so do accidents that could lead to fire and injury. It takes just one careless mistake to turn your holiday into a nightmare, but there are some simple and practical safety measures that could help keep your turkey – and more importantly, your home – from going up in smoke," Melillo said.
He warns about a "multitude of distractions" that can compete for attention when preparing a Thanksgiving feast.
"The NFPA says that unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties. Therefore, you should never leave an active stovetop or oven unattended," Melillo said. "If you're tempted to join the conversation and festivities in another room, be sure to turn off the range. Leaving a boiling or simmering pot unattended to search for a baking pan in a basement storage closet, or to take a glimpse of the Thanksgiving Day Parade on the family room TV, could be a recipe for disaster."
He offered some safety guidelines based on NFPA recommendations and the emergency response experiences of Golden's Bridge firefighters:
• Use the "test" button on smoke alarms to make sure the devices are functioning properly.
• To minimize the occurrence of a mishap, such as a small grease fire, never leave the kitchen when you're frying, boiling, simmering, grilling, baking, roasting or broiling food. If you forget a grocery item, turn off the stove and oven before leaving your home – or better yet, ask one of your guests to pick it up on their way to your house.
• Keep anything that can catch fire – for example, oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, dish towels, and curtains – away from the stovetop.
• Keep the electric cords of appliances – such as plate warmers, mixers, an electric carving knife, and coffee makers – from dangling off counters.
• Establish a kid and pet-free zone of three feet or more around the stovetop, oven and other areas where hot food and liquid is being stirred or carried – as steaming and splashing from things like vegetable and gravy pots could cause serious burns.
• Keep young children out of the kitchen altogether by setting up puzzles, games and activity books in another room.
• Always extinguish decorative and scented candles when no one is in the room.
• If a fire does break out in your kitchen, evacuate everyone from the house and call 9-1-1 from a cell phone outside your home.
"The NFPA says that more than half of non-fatal injuries occur when people attempt to control a kitchen fire themselves," the Golden's Bridge Fire Chief said. "While it's prudent to have a fire extinguisher on hand that is rated for fires involving flammable liquids – such as kitchen grease – even a small grease fire can quickly escalate, so it's important to immediately call 9-1-1."
"Don't be embarrassed, don't feel like you're bothering us. Golden's Bridge firefighters are here to help you," Melillo added. "But being cognizant of fire prevention goes a long way to a safe Thanksgiving and holiday season."
For additional information on Thanksgiving and cooking safety, the fire chief recommends going to the National Fire Protection Association website at nfpa.org.