Tips for the most dangerous room in the house
Your kitchen is the heart of the your home, but it may also the most likely area for fire, electrical, or other hazards. If you've spent any time in the kitchen, you've probably burned, cut, or poisoned yourself. Because the potential for accidents abounds, the following
tips may help.
- Make sure you have a working smoke detector in your kitchen. Test it every month and replace it every 10 years.
- Never leave food being cooked unattended. How many times have you put something on, left the room, been sidetracked by the kids or a project, and realized only after the smoke detector goes off that you forgot what you put on the stove? Aside from wasting food and clouding the kitchen with smoke, you can melt pans and set fire to the house. If you need to run to the store for a missing ingredient, turn off the stove. If you're baking, wait until your dish is finished, then turn off the oven. Even if your oven has a nifty programmable timer that will start when you aren't home, use it with caution. Cooks like them; firemen don't.
- When cooking oil at high temps, give it your full attention. Grease, oils, and fats are the ignition point for most stove top fires. The hotter they get the more dangerous they become.
- Avoid loose clothing and flowing hair. Before the advent of modern ranges, one of the most common causes of death among women was having their clothes catch fire as they worked over an open fire or wood stove. The range may have changed but we are as likely to get burned as Great-Aunt Hattie. Loose clothing and hair is also a hazard near the garbage disposal.
- Keep a tested, UL-rated fire extinguisher close to the stove. Read the instructions and learn how to use it. Practice to make sure you can use it in a crunch. Test it every couple months to make sure it's still functional. (For a small pan fire, turn off the heat and cover the pan if possible. You can also smother a small fire with baking soda. Don't try to pick up the pan and never pour water into it!) See Fire Safety for more tips.
- Don't store food or tools where it is necessary to reach across the range to reach them. The exposure to heat and humidity is bad for food and presents a burn hazard to the cook. Steam is especially dangerous because when it's hottest
- Make sure the stove top is always clean and clear. Also, make sure oven vents are clear. Never leave wooden or plastic tools, dish towels, or other items on the stove top. If you turn on the wrong burner, you could easily melt something
or start of fire.
- NEVER put a glass casserole or lid on the stove or over a burner. If it gets hot and explodes, it will send shards of glass in all directions.
- Use potholders and oven mitts. Well insulated mitts and potholders will prevent burns IF they are dry. Get a dry one if the one you're using gets wet. Water conducts heat directly to your hand so you might as well not use one at
all if it's not dry. Ouch!
Garbage disposals and appliances
- Turn the power to the garbage disposal OFF before trying to get something out of it. In fact, get rid of the whole contraption and compost instead.
- Never overload circuits. One appliance per outlet is a good rule of thumb.
- GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruption) outlets should be installed near sinks or water sources.
- Repair or replace any appliance with faulty wiring or damaged cords.
- Keep your knives sharpened. They'll work more efficiently and you'll be less likely to cut yourself. If you drop a knife, stand back, and please, don't try to catch it.
- Use an appropriate cutting surface and always cut away from yourself.
- If you break something, dispose of the glass carefully. Clean up the large pieces, then sweep. Use a damp paper towel to do a second pass and clean up any small shards, then empty the garbage into the trash. Don't use a sponge or
dish rag that someone might get cut on later and remember, even a tiny shard left on the floor hurts like the dickens when you go to get a glass of water in the middle of the night.
- Keep a stocked first aid kit near the fire extinguisher.
- Take a Red Cross class and encourage family members to do the same.
- Keep ice in the fridge to cool burns.
- Grow and aloe vera plant on the window sill. A slit leaf is all you need for a small burn.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Food left at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees spoils quickly.
- Cook foods thoroughly. Partially cooked foods can be as dangerous as uncooked food.
- The old idea of letting food cool a bit before refrigerating is no longer necessary. New refrigerators go into overdrive to keep temperatures where you've set them, so food safety experts now advise storing immediately.
- Prevent cross contamination of foods. Never prepare raw meat where it can come into contact with cooked foods or raw vegetables like salad ingredients.
- Be scrupulously clean. Wash your hands thoroughly when handling food. If you use dish towels, use once if necessary, then launder in HOT water.
- Never prepare food directly on the countertop. Use cutting boards or plastic cutting mats and use different ones for preparing different types of foods.
- Wash down counters with a weak bleach solution to kill bacteria and germs. Just using hot water and soap, or wiping down with rubbing alcohol will not kill many germs or bacteria.
- Store raw meats in a pan so meat juices can't drip on other foods in the fridge. It's a good idea to cover stuff and not leave it open anyway. Who really wants their butter to taste like broccoli?
Safety in the kitchen starts with electrical capacity to carry the load. If you need to upgrade your kitchen electrical systems, find a licensed, qualified electrician through ContractorNexus