More home-cooking accidents and injuries happen on Thanksgiving Day than on any other day of the year, including burns from hot stoves and oil, grease fires, slips, falls and food poisoning. Photo by RODNAE Productions.
Thanksgiving should be a happy and festive time of the year for all of us, a special time when we can reconnect with family members and friends and make new memories while enjoying a bountiful meal together, all under the same roof.
But statistically, Thanksgiving Day has been one of the most dangerous days of the year for some homeowners, so it’s much better to err on the side of caution when planning your Holiday gatherings. Follow these helpful home tips to keep your family and guests safe this Thanksgiving, and throughout the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!
1. Plan Your Guest's Parking Spaces Ahead of Time
The perfect Thanksgiving Day begins in your driveway. Make sure you plan carefully where your guests are going to park, and let them know ahead of time where it is. If your neighbors are away, ask them if your Thanksgiving day guests can park in their driveway, it’s safer for your company and will look like people are home at their house, too. If your holiday guests have to park by the road, try to keep them as far away from the traffic as possible and not block the street.
And make sure the pathways and sidewalks leading to your home are well lit and clutter free. Because clock’s are still set back an hour from daylight savings time it will probably be dark when most of your guests are leaving.
2. Keep Your Home Clutter Free
Any time a lot of people gather at your house, the chances of someone having an accident obviously increases. So before your holiday guests arrive make sure your home is as clean and clutter-free as possible. Pick up any kids toys or anything else that your guests could trip over, including any loose carpeting or throw rugs and area rugs (or secure loose rugs with a durable double-sided carpet tape, or caulk them to the floor), and keep your rooms and hallways well lit. And if some of your guests are bringing small children, be sure to remove any choking hazards that they might find in your home.
3. Prevent Kitchen Fires and Other Accidents
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, at more than three times the normal daily average for kitchen fires. Cooking causes half (49%) of all reported home fires and unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires and fire deaths, by far. And there will always be something boiling or starting to burn and smoke in the oven.
When there’s a lot people and activity at home during the Holidays, follow these top safety tips from the NFPA:
• Keep an eye on your food. When you are cooking on the stove top stay in the kitchen. Use timers to keep track of cooking times.
• When cooking the turkey, don’t leave your house and check it frequently.
• Keep anything that could catch fire (oven mitts, towels, wooden utensils, food wrappers…) at least three feet away from the cooking area and don’t wear long sleeves or hanging fabric that could touch a heat source.
• Keep kids at least 3 feet away from the stove, hot food and hot liquids, at all times.
• Keep knives out of the reach of the children.
• Make sure there are no dangling electric cords from electric knives or kitchen appliances, including any plate warmers or kitchen buffet stations.
• Keep lighters and matches in a high, locked cabinet and away from children.
• Keep children away from lit candles.
• Test all of your home’s smoke alarms and be sure they are working.
• Always have a working fire extinguisher nearby, and know how to use it.
If you do have a small kitchen fire, know in advance how you are going to respond. If you have a grease fire don’t use water, it will spread, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher to put out a grease fire. And always cook with a lid near your pans on the stove top. If you have a pan fire, quickly put the the lid over the pan and turn off the burner, and don’t remove it until you are positive the pan is cool. If anything catches on fire in the oven, keep the door closed and turn off the heat. Don’t open the door again until it has cooled, letting fresh air into a hot over can reignite the flames.
4. Test ALL of Your Home's Smoke Alarms
Smoke detectors will alarm everyone in your house if a fire could or is occurring, but only if they’re working. Before your guests arrive on Thanksgiving Day be sure to test all of the smoke detectors in your home. To test a smoke alarm, just press the test button. If it beeps, it’s are good to go, if any of them don’t beep, replace the batteries. Even smoke detectors that are hard wired to your home’s electrical system have battery backups, (usually 9-volt), so make sure the batteries are all still in place.
5. Avoid Food Poisoning
Don’t disregard the possibility of food poisoning, especially when it comes to raw poultry and produce. Remember to practice proper hygiene when cooking – wash your hands before, during and after preparing foods, thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables, and make sure all of your prepping and cooking surfaces, dishes and utensils are clean. If you’re too busy to keep your home sparkling clean, consider hiring a professional house cleaning service.
To check your turkey for doneness, make sure you use a reliable food thermometer to determine when your turkey is fully cooked. The best place to check the temperature of a turkey is in the meatiest part of the thigh, but without touching the thigh bone. Butterball suggests the final cooking temperatures for turkey sections are as follows:
Make sure these areas of the turkey are at the correct temperatures:
• 180°F in thigh
• 170°F in breast
• 165°F in stuffing
Also, to help prevent any airborne bacteria from contaminating your food try not to leave any buffet-type foods out in the open and uncovered for too long. Don’t leave the turkey on the table for too long, either. Even cooked meat shouldn’t be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
6. Don’t Pour Grease Into the Sink
It’s tempting to pour that small amount of grease down the sink when cooking, we know, but just a small amount of grease and liquid fats are harmful to your drain pipes. When fats and grease solidify they can easily clog your drains and the plumbing under your sink, as well as the drain pipes under the house, and no one wants to deal with going under the sink to unclog a drain during Thanksgiving. Instead, pour that that bacon or other grease into a used tin can or other melt-proof container and let it harden before discarding.
7. Change Your Air Filters
You should be checking your home’s air filters every month to make they’re not clogged and re-circulating the dirty, dusty air around your home. You’ll want the air in your house to be as clean as possible for when your holiday guests arrive, so if you haven’t done so yet, have your HVAC unit inspected before winter sets in. You’ll not only breathe cleaner air, you’ll also be saving money on your energy bills because your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard.
If you are renting your home and you do not own or maintain the HVAC system, check with your landlord and ask when was the last time the system had been serviced.
8. Don’t Crank Up Your Air Conditioner
When your home is full of family and friends during the holidays, the air temperature inside your home can rise. Having the stovetops and hot oven on for hours to fully cook a turkey doesn’t help, either. To help prevent problems your home’s HVAC system, drop the thermostat temperature down two or three degrees a few hours before your guests show up, and lower it again by two or three degrees at a time about every two hours. This way your home will be very comfortable at dinner time and lessen the strain on your HVAC system..
9. Don’t Overload Electrical Outlets
When your house is full of holiday guests, and they’re all either packed into one room watching football games waiting for Thanksgiving dinner, or on their cell phones looking for Black Friday deals on your home’s wifi, too many devices plugged into one outlet can cause a circuit breaker to trip off, and can be a fire hazard. Your home might even have a bad socket, or there could be a loose wire in an electrical outlet that you are not aware of. Make sure you have surge protectors for every outlet in the rooms your guests will be using the most, and try not to crowd or overload any one outlet.
Fire hazards from overloaded electrical outlets are a real danger, and it’s amplified on holidays when there are many people using a lot of devices. If you live in an old house, consider having your home’s electrical system and wiring inspected for potential electrical problems.
10. Avoid Open Flames, Use Electric Candles
It’s nice to have windows and tables decorated with pretty candles during the holiday season, but they also prevent a high risk of a potential fire. Three of every five (60%) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left to, or came too close to, the candle. If you insist on using real candles with real flames, make sure they are burning well clear any decorations, window curtains, or anything else the flame could come into contact with, and blow them out when you leave the room.
Never let a candle burn down too low, and always keep children away from candles and any open flame. For a piece of mind, why not just forgo wax candles this holiday season and use electric candles instead. Most electric candles look realistic these days, and they add the same atmosphere and ambience to your home, without the risk of a real flame.
11. Protect Your Pets
House pets are part of the family too, and we all want our dogs, cats, birds and everyone else to celebrate the holidays with us, and even though it’s tempting, you should avoid giving your pets table scraps. Many veterinarians recommend not feeding pets turkey, because even a small amount of turkey fat can cause pancreatitis, a life threatening condition for pets. Some breeds of small dogs and older, overweight animals are at a higher risk of developing pancreatitis.
According to the American Kennel Club, your dog can eat pure, cooked lean turkey meat but avoid feeding them the skin, bones or the seasonings that are added to the turkey. Cooked poultry bones are very brittle and will splinter, they are very dangerous for any pet. As always, consult your veterinarian before adding anything new to your dog’s diet.
12. Deep Fry Your Turkey Outside and Away From the Home
One popular way to cook a Thanksgiving turkey is by deep frying it. Not only does a deep-fried turkey cook quicker than it will in an oven (a 20 pound turkey can cook in as little as an hour), deep fried turkeys are delicious when cooked right – with crispy skin on the outside and tender and juicy meat on the inside, but it has to be cooked safely. Unfortunately, 900 homes are destroyed every year from turkey deep fryer fires, killing 5 people.
Before deep-frying your turkey, make sure it is completely thawed and dry. Dropping a frozen turkey into a large pot of hot oil can cause an explosion, and even a little bit of excess moisture will cause hot oil to splatter outside the pot and onto the open burner flame. And keep a fire extinguisher nearby, even though you’re outside (never deep fry a turkey indoors) there is always a chance of an oil fire when deep frying a turkey.
Never leave a turkey unattended while its cooking, and keep children far away from the turkey deep fryer. The cooking oil will stay hot for many hours after the cooked turkey has been eaten. Avoid cooking a deep fried turkey on your deck, since wood is flammable, and use a silicone mat for a deep fryer to protect whatever you cook the turkey on (the ground is preferred). Also, keep your turkey deep fryer far away from your house and the cars, and anything else that hot, splashing oil can come into contact with.
Accidents can happen anywhere, so even if you’re outdoors a fire extinguisher can come in handy. Always have someone pay attention to the turkey as it is frying.
13. If You're Going Away, Secure Your Home
If you’re one of the 50 plus millions of people that are traveling to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday at someone else’s house, be sure to secure your home from intruders while you’re away. Tell your closest neighbors of your plans and have them watch your home and let you know if they see anything suspicious, or better yet have them call the police directly. And don’t post your travel plans on social media.
Good burglars know homeowners aren’t around on Holiday’s like Thanksgiving. Consider installing a burglar alarm system that will also turn on the outside lights when activated, and keep your entire yard covered with motion sensor flood lights. You can help deter burglars by installing interior and exterior smart bulbs and set a timer for both indoor and outdoor lights, so they turn on at specific times of the day and night, giving the appearance of someone always being home. Smart alarms like the Ring Alarm system can also call the police in the event of a home break-in.