With Halloween having just come to an end, many people are looking forward to getting ready for a number of upcoming holidays this November and December. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve all bring friends and families together to celebrate, share food and drink, exchange gifts, enjoy each other’s company, and (hopefully) get some much-needed time away from work or school.
However, in addition to being the “most wonderful time of the year,” it’s also one of the most dangerous, with hundreds of potentially life-changing accidents happening both at home and on the road. Fortunately, our friends at Stream Energy have put together a comprehensive list of some of the biggest dangers that you might encounter this Thanksgiving. You’ll learn what you can do to protect you and your loved ones to ensure that you spend your time together the way you want to – and not in an emergency room.
Last Thanksgiving, Americans spent almost $1 billion on upwards of 45 million turkeys, and they’re likely to spend even more this year. What was once a feast to celebrate a successful corn harvest in 1621 has become a big meal, big business, and a series of big dangers if not carefully managed.
In fact, Thanksgiving now leads all other days of the year for serious cooking accidents.
On average, there are over 1,500 fires reported every Thanksgiving – far more than any other day of the year. Though this number might sound small compared to the millions of people cooking Thanksgiving dinner, it’s likely only a sample of the total number of fires – and, specifically, the ones that require the help of the fire department to extinguish – that happen each year.
At this point, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that cooking accidents are responsible for over 75 percent of these fires and an average of almost $8,000 in damages to homes.
Why are there so many fires on Thanksgiving? The answer isn’t so simple, as there are a number of different causes. If you’re trying to put together an elaborate feast with lots of different dishes, ensure that the dining room is perfectly arranged, and get dinner on the table on time, your head is likely in a thousand places – and it isn’t always easy to keep track of the countless details and different preparations that go into a turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, or any of your family’s other favorite traditional dishes.
One of the easiest ways to prevent fires sounds simple but isn’t always easy. When you’re making food on the stove top, keep a close eye on it, and don’t leave your cooking unattended. You’ll likely be cooking with a number of hot liquids and oils, and these can steam, splash, or pop straight out of the pan and onto you, your guests, or an open flame if not carefully tended to.
Be especially careful when getting cooking oils ready to saute or fry food; the difference between an oil that’s ready to cook and one that is going to turn into a raging fireball on your cooktop is remarkably thin, and putting out a grease fire requires a great deal of care. Instead of trying to take the pan outside or adding water or flour, simply cover the pot with a lid and turn off the heat until the fire dies and the pan has cooled down. In the event of a serious kitchen emergency, keep a fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it, and consider upgrading to cooktop with a ventilation system and a built-in extinguisher during your next remodel.
The seemingly simple act of cooking the turkey is responsible for a number of accidents. Because it’s a large bird and cook times can be several hours long, many chefs have a tendency to leave the turkey unattended as it roasts, sometimes even leaving the house to pick up last-minute ingredients. If you do need to leave home for any reason, make sure that there’s someone to watch the turkey and ensure that the oven doesn’t catch fire. If the oven does happen to start burning, however, don’t open the oven door or attempt to put the fire out manually. Instead, simply leave the door shut to effectively smother it and turn off the heat, much like you would a grease fire.
To ensure that your turkey doesn’t run the risk of giving one of your guests food poisoning, don’t eyeball it; check to see if it’s been cooked to at least 165 degrees fahrenheit with a food thermometer before removing it from the oven and serving.
Many people also choose to fry their Thanksgiving turkey. While this can produce a delicious bird, it’s also one of the most dangerous things you can do as a home cook and requires special equipment and careful steps to do right. Nationally, deep fryers are responsible for an average of 1,000 fires, 60 injuries, 5 deaths, and over $15 million in property damage annually. When it comes to turkey, you absolutely must have a deep fryer that can be used safely outdoors, and you should not attempt to fry the turkey inside or within close range of your home. You should also keep a fire extinguisher close in the event of an accident.
Regardless of your plans, you should be aware that many cooks start fires by putting too much oil in the fryer. When oil spills over and makes contact with the burner, it is extremely likely to ignite, destroying your dinner (and quite possibly your evening) in the process, especially if the fire spreads. Instead of eyeballing your oil level, before cooking, you should put the turkey in the fryer, then fill the fryer with water until the turkey is completely submerged, with water rising only a few inches above the bird. Remove the turkey, dry it off, and use a waterproof marker to make a note of where the water level sits in the pot without the turkey inside. Then, remove this water, dry the pot out, and add the same amount of cooking oil when you’re ready to fry.
You should also never place a frozen turkey directly into a deep fryer. When a frozen turkey is placed in hot oil, it leads to a reaction that will prompt the ice to turn to steam and expand in volume, which also has the potential to displace so much oil that it ignites and explodes, as seen in many unfortunate online videos.
When cutting your turkey, you should also use a very sharp knife. Contrary to what some people believe, dull knives are much harder to control, making them a huge safety and liability risk. Keep your cutting area well lit and dry, and be sure to slice away from your body to prevent some of the most common cuts.
Natural gas from Stream Energy is one of the safest and easiest ways to cook and reduce your risk of burn or injury. Unlike electric burners, you don’t run the risk of touching a hot cooking surface that looks like it’s already cooled down, nor is there a chance that your heating element may burst, sending sparks into the room until you turn the burner off. If you own your home and are planning a remodel or retrofit in the near future, consider the advantages of a gas stove.
Protecting Your Children
Though it can seem hard enough simply to juggle all the different moving parts of an elaborate meal, there’s also the fact that many families are full of inquisitive, excited children looking to get into, onto, and around everything – especially when you’re visiting a friend’s or relative’s home, and even more so if it’s their first time exploring. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to keep your kids safe, even amid the countless distractions of the holiday.
In November, most of the country is cold, which means that you’re probably bundling up in winter clothes and coats when you’re driving, but these can interfere with the proper operation of a child’s car seat and pose a safety risk. Bring the coats for when they’re outside, but cover the car seat with a blanket after your kids have been securely strapped in to make sure that nothing could go wrong in the event of an accident.
Outside of your home, take a moment to make sure that your walkways have been shoveled and any ice that might have formed overnight is melted, salted, or otherwise de-iced to stop children (and adults, especially if they’ve had a few drinks) from slipping and falling as they walk in or out of the house and to and from their cars. In the event of extremely cold weather or heavy snowfall, be sure to call or text your guests in advance to let them know to be prepared with winter clothes, especially if they’re traveling from out of town and have elderly relatives, pets, or anyone else who might need assistance coming with them.
In the kitchen, the stovetop poses the biggest risk for young children. Be sure to make pots and pans inaccessible to little hands by not leaving handles hanging over the stove, where they could pull them down, spilling your dinner all over the floor and on themselves (and possibly sustaining scalding burns in the process). On the same note, be sure not to leave knives hanging over any counters or on any surfaces where children may be able to reach them and get a nasty cut in the process. For an easy-to-follow rule of thumb, use the back burners of the stove for all of your heaviest and hottest dishes and keep children a minimum of three feet away from the oven.
On a similar note, if you have a fireplace in the home where you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, be sure that there’s a strong, sturdy screen covering the active fire to stop children from putting things (like hands, toys, and food) into the blaze. Additionally, be aware that if the fireplace is covered with a glass screen, it may take quite a bit of time before it cools down, so don’t leave young children unattended if there’s a chance that they may get curious enough to touch it. If you’ve chosen natural gas service from Stream Energy, a fully automatic fireplace may be a safer long-term option than a traditional wood-burning one.
Additionally, children have an unfortunate tendency to get into medicines, seemingly no matter where they’re stored. In over half of accidental medication-related visits to the emergency room, the incident started when a child grabbed medicines from a purse, off of a counter or dresser top, or even just off of the ground. If you’re hosting, be sure to keep your medicine cabinet secured. If you’re a guest, be sure to keep any medication you’re bringing with you high enough off of the ground that inquisitive hands can’t get into them.
If you’re staying with friends or family after the big meal and have young children in tow, you should also be aware that though adults and older children may have no trouble sleeping on an air mattress or couch, babies must sleep in a crib, bassinet, or pack-n-play.
Surprisingly, for many different reasons, Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous days to be on the road. Last year, over 54 million Americans got on the road, and in 2017, the National Safety Council predicted a total of 421 deaths and over 48,000 injuries over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
There are many different causes for all of these accidents, including driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, adverse weather, distracted driving, a lack of sleep, and heavy traffic – and everyone else on the roads is facing all of these same threats and risks at the exact moment that you are. Here are a few more tips to keep you and your family safe, especially if you have a long commute ahead of you:
Get your car ready for a long drive. Don’t just get a full tank of gas, as you never know if you might get slowed down by highway traffic without a station in sight. Also make sure that your oil has been changed recently; your windshield wipers are equipped to deal with rain, sleet, and snow; and your tires are inflated (or that your winter tires or chains are ready if needed). Also, check your radiator and cooling fluids as well. A breakdown on the side of the road could very well keep you from making it to your holiday celebration, no matter how early you leave, and no one wants to spend the day waiting for a tow truck.
Leave early. Traffic data has shown that the lowest numbers of cars are on the road on Thursday and Saturday mornings, which can help you avoid the dinner rush and chaotic Black Friday sales, as well as give you a safety buffer in case you have to be somewhere at a specific time and get caught in a storm or are delayed by someone else’s accident.
Know your limits. If you’re planning on drinking at your Thanksgiving celebration, be sure that someone will be acting as a designated driver or that you have a place to stay that won’t require you to drive home. Drunk driving puts your career, life, and family at risk, and there’s no reason to do it – especially on a night when police are actively looking to make record arrests and many other drivers will be intoxicated on the road, affecting their reaction times and everyone’s overall safety. On that same note, if you can avoid driving after Thanksgiving dinner altogether, seriously consider doing so.
Surprisingly, if you’re planning on doing any Black Friday shopping, you may want to be extra careful in parking lots and outside of busy shops. Competition for deals makes people behave in surprising ways, and you will likely have to race other drivers for parking spaces, which can often lead to dents, scrapes, or full-blown collisions. If you do purchase a new TV, computer, or other electronics this season, you may also be able to bring down your annual expenses with electricity service from Stream Energy at highly competitive rates.
Though there are many different factors at play, keeping your family and guests safe in the kitchen and on the road can be the difference between a Thanksgiving spent happy, full, and surrounded by your favorite people or one spent in the emergency room. For more helpful tips from Stream Energy this holiday season, click here for the company’s latest updates and blog posts.
Get more out of your energy plan this holiday season with Simple & Secure Plus. pic.twitter.com/XztTcikppV
— Stream Energy (@mystreamsocial) November 26, 2019