During Fire Prevention Week, officials at our Firefighters Burn Center are educating the public about preventing the number one cause of home fires – cooking.

Following simple steps like monitoring food while cooking, keeping the stove clean and making sure to turn off appliances can keep you and your family safe.

Remember – it’s always best to prevent burn injuries, which can have a major impact on a patient’s life.

The leading cause of house fires is something many people do almost every day – cook a meal.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 49 percent of all home fires are caused by cooking. Fire Prevention Week is October 8-14, and this year’s theme – “Cooking safety starts with you! Pay attention to fire prevention” – is aimed at reducing cooking fires.

“These numbers tell us that more public awareness is needed around when and where cooking hazards exist, along with ways to prevent them,” said the NFPA’s Lorraine Carli. “This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign will work to promote tips, guidelines and recommendations that can help significantly reduce the risk of having a cooking fire.”

Dr. Ram Velamuri, Medical Director for the Firefighters Burn Center, said it is always better to prevent burn injuries from happening in the first place. “Burns, once they occur, result in significant mortality and morbidity. Some of these injuries can be simply avoided using simple precautions listed below,” Dr. Velamuri said.

For the team at Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center, education and outreach are part of a life-saving mission.  Preventing a fire or burn injury is always better than dealing with an emergency, so Burn Center officials suggest keeping these suggestions from the NFPA and American Burn Association in mind every time you cook.

Make sure you’re wide awake and alert. If you’re drowsy or under the influence of medications or alcohol, it’s not a good time to cook.

“Burns, once they occur, result in significant mortality and morbidity. Some of these injuries can be simply avoided using simple precautions,” said Dr. Ram Velamuri, medical director of the Firefighters Burn Center.

Keep your stove, oven and exhaust fan clean to prevent grease buildup. Always wipe them down after you cook to make sure you’re removing excess flammable grease.

Wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking so your clothing doesn’t accidentally touch the flame and catch fire. Also, keep a pan lid and dry potholders or oven mitts near you every time you cook in case you need them to deal with a fire.

Prevent pots and pans from getting knocked off the stove by turning handles toward the back of the stove and creating a “kid and pet free zone” of at least 3 feet around the cooking area.

When heating food in the microwave, use microwave-safe cookware that allows steam to escape. Allow food to rest before removing it from the microwave.

When frying, use a pan lid or splash guard to prevent grease splatter.

Always stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave, turn off the stove. If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly. Use a timer to remind you to check.

After cooking, check the kitchen to make sure all burners and other appliances are turned off.

If you do experience a kitchen fire, be ready to take action quickly to extinguish it before it can spread.

First, cover the pan with its lid or a cookie sheet. Never move the pot or carry it outside – it is too hot to handle and the contents may splash, causing a severe burn.

If the fire is inside the oven or microwave, keep the door shut.

Stay safe by making sure you’re alert and wide awake when cooking. Always stay in the kitchen or check on food frequently, and make sure to shut down appliances when you’re done.

Next, turn off the heat and allow the pot, microwave or oven to cool down. With the fire covered or contained and the heat source turned off, the fire should put itself out quickly.

Never use water to put out a kitchen fire. Water will cause the oil to splatter and spread the fire or scald you as it vaporizes.

If the fire does get out of control, get out of the house and call 911. Don’t go back inside for any reason.

Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center is the only full-service burn center in a 400-mile radius of Memphis that is verified by the American Burn Association. It provides comprehensive services including emergency and critical care, intensive care, specialized burn rehabilitation, and laser and plastic surgery.

To learn more, visit www.regionalonehealth.org/firefighters-burn-center/