Thanksgiving safety tips and free smoke detectors

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Thanksgiving is just a week away and amateur and professional cooks are already planning their great feasts. With the growth in popularity of cooking turkeys in a less conventional way, by frying them, there is an increased need to spread safety information.

Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department and the State Fire Marshal's Office want to make sure that you enjoy your holiday meal and family time safely.

Although, outdoor, gas-fueled fryers are a speedy alternative to the nostalgic time-consuming process of roasting and basting, there are also several risks associated with this method. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) discourages the residential use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil because of the tremendous risk for injury. "Outdoor fryers heat gallons of cooking oil to very high temperatures to cook the turkey," said State Fire Marshal Gary West. "The risk of this oil being spilled is significant, and the resulting injuries can be severe."

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Turkey fryer hazards:

  • The fryers are often bumped or tipped over when the turkey is put in or taken out, presenting a greater risk for the oil to splash or spill. Outdoor fryers that come with a stand pose the greatest risk of tipping.
  • The oil is heated to such a high temperature for frying that the vapors could ignite, resulting in a fire.
  • If you use a turkey fryer during rain or snow, the risk of injury is increased. When rain or snow hits the hot oil, the oil can splash or turn to steam, which can cause burns.
  • Numerous fires have ignited when fryers have been brought indoors or into a garage to keep the appliances out of the rain.
  • Moving the turkey from the fryer to a serving plate presents another chance of contact with hot oil.
  • Turkeys that are not completely thawed may cause the oil to splash, which can cause burns.
  • Children have been severely burned when running into turkey fryers while playing nearby.

It is recommended that consumers utilize the oil-free models that are available or seek commercial professionals to prepare this entrée. Fried turkeys can be ordered from some supermarkets and restaurants during the holiday season. Caution should always be used when using any kind of deep fryer. From 2009-2013, Tennessee fire departments responded to 70 fires involving deep fryers. Three civilian injuries and $1.96 million in direct property damage resulted.

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If frying your own turkey is an absolute must, the following safety measures should be carefully followed:

  • Turkey fryers must always be used outdoors and a safe distance from buildings and other flammable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers indoors or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure the fryer is used on a flat surface to prevent accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer, even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To prevent spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • The National Turkey Foundation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease or oil fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department by dialing 911.

Additional Thanksgiving safety tips:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in your home when cooking your turkey (in the oven) and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from hot foods or liquids.
  • Keep the floor clear so there are no tripping hazards.
  • Keep knives out of reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee makers, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children--up high and in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

If you do not have working smoke detectors in your home, contact MFRD at 615-893-1422 Monday-Friday 8:00 am-4:30 pm to inquire about MFRD's free smoke alarm program!

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