Latchkey kids and kitchen safety

by Stuart Tomlinson, KATU News

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, of the nearly 400,000 home fires each year, just over half start in the kitchen.

And with a new school year and a new group of latchkey kids, parents need to ensure their kids know how to cook safely.

“Now is a great time to talk about (it) because it's a new school year and there are a lot of children who may be home alone for the very first time,” Derek Wing of Pemco Insurance said.

In addition to the obvious -- no metal in the microwave, never leave something cooking on the stove-top and no climbing on chairs or countertops -- experts recommend teaching your children how to use a fire extinguisher.

“We found that with people that we polled, one of four people that we polled admitted that they didn't have fire extinguishers in their homes,” Wing said. “We recommend the PASS method: which is Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep.”

Experts caution that right behind bathrooms, kitchens are the most dangerous rooms in the home.

Make sure your child understands to never ...

1. Climb shelves or counters to reach things. Ditto for standing on chairs or tippy stools. For Mom and Dad, that might mean rearranging the pantry to make sure kid-friendly food like cereal and crackers are kept within safe, easy reach.

2. Walk away with something on the burner (assuming they're allowed to use the stove). Forgetting something on the stove is the No. 1 cause of kitchen fires. Also, make sure pot handles are always pointed inward so they can't be bumped and send hot liquid flying.

3. Throw water on a grease fire. Instead, smother the flames by covering it with a pot lid or sliding a cookie sheet over it. Or use a fire extinguisher (see box).

4. Lay a towel on the stove. It could catch fire from a hot burner.

5. Try to catch a dropped knife. Step back and let it fall. Better to poke a hole in the hardwood floor than your hand or foot!

6. Hold food in your hand while you're cutting. Use a cutting board, and place the food flat-side down (or make a cut to create a flat side) to improve stability. Always use a clean cutting board.

7. Put anything metallic in the microwave (unless it's a frozen food crisper sleeve that's designed to go in). If something causes arcs or sparks, turn off the microwave immediately.

For more tips, check out "Time for The Talk (home-alone safety, that is)."



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