You likely have heard about the dangers of texting while driving.
But texting while cooking bacon?
Distracted cooking has become a problem, and one expected to increase with cooler temperatures and the holidays, Oklahoma City fire officials said.
Cooking has been the No. 1 cause of house fires in Oklahoma City in recent years, with nearly one-third of all fires started at the stove.
Battalion Chief Tim Adams, who presides over the public education of the Oklahoma City Fire Department, attributes at least some of the problem to the bevy of electronic devices that have permeated our lives.
“Cellphones, wireless, TVs in most every room, that just adds to it. Distracted behavior around heating devices are some of our biggest issues,” Adams said.
Home is the place most people feel the safest, but the sense of security is false when it comes to fire.
“The home is one of the most dangerous places for deaths and injuries,” Adams said. “We get comfortable, relaxed and distracted. We lose sight of the importance of what we're doing, especially when it comes to dealing with fire.”
He offered tips to make a home safer as the cooler weather approaches.
In addition to limiting distractions while using the stove, a few key things will keep the kitchen safer from fire danger.
Vent hoods over the oven should be cleaned every 30 days, Adams said. It's possible that a fire put out on the stove could spark a secondary blaze in the vent hood.
Precautions should be taken after the fire is out.
After people put out a fire in a pan, they often carry the pan outside or to the sink, Adams said.
“We get a lot of burn injuries that way.”
Instead, leave the pan on the stove and let it cool.
If there has been any kind of fire, call the fire department and have a crew check it out, he said.
Water or flour should not be used on grease fires. Baking soda and salt are OK, but a better strategy might be to put a lid over the fire.
A fire extinguisher is another option; one should be kept in the house, Adams said.
Space heaters also pose a danger during the cooler months, according to the American Red Cross.
“We advise people to make sure if you're going to use those space heaters, give it plenty of room. Keep it off the carpet, put it on a hard surface like a tile, so if it does fall over it won't hit the fibers of the carpet,” Red Cross spokesman Ken Garcia said.
Residents who are using an older model without safety features should throw it away and replace it with an upgraded version, Adams said.
Newer space heaters have a device that shuts the appliance off when it tips. They're also more energy efficient and safer. Keep the space heater at least three feet away from other objects, Adams advised.
Homes need at least one smoke detector per level of the home, and one per bedroom, Garcia said.
Batteriesin the alarms should be checked at least twice each year.
The American Red Cross responded to 440 house fires and 35 fires in multifamily structures like apartment buildings across the region in the past year.
Garcia and Adams said an emphasis on preparedness — from installing smoke detectors to practicing escape routes — will help minimize the fire danger at home as the winter months approach.