College students typically aren't renowned for their cooking expertise. Take out pizza, microwave popcorn, mac and cheese, Ramen noodles, and Hamburger Helper are typical menu items when time, budgets, and kitchen experience are short.
Here's one kitchen "recipe" you should pass on your college student as they begin preparing meals for themselves and their roommates: how to prevent and safely fight a fire in the kitchen.
Kitchen fires are the most common cause of fires nationally, in Minnesota, and in the City of Saint Paul. They account for 60-75% of all residential fires. There are some simple ways of preventing kitchen fires, and safe ways to extinguish them if they occur.
Inattentive cooking is the most typical cause of kitchen fires. After putting a pan on the stove, a person walks off to talk on the phone, catch that show on TV, run and errand, or otherwise gets distracted and forgets the pan heating on the stove. It doesn't take long for a little grease in a pan to reach ignition temperature. Flames quickly spread to nearby combustibles, overhead cabinets, and ceiling and walls. Acrid smoke also quickly spreads, making it difficult to breath and difficult to see. A common stovetop fire can produce thousands of dollars worth of damage, volumes of choking smoke, and - in Saint Paul in 2011 - three fire fatalities.
Take a look at this important video. It was filmed by KARE-11 TV earlier this year with the help of some Minnesota Firefighters. It shows the deadly and damaging effects of a kitchen fire, a safe way to fight a kitchen fire, and how NOT to extinguish a stove top grease fire.
Here are five tips to make cooking safer - at home or living in a college dorm or off-campus housing:
1. "When you Cook, Stay and Look." Don't wander off or get distracted while cooking.
2. Keep paper products, towels, and other combustibles away from the stove.
3. Keep children and other "bystanders" away from the stove and oven when cooking.
4. Install stove top fire extinguishers (FireStop is one manufacturer of these extinguishers). These extinguishers hang above the stovetop burners and activate if flames reach over about 18" high. That's high enough to activate the dry chemical extinguishing agent that'll put the fire out, but usually not high enough to catch cabinets, ceilings, and walls on fire.
5. NEVER use water to extinguish a grease fire in the kitchen. Water on a grease fire can cause a large fireball as the fire atomizes the water and explosively spreads the burning grease everywhere.
As your college student begins the new academic year, please ensure your pass on to them a vital "life lesson:". How to prevent and safely extinguish a fire in the kitchen! It's a simple and effective way to promote college student safety during September - Campus Fire Safety Month.
Take Care, and Stay Safe.