10 Ways To Keep You and Your Family Safe on Thanksgiving

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Large family gatherings during the holidays can come with a number of risks from cooking fires to slip-and-fall injuries. While your homeowners insurance should help you cover the costs of property damage and liability issues, it’s better if you take steps to avoid these problems in the first place.

Check out the rest of this article for 10 Thanksgiving safety tips that can help you kick off a fun holiday season while keeping your family safe.

Key Takeaways

  • Cooking fire hazards are especially prevalent on Thanksgiving, while certain types of food poisoning are more common around the holiday season in general.
  • You may be able to prevent guest injuries by cleaning up before guests arrive, storing knives properly and ensuring children keep a safe distance from stoves or other open flames.
  • The National Fire Protection Association discourages the use of turkey fryers when preparing a Thanksgiving feast.
  • Fatty foods, poultry bones and other Thanksgiving leftovers can be dangerous for pets.
  • If you leave your home on Thanksgiving, you should take steps to make your home appear occupied to lower your risk of being the target of vandalism or theft.

What Are the Most Common Home Hazards on Thanksgiving?

Two of the most prevalent health hazards associated with Thanksgiving are fires and food poisoning. The average number of home cooking fires is three times higher on Thanksgiving than on the average day throughout the year.[1] Meanwhile, one of the most common bacteria responsible for food poisoning is tied to popular holiday foods like turkey and roast beef, with outbreaks of the bacteria occurring most often in November and December.[2]

In addition, other potential hazards to watch out for on Thanksgiving include choking on food while talking around the dinner table, getting into a car accident as many drivers hit the road to head to their Thanksgiving meals and spreading infectious diseases as large numbers of people gather in sometimes small and cramped spaces to eat together.

How To Stay Safe on Thanksgiving

Following the below safety tips for Thanksgiving can help keep your family safe and lower the odds that you will need to file a costly homeowners insurance claim.

thanksgiving safety tips infographic

1. Clean Your Home and Test Your Alarms

Before guests arrive at your home on Thanksgiving day, you should make sure there aren’t any loose rugs or stray items like toys on the floor that people could miss amid a crowded house and trip over. Similarly, if you spill anything in the kitchen, be sure to clean it up in a timely manner so no one slips and hurts themselves.

In addition, you should make sure your smoke alarms are working properly before you start cooking. If the alarm barely makes any noise or doesn’t go off at all when you press the test button, you may need to replace the smoke detector’s batteries.

2. Stay Alert and Present in the Kitchen

Given the high rate of holiday fires, it’s crucial to stay especially vigilant when you’re cooking on Thanksgiving. As a result, you shouldn’t leave the kitchen if you’re actively cooking on the stovetop nor should you leave the house if you’re cooking a turkey or anything else in the oven.

You may also find yourself cooking more foods at one time on Thanksgiving than you normally would. Since it can be easier to lose track of how long each dish has been cooking, you should pay extra close attention to make sure you don’t overcook anything and risk having a dish catch fire.

3. If Deep Frying, Do It Outside!

You should be aware that deep fryers ranked second for the most deaths and injuries per 1,000 fires when it came to fires caused by cooking equipment from 2017 to 2021.[3] As a result, the National Fire Protection Association advises against using turkey fryers altogether.[1]

Deep frying a turkey is particularly dangerous because it requires a large amount of oil, which can become alarmingly hot if the fryer lacks temperature controls. If you overfill the fryer, oil could easily spill out of it once you put the turkey in, potentially scalding anyone standing nearby or even causing the entire fryer to burst into flames.

Nevertheless, if you still plan on deep frying your turkey, you should do it outside on a flat surface away from any structure on your property or anything else that is flammable. You should also make sure that the turkey is completely thawed before you begin frying it to lower the risk of a fire or explosion.[4]

4. Keep Children Away From Stoves, Fires and Cooking Areas

It’s recommended that children stay at least three feet away from the stove while you’re cooking to avoid potential burn injuries.[1] Even if the flames are under control, children still risk being burned by boiling water, hot gravy and anything else that could splash out of a pot.

5. Have What You Need To Put Out Fires

A fire extinguisher is generally the best tool for preventing a kitchen fire from expanding into a full-on house fire. Alternatively, if the fire is contained to a single pot or pan, you may be able to put it out by turning off the stove and covering the pot or pan with a lid to deprive the fire of oxygen.

Keep in mind that you should never pour water on a grease fire because water and oil don’t mix. This means that, instead of extinguishing the flames, the water will sink below the grease, evaporate and push the grease outward, causing the fire to grow even larger.[5]

It’s important to be careful while cooking on Thanksgiving even more so than on other days. Cooking is the cause of about 74% of fires in residential buildings on Thanksgiving, while it only causes about 51% of residential building fires on average across all other days of the year.[6]

6. Make Sure Candles and Fires Are Never Left Unattended

Whether it’s a candle indoors or a bonfire outdoors, you should always have an adult present to keep an eye on and tend open flames. Otherwise, a child could easily hurt themselves by tripping and falling into a fire. Similarly, children and pets can knock over candles and start house fires if left unattended.

7. Cook the Thanksgiving Turkey Thoroughly

To avoid foodborne illness, you should use a food thermometer to make sure your turkey has an internal temperature of 165 degrees before you serve it. In the same way, you should reheat any side dishes you cooked in advance until they have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.[7]

Other steps you can take to mitigate the risk of food poisoning on Thanksgiving include:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly before cooking
  • Avoiding cross-contamination between raw meat and food that has already been cooked or doesn’t need to be cooked such as fruits and vegetables
  • Refrigerating perishable leftovers within two hours of cooking them[7]

8. Avoid Giving Pets Leftovers or Bones

Be careful about giving leftovers to your pets because many common Thanksgiving foods can pose a risk to an animal’s health. For example, you may not want to feed your pet the fat portions of the turkey since animals have a hard time digesting fatty foods. And even though dogs may love to chew on other kinds of bones, you shouldn’t give them poultry bones since these are prone to splintering and damaging pets’ digestive tracts.[8]

9. Keep Knives and Sharp Utensils Out of Reach or Put Them Away

Knives and other sharp utensils should always be stored high up or in some place where children can’t easily reach them. If you aren’t actively using a knife, consider putting it away since even adults can jab or cut themselves on misplaced knives amid the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving.

10. Secure Your Home if You’re Going Out for Thanksgiving

Anytime you go to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, you can keep your own house safe by taking steps like locking your windows and doors, installing a home security system and leaving your lights turned on to make it seem like someone is home. If you have smart home devices, you may even be able to set a time for your lights to turn off automatically in case you plan on being out late.

Meanwhile, if you’re traveling out of town on Thanksgiving, consider hiring someone to house-sit for you or, at the very least, asking a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail and packages while you are away. It’s also helpful if you leave a vehicle parked in your driveway while you are gone.

The less obvious it is that no one is home, the less likely it is that your home will be the target of a burglary.

Does My Standard Home Insurance Policy Cover Thanksgiving Accidents?

A standard homeowners insurance policy provides coverage for a number of perils that could damage your home and belongings on Thanksgiving such as fire, smoke, explosions, vandalism and theft. In addition, the personal liability or medical payments portion of your homeowners policy should pay for medical treatments if a guest is injured in your home.

In case multiple people are driving to and parking at your house on Thanksgiving, you should also note that your home insurance will cover damage to your home and belongings caused by a vehicle. Meanwhile, damage to your car caused by another vehicle should be covered by either the at-fault driver’s liability car insurance or your collision insurance.

How To Get Home Coverage for Your Thanksgiving Get-Together

To find the best homeowners insurance policy available before the holiday season begins, you should contact at least three to five insurance carriers for quotes. Be prepared to provide information like the age of your home, the condition of its roof, your address and the number of people living in the home.

While reaching out to insurers one by one is time consuming, you can speed up the process by using an insurance marketplace like SmartFinancial. Fill out our questionnaire about your coverage needs and budget and we can get you in touch with multiple insurance agents who can offer you quotes for customized home insurance policies. To get started on receiving a free home insurance quote, type in your zip code below.

Get the Right Coverage for Your Home


Are fires common on Thanksgiving?

Home fires related to cooking are three times more common on Thanksgiving than on the average day.[1]

What is the safest way to put out a fire on Thanksgiving?

The best way to be prepared to put out a fire is to keep a fire extinguisher handy, although you can also extinguish a small fire in a single pot or pan by covering it with a lid to deprive it of oxygen. However, you should never pour water on a grease fire.[5]

Are turkey fryers a safe method to cook Thanksgiving turkey?

Deep frying is a risky method for cooking Thanksgiving turkey as it can easily result in grease fires, injuries and even death if not done properly. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers.[1]


  1. National Fire Protection Association. “Thanksgiving Safety Tips.” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Preparing Your Holiday Turkey Safely.” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.
  3. National Fire Protection Association. “Home Cooking Fires,” Page 9. Accessed Oct. 17, 2023.
  4. National Park Service. “Fire Prevention 52: Deep Fried Danger.” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.
  5. Allstate. “Can You Put Out a Grease Fire With Water?” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.
  6. United States Fire Administration. “Data Snapshot: Thanksgiving Day Fires in Residential Buildings.” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.
  7. United States Department of Agriculture. “Keep Your Thanksgiving Full of Turkey and Free From Foodborne Illness.” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.
  8. American Veterinary Medical Association. “Thanksgiving Pet Safety.” Accessed Oct. 16, 2023.

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