Thanksgiving Safety Tips: Preventing Fires, Break-ins and Dry Turkey

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Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude and feasting, but with children running around amidst guests, hot stove tops cooking up that feast or a home left vacant, people are at risk of a disaster happening in their homes. Fortunately, a standard homeowners insurance policy will cover you for fire damages, liability if someone is injured, theft and more.

Taking the right safety precautions can prevent accidents from happening and having to file an insurance claim. Here are 11 Thanksgiving safety tips to protect your home and family:

1. Tidy Up Your Home

Too many people in the kitchen increases the risk of cooking-related hazards and slip-and-fall accidents. Keeping your house clean and tidy before and throughout the party by removing clutter and mopping up spills can help minimize accidents.

If a guest does suffer an accident, the liability portion of your home insurance policy will cover their medical bills (and your legal expenses, if they sue).

2. Test Your Smoke Alarms

Test your smoke alarms before you start cooking to ensure they’re working properly. If there is no sound or it’s faint, replace the batteries. If you’re still facing issues after replacing the batteries, you may need to purchase a new smoke detector.

Fire extinguishers should always be in plain sight and near an exit.

3. Stay Alert and Present in the Kitchen

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home cooking fires during the holidays occur most often on Thanksgiving Day. Whether you’re roasting, frying, simmering or boiling food, always stay in the kitchen while stoves and ovens are on. Turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen, even for a short time. Don’t forget to set a timer to remind you when it’s time to take food out of the oven.

Also, keep towels, curtains, tablecloth, pot holders and other flammable items away from the stove and hot surfaces.

4. Check on the Turkey Frequently

Using a food thermometer can help you determine when your turkey is fully cooked and safe to eat. A good rule of thumb is to check on your turkey every 40 minutes. This helps prevent too much heat from escaping due to frequently opening the oven door. It can also help you remove the turkey from the oven on time — nobody likes overcooked and dry turkey!

5. Do Deep Frying Outside

Deep frying accidents accounted for the highest casualty rates per 1,000 reported fires from 2014 to 2018 according to the NFPA. Deep-fried turkeys can be incredibly yummy, but home cooks should take a few cautionary steps to ensure everyone’s safety.

The safest place to fry turkey is outdoors on a flat surface and away from flammable objects and structures. Always ensure that your turkey is thoroughly thawed and dried with paper towels and never fry a turkey that is completely or partially frozen turkey. This can cause oil to splatter everywhere, resulting in a grease fire (and a turkey that is overcooked on the exterior and undercooked inside). Do not overfill the pot with oil or it may overflow after submerging the turkey.

Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and always be alert and attentive. Someone should always be watching the turkey while it cooks.

6. Make Sure Children Behave on Thanksgiving Day

Children in a busy and active kitchen can spell disaster as they can burn themselves, knock over hot liquids or run into appliances. Throughout your home, children can accidentally trip over electrical cords powering heaters and holiday decor. Use the following tips to help prevent injuries (and liability or fire claims with your insurance company):

  • Keep kids out of the kitchen when food is cooking.
  • Place lit candles out of reach from small children.
  • Position heaters and electrical cords out of walkways.
  • Require kids to walk, never run, while in the home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, home cooking fires occur most often on Thanksgiving day.

7. Ensure Candles and Fireplaces Are Never Unattended

Unattended candles can start preventable fires that quickly lead to tragedy. To avoid fire accidents (and costly accident claims), use the following tips:

  • Extinguish candles out before leaving a room.
  • Light candles at least three feet away from anything flammable materials (e.g., holiday decor, curtains, bedding, paper, books).
  • Keep candles at out of reach of small children and pets
  • Keep flammable objects at least three feet away from lit fireplaces.
  • Consider using battery-operated candles.

8. Have a Fire Extinguisher Ready

Fire extinguishers should always be in plain sight and near an exit. Since fires can double in size every five to 10 seconds and burn an entire room in just one minute, you should still notify the police even if you feel you can extinguish the fire yourself.

The following tips can help prime your fire extinguisher for future use:

  • Check the pressure gauge: The reading should be in the green. Fire extinguishers need to be recharged after each use or they may not work correctly.
  • Check the safety pin: The pull pin should remain unmoved within the handle. Otherwise, it may have been used or tampered with.
  • Check the tamper seal: Before using a fire extinguisher you must remove the tamper seal. If the seal is not there, it should be inspected by a professional or replaced.
  • Check for damage: Inspect the extinguisher for rust, dents or corrosion.

A good rule of thumb is to check on your turkey every 40 minutes.

9. Avoid Using Water To Put Out Grease Fires

Adding water to a grease fire will only spread the grease and fire. Instead, stand 10 feet from the fire and use your fire extinguisher on it to prevent it from spreading.

If you do not have a fire extinguisher, remove the pot from heat and cover it. Starving the fire of oxygen can help extinguish, reduce or contain it. If something is burning in the oven, turn off the heat and close the oven door to contain the fire.

10. Properly Store Leftovers

The proper way to store leftover food is to let it come to room temperature and then refrigerate it within two hours of cooking. Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days or stored in the freezer for future meals.

11. Secure Your Home if You’re Leaving

If you plan on leaving your home for Thanksgiving, you should secure your home with cameras, locks and perhaps, some neighborly support.

  • Install a home security system: The presence of a security camera can be a deterrent to vandalism and burglaries. If your home is targeted while you’re away, the security footage can be submitted to the police and your insurance company as proof of your losses.
  • Light up your house: Leaving a light and a radio or television on can give the appearance that somebody is home. Many smart home systems, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, allow you to set timers on when your lights and electronics turn on and off.
  • Lock all windows and doors: Sometimes, we forget to secure the easiest points of entry — our doors and windows. While you can’t always prevent forced entry, a locked door may be enough hassle to deter a potential thief.
  • Don’t post on social media: If somebody has marked your home for a burglary, they may be tracking your social media profile to know when you’re away from home. If you must post, consider setting your profile to private to at least block out strangers.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor for help: Mail that stacks up is a clear sign that no one is home. Ask someone you trust to pick up your mail and packages.

Fortunately, a standard home insurance policy will cover vandalism and theft that occurs to your home while you’re away.

Get The Right Coverage for Your Home


Are fires common on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home fires, followed by Christmas Day. Monitoring food as they cook and keeping children away from heat sources can help prevent fire-related accidents.

What kind of home insurance will cover me on Thanksgiving?

The dwelling and personal property portions in a standard homeowner policy will cover your losses if a fire damages your home or your personal belongings.

What causes the most fires on Thanksgiving?

Deep frying turkeys cause the most fires on Thanksgiving because fryer oil can easily overflow onto the burner and cause a grease fire. The NFPA actually advises against the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers.

Key Takeaways

  • Always have a fire extinguisher ready and understand how to use it before you start cooking on Thanksgiving.
  • Turkey frying gone wrong is a common type of Thanksgiving fire, due to the high risk of oil overflow and subsequent grease fires.
  • Always be present in a room with an active heat source and keep candles out of reach of small children and pets.

If your house catches fire during Thanksgiving, you’ll feel grateful you have homeowners insurance to cover your losses. SmartFinancial can help you shop around for a homeowners insurance policy that will protect you during the holiday season and beyond. Just enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to receive your free homeowners insurance quotes.

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