I love Thanksgiving! It’s probably my favorite Holiday because it is so much about family without all the pressure of Christmas gift selections. I remember getting up early and helping prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the family while watching the Macy’s parade. Thanksgiving is a time for visiting family, sharing meals, and enjoying loved ones, but it’s also a prime time for cooking fires, traffic accidents, and other safety problems. With Turkey Day mere days away, let’s talk about things to consider for cooking, traveling, and taking care of the fur babies.
As Americans it is rare for the entire family to live within a 20-mile radius, so to enjoy the holiday together, someone must travel. The National Safety Council estimates 433 people may be killed and another 49,400 may be seriously injured in car crashes during the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday period. The Council urges additional caution because in 2017, Thanksgiving was the second deadliest holiday on the roads, trailing only the Fourth of July. If you are traveling this holiday, make a plan and allow ample time to reach your destination. The roads will be full as the price of gas remains low and the economy is strong. You’ll have plenty of company on the road this holiday.
These precautions will help prepare you for holiday travel.
- Have a mechanical check-up on your vehicle including inspecting the condition of your tires.
- Leave plenty of distance between you and other cars on the road. If you don’t know the 2 second rule, look it up before you drive.
- When traveling long distances, check the weather conditions BEFORE you travel and know the conditions at your destination especially if you are headed north.
- Have an emergency kit in your car with flares, blankets, and food.
- Be well rested and alert while driving and avoid distractions such as cell phones.
- Make frequent stops and rotate drivers during long trips. Fatigued driving is as bad as distracted driving.
- Don’t drink and drive. Alcohol is a persistent factor in fatal crashes. Historical trends show that on average, more than one-third of deaths during the Thanksgiving holiday period involve alcohol-impaired drivers.
I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving I got a call from a client who hit a homeless man when he stepped out in front of her car on the interstate. It absolutely ruined her holiday and took many months to overcome. Please be safe while driving and be proactive.
Once you’ve reached your destination, you want the time spent there to be awesome.
The kitchen is a popular place to gather in the home, but it is also one of the most dangerous places. Thanksgiving took on a different meaning when I entered the insurance profession. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that over 50% of residential building fires in 2016 were caused by cooking. Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. according to the National Fire Protection Association. NFPA data also shows Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.
Let’s talk some safety precautions while cooking:
- Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
- Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis.
- Keep anything that can catch fire—oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, etc., away from your stovetop.
- Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
- If a fire does break out, throw salt or baking soda on it and put a lid on the pot. Do NOT throw water on it! Keep a lid beside the pan when cooking. If a fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Never throw water on a kitchen fire.
- Make sure your smoke alarms are working.
- If you try to fight a fire, be sure others are getting out of the house, and you have a clear way out yourself.
- When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Always have an escape route planned in case of a fire.
Another popular Thanksgiving ritual is frying a turkey especially in the south. Another statistic from NFPA states every year, deep fat fryers are responsible for around 1,000 fires, resulting in 5 deaths and 60 injuries. As this trend increases, the data will likely become worse—possibly leading to more loss of life. Here are a few tips for the turkey fryers:
- Find a safe space. This space should be at least ten feet away from your home. Keep the fryer out of garages, off decks, and away from fences, as well as a safe distance away from trees. Locate a flat level surface with a cleared radius of at least 10 feet.
- Make certain that no children or pets are nearby once you begin. In addition, having a working fire extinguisher is wise, too.
- Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before frying. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups. To prevent the oil from bubbling over, the pot needs to be twice as deep as the turkey. And remember, a finished turkey has an internal temperature of 165 degrees when it’s fully cooked.
- Be careful around the oil. Once the oil gets hot, it’s easy for things to get out of hand. You should wear safety glasses, oven mitts, and an apron to handle the fryer well before the oil starts to bubble. Make sure your fryer is on a flat, level space to carefully gauge the amount of oil needed.
- Monitor the turkey. Using temperature controls to monitor the blaze is a must. Be attentive when cooking and NEVER leave the fryer unattended.
- Use leather gloves or pot holders when touching the unit or lid.
- Never use water to extinguish a turkey fryer fire; oil and water do not mix.
- Even after use, do not allow children or pets near the fryer; it can remain hot for several hours.
As I said previously, Thanksgiving took on another meaning when I entered the insurance business. My second year in the business, I got a call from a client who was frying his FIRST turkey. The thermostat was not working properly, so he thought he would run to Kmart and buy a new one. He left the grease frying, and when he returned, half of his house was engulfed! His wife and daughter were lucky to get out of the house. I am so glad tragedy did not strike that holiday. The total fire damage cost over $125,000, and it took six months to get him back in his home.
Taking care of our fur babies is important too. Keeping pets safe this holiday season can be trying. With all the different types of food and decorations that pets can get into, some people spend good parts of many holidays in after-hours veterinary clinics. I can tell you that’s not a great way to spend a holiday. Often these pet emergencies can be prevented by some holiday awareness.
Here are some holiday tips:
- Don’t share the goodies! We love to share treats with our pets, and what better time to do it than on Thanksgiving? The problem is, foods that are too rich, too fatty or too spicy — or anything your pet is not accustomed to — can trigger a bout of intestinal upset which in turn can trigger inflammation of the pancreas or other serious illness.
- Anything that you would not eat, your pet should avoid too. While a little bit of lean beef or poultry can be added to your pet’s meal, stay clear of the fatty parts and poultry skin.
- Absolutely no gravy! Remember gravy is fat and starch; it’s not nutritious.
- Don’t share appetizers with your pet.
- Make sure to put the sweets in festive holiday bowls out of reach, so your pets do not help themselves.
- Put leftovers away quickly to keep them away from counter-surfing pets. My dog, Chopper, is notorious for counter surfing.
I hope these safety tips help to make your holiday a great one. We want to THANK YOU for being our loyal clients and want you to have a safe Thanksgiving as we live in the greatest country on earth.