With Thanksgiving today, millions across the country have traveled to visit family and friends, firing up their ovens and fryers and preparing their perfect Thanksgiving turkeys, and the Aiken Department of Public Safety has a few tips to make sure you don't get a visit from them.
Capt. Brian Brazier, of the Public Safety fire division, said the majority of residential fires the department responds to year-round begin in the kitchen.
According to State Farm Insurance claims data, more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. In fact, grease and cooking-related claims more than double on Thanksgiving Day compared to an average day in November.
South Carolina ranked No. 10 in the country for Thanksgiving cooking fires during the measurement period of 2007 to 2011.
Across the United States, fire departments are responding to more than 1,000 fires each year dealing with deep fryers. If you plan to use a deep fryer, it should only be operated outside and away from any buildings, Brazier said.
People often make the mistake of putting a frozen turkey into hot grease, which Brazier said could result in overflow, fire or an explosion.
“If you put something very cold into hot grease, it tends to cause big problems,” he said. “You don't put water on a grease fire, so that's like dropping an ice cube in grease.”
The Office of the State Fire Marshal has a list of tips available at www.scfiremarshal.llronline.com.
Brazier said the best thing you can do to ensure a safe and enjoyable cooking experience is to slow down.
“People get in too big a hurry,” he said. “That causes a lot of problems, rushing around trying to spend time with family and cook at the same time. We have a tendency to rush and forget about things. Slow down a little bit and enjoy the holidays.”
Safety in the home is important even if you don't plan on being home during the holiday weekend.
Sgt. Jake Mahoney said anyone who plans to be out of town for a number of days can have their home placed on extra patrol by Aiken Public Safety. If you want your home placed on extra patrol, call Aiken Public Safety at 642-7620.
“What we do for people who notify us, we will check on the house a number of times while they're gone to ensure safety,” he said, adding that officers will need some information from homeowners such as how to contact the homeowner if there's a problem.
Officers will go to the home, check the doors and windows and also check any vehicles left at the home, Mahoney said.
If you plan to leave your home, Mahoney suggested making sure the entry doors are well-lit.
“Additional exterior lighting is always a good deterrent,” he said. “Thieves like the anonymity of a dark driveway or doorway. A well-lit home exterior can deter criminal activity and force those subjects to choose another location.”
Mahoney said neighbors should also remain on alert and report any suspicious activity to authorities.
“If you see something and it just doesn't look right, call law enforcement,” he said. “Follow those instincts. We'd rather respond to 10 false calls than miss something that, had it been reported, we'd have been able to prevent.”
He encouraged residents to establish relationships in their communities by getting involved in a neighborhood watch program or organization.
Aiken Public Safety will continue to post information and tips for holiday safety on its Facebook page.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal has provided the following tips to make sure your Turkey Day doesn't go up in smoke (or flames):
* Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
* Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
* Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot, and kids should stay at least 3 feet away.
* Make sure children stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
* Keep the floor clear so you don't trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
* Keep knives out of the reach of children.
* Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
* Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children – up high in a locked cabinet.
* Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
* Make sure your smoke alarms are working and test them.