Stats tell the story: Why cooking safety is this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme
Half of all home fires involve cooking, and cooking fires are the leading cause of home fire injuries
By Susan McKelvey
As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week™ for more than 100 years, the NFPA works each year to develop campaign themes that address a specific home fire problem. Our data is at the center of each year’s theme, as it identifies where U.S. home fires are occurring most often and why.
Over the past few years, we’ve focused on the importance of smoke alarms and home escape planning and practice, as our statistics show that the majority of U.S. fire fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, and that even though the number of home fires is declining, when home fires occur, they’re more likely to be serious.
While we continue to promote smoke alarm and home escape messages year-round, we’ve pivoted to cooking fires for this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign. Cooking safety starts with YOU! Pay attention to fire prevention TM , the theme for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 8-14, 2023, works to educate the public about simple but important steps they can take to help reduce the risk of fire when cooking at home, keeping themselves and those around them safe.
Following are key data points that supported this focus:
- Cooking fires are by far the leading cause of U.S. home fires; nearly half (49%) of all home fires involve cooking.
- Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fire injuries and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires and related deaths. In addition, cooking is the only major cause of fire that resulted in more fires and fire deaths in 2014-2018 than in 1980-1984.
These numbers tell us that more public awareness is needed around when and where cooking hazards exist, along with ways to prevent them. They also helped us craft the leading cooking safety messages that support this year’s theme, as follows:
- Always keep a close eye on what you’re cooking. For foods with longer cook times, such as those that are simmering or baking, set a timer to help monitor them carefully.
- Clear the cooking area of combustible items and keep anything that can burn, such as dish towels, oven mitts, food packaging and paper towels.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner.
- Create a “kid and pet free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the cooking area and anywhere else hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
Overall, staying in the kitchen, using a timer and avoiding distractions that remove your focus from what’s on the stove are among the key messages for this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign.
NFPA cooking statistics also help us target Fire Prevention Week messages to specific audiences. For example, older adults are at higher risk to cooking fires than other age groups, making it imperative that we reach older adults with messages that reinforce the critical importance of cooking safely. We also know that more cooking fire fatalities happen late at night, highlighting the importance of reminding people of all ages not to cook when they’re tired, taking medication, drinking or using recreational substances.
To learn more about Fire Prevention Week and this year’s theme, “Cooking safety starts with YOU! Pay attention to fire prevention,” visit www.fpw.org. Additional Fire Prevention Week resources for children, caregivers and educators can be found at www.sparky.org and www.sparkyschoolhouse.org.
Fire Prevention Week is celebrated throughout North American every October, and is the oldest public health observance on record in the U.S. Entering its 101st year, Fire Prevention Week works to educate people about the leading risks to home fires and ways they can better protect themselves and their loved ones. Local fire departments, schools and community organizations play a key role in bringing Fire Prevention Week to life in their communities each year and spreading basic but critical fire safety messages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan McKelvey is the communications manager for the NFPA, a global nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA is the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week.