Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means you’re probably dreaming of turkey, pumpkin pie, and all the other delicious treats that come with this favorite holiday. If you’re the one cooking, you might be starting to make shopping lists and menu plans. As a part of that planning, make sure you spend time thinking about safety — especially when it comes to house fires.
Nobody plans on the turkey starting a fire, but indeed, Thanksgiving is the number one day for house fires in the U.S. According to the NFPA, fire departments responded to 1,630 cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day in 2018. So, it is well worth taking some steps to prevent a Thanksgiving cooking fire. You’ll also want to be sure that if you do have a fire, your homeowners’ insurance will cover any damage.
Check Your Insurance Policy
Homeowners’ insurance should cover any damage to your home and possessions caused by a fire. It should also pay for medical expenses should any of your Thanksgiving guests be injured in that fire. However, it never hurts to look over your policy and be extra certain you have fire coverage before Thanksgiving Day arrives.
Also, check your deductible. This is the amount you’ll pay to pay, out of pocket, before your homeowners’ insurance pays out on a claim. On the chance that you do have a turkey fire, you want to make sure you can afford your deductible. If your deductible is higher than you can afford, this is a good opportunity to shop around for a new policy.
Finally, see whether your homeowners’ insurance policy names any restrictions related to negligence. Some policies may not cover house fires if the fire is due to negligence of the homeowner or guests. Drinking alcohol while you cook or leaving the oven unattended could, in some circumstances, be considered negligence. If your policy is unclear as to how negligence will impact a fire damage claim, reach out to your insurance agent for clarification. It’s important to know what guidelines you need to follow before Thanksgiving arrives.
Play It Safe In The Kitchen
Of course, even with the best homeowners’ insurance policy in the industry, you don’t want Thanksgiving Day to end in a house fire. So, it’s important to follow safety guidelines as you cook your bird.
1. Don’t leave hot surfaces unattended
According to the NFPA, unattended cooking was the top contributor to Thanksgiving cooking fires. It can be tempting to leave the kitchen and mingle with guests while the turkey finishes roasting, but this is an accident waiting to happen. If you need to leave the kitchen while your oven or another appliance is on, designate someone else to watch it until you return.
2. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand
If you don’t already have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, this is the perfect time to buy one. Some insurance companies even give you a discount on your policy if you have a fire extinguisher. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to use it. If a small fire starts, you’ll be able to put it out before it causes too much damage.
3. Keep an extra pan under the turkey
If your turkey drips fat into the bottom of your oven, you may end up with a grease fire. An easy way to prevent this is to place an extra sheet pan on the rack below your turkey. The pan will catch any stray drippings so they don’t end up in your oven’s heat element.
4. Don’t drink and cook
As mentioned above, if a cooking fire breaks out while you’re intoxicated, you could be found to be negligent, which might impact your insurance coverage. So, save the alcohol until the oven is off and the meal is on the table.
5. Keep flammable items away from flames and burners
When you’re preparing several dishes at once and your home is full of guests, the kitchen can get a bit messy. It’s far too easy for a stray oven mitt or towel to get pushed into a flame and start a fire. An easy way to prevent this is to have a designated place for your oven mitts and kitchen towels. That space should be far away from any heating elements. Always set your mitts and towels there as soon as you’re finished with them.
6. Set multiple timers on your phone.
It’s easy to forget something on the stove or in the oven when you’re cooking multiple dishes. To avoid overcooking a dish and potentially starting a fire, set timers for each dish on your smartphone. With multiple timers, you’re less likely to leave something on for too long.
Some Notes On Deep Frying
Fried turkey is delicious, and deep frying turkey in the backyard has become a common Thanksgiving tradition in some families. Homeowners’ insurance should cover damage caused by fires that start in your deep fryer — as long as you were following the manufacturer’s instructions and were not negligent while using the fryer. Again, though, it is smart to call your homeowners’ insurance company and double-check your coverage if you plan on frying a turkey.
Also, understand that frying a turkey is riskier than cooking it indoors. In 2019, one deep frying turkey caught fire and displaced 27 people from their homes in New Bedford, MA. If you do choose to deep fry, you must be very, very careful to prevent fires. Here are a few specific guidelines to follow:
- Make sure your turkey is 100% thawed before frying. Still-frozen turkeys can cause the hot oil to spatter and start a fire.
- Keep your fryer as far as possible from your home, outbuildings, woodpiles, and other structures.
- Never fill the fryer past the fill line. Overfilling can cause hot oil to bubble up over the edge, starting a fire.
- Do not allow children anywhere near the fryer. In fact, you should make sure all children stay inside and closely supervised from the moment you turn on the fryer.
- Stay close to the fryer from the moment you turn it on. Never leave it unattended.
- Keep a dry powder fire extinguisher near the fryer at all times. This type of fire extinguisher is best at putting out grease fires.
A good homeowners insurance policy should give you peace of mind as Thanksgiving approaches. While house fires are more common on Thanksgiving Day, there are a lot of steps you can take to prevent them. Double-checking your insurance policy is also a wise idea since it will ensure you’re covered should the worst happen. If you find that your policy is insufficient or that your deductible is too high, this is the perfect time to make a change.
Flagler County Insurance Agency is an independent, multi-line insurance agency, and we’ve been serving Florida residents since 1917. If you’re shopping around for homeowners insurance or would like to learn more about your options, please contact us. Our agents offer personalized advice through our two local offices in Palm Coast and Burnell.