Knives are very useful tools in the kitchen but they can also be very dangerous, when not used properly. Knives should always be safely stored away, when not in use. It is not advisable to put knives or sharp objects into a full sink, as anyone can get hurt. While cooking, it is recommended not to wear loose clothes and never to stretch the arms and sleeves, over the burning stove, as it can catch fire. Curtains, towels, and other combustible material should always be kept away from burning stoves.
The main source of fuel in our kitchens is LPG, Fire wood, electricity and kerosene oil. It is essential to know the proper techniques for safely operating the stoves. If fire wood is used, it is necessary to have a chimney that draws away the smoke. For kerosene stoves, it should be ensured that the burner is hot, before it is pumped. Kerosene or other flammable material should be stored away from the kitchen LPG gas is combustible and highly flammable and can burn or explode, if it comes in contact with a source of ignition. LPG is stored under pressure, in cylinders and can leak if improperly sealed. Awareness or knowledge of safe handling of LPG can eliminate the chances of fire or explosion.
Filled LPG cylinders should not be placed near the burning stoves or source of flame. Only ISI mark gas tubes should be used to prevent leakages. Never check gas leaks using a lit matchstick. Instead, use a solution of soapy water and if there are bubbles near the valves and pipe joints, it indicates leakage. Spare cylinders should not be kept next to the cylinder in use. A gas stove should be lit when the gas is turned on full. If the burner does not ignite with a lighted matchstick, turn it off at once. Wait for a minute and repeat once again.
The valve on the cylinder should always be closed, when not in use. In case gas leakage causes fire, use the regulator to stop the flow of gas. Turn-off or remove any other source of ignition. Open the doors and windows to ventilate the room. Never switch-on electricity or light the stove, if gas leakage is suspected. In the early stages of a fire, a large blanket, a bedspread or a rug can be used to physically smother the fire and cut off its supply of oxygen. This must be done quickly to avoid the cloth catching fire. Never try to lift a burning object, before extinguishing it, as you risk spreading the fire and even breaking your bones, in the process. It is advisable to use a Gas Safety Device, to prevent any leakage of gas. The safety product is easily available in the market at affordable cost and it automatically shuts-down the gas supply, in the event of leakage, thereby preventing a disaster.
To lessen the likelihood of fires occurring in your home, it is important not to overload electrical outlets. Electrical fires commonly start because of an overloaded circuit, so avoid using outlet strips or multiple-attachment plugs. Replace any appliances with damaged or exposed cords, because it can cause short-circuit. The cords of the electrical appliances should be kept as short as possible, to avoid accidents, such as tripping or knocking the appliances over. The electric cords of cooking equipment should be kept out of reach of small children. In case of an electrical fire due to short circuit, before attempting to put out the fire, dry your hands and turn-off the electricity, by shutting down the mains. Never use water, in case of electrical fires, as it will conduct electricity and give a deadly shock.
Fire due to oil and grease, can be prevented by cleaning the grease from the stove burner before using it. Do not place any cleaning rags near an open flame or a source of heat. You can use sand or dirt to put out such small fires. Never use water on an oil fire, because water will evaporate and carry burning grease particles. For small grease fires, use a metal pot lid to cover any remaining grease that hasn't caught fire. Never use glass pots as it can explode into dangerous fragments if it gets too hot. Baking soda, commonly available in the kitchen, is an effective extinguishing agent for grease fires.
It is advisable to have a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher in the kitchen. It is most important to be properly acquainted about its use, so that one is not caught unaware, in the event of an unexpected accident. If a fire occurs in the kitchen and you are sure that there is no danger to your life, you can try to extinguish the fire with the help of a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are of different types and their use depends upon the nature of fire. ABC type fire-extinguishers, also called the multi-purpose fire extinguishers, are most appropriate for dousing fire caused due to LPG, short circuit or grease fire. If it is not safe to enter the room or the fire is uncontrollable, do not make an attempt and call Fire Control Room on 101, immediately. Remember, that personal safety must be ensured, at all times.
In case of a burn caused by heat, electricity etc., the first response should be to stop the heat source or break contact between the heat source and the skin. First-aid in case of burns is to use running cold water, without rubbing, or immerse the entire affected area in cold water, until the pain reduces. Never use butter, ointments, toothpaste, turmeric (Haldi) etc. as they seal-in the heat and can cause infection. If blisters are formed, they should not be broken, because they protect the burn from infection. Lightly pat the burnt area with a sterile cloth and loosely cover it. Minor burns usually heal without further treatment. In case of infection, such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing, medical help should be sought immediately. For accidents involving drenching in hot liquid, the victim should immediately be soaked in cold water or given a cold water shower. In case clothes catch fire, the victim should immediately smother the fire by rolling on the ground or fire should be smothered using a thick blanket.
The kitchen is one of the most frequently visited place and usually the most comfortable room, in the house. Yet, it has the potential of being the most dangerous place, as well. We should all be concerned about the safety of our kitchen and all the family members need to be conscious of the safety measures required to be taken to prevent accidents there.
It is hoped that these safety tips, are put to use by everyone, in our day to day life, so as to avert any possible unfortunate incidents. I was inspired to jot down these few lines about this grave issue, consequent to a recent fire incident, which involved my dearest friend; a senior Editor of a leading newspaper of Kashmir, who miraculously saved his house and family members, after an LPG cylinder caught fire in his kitchen. He bravely lifted the LPG filled-burning cylinder and threw it outside his house, where it fortunately got extinguished. In the process, he nearly damaged his spinal cord and could have got crippled for life, God forbid.
(Issued for the benefit of general public by Aamir Ali, Coordinator Disaster Management & OSD with Divisional Commissioner Kashmir.)