HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) –Pennsylvania officials are urging residents to heed safety advice when it comes to Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays.

“This holiday, as we gather to celebrate with loved ones, safety for yourself, your family, and your home should be a top priority,” said Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys. “In the event of an unfortunate accident, homeowners insurance and renters insurance will cover certain damages, but it is best to follow safety guidelines to ensure that the worst does not happen in the first place. We urge you this holiday to use caution when cooking to avoid potentially dangerous situations, prevent costly repairs, and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.”

The US Fire Administration has reported that the average number of reported residential building fires on Thanksgiving is more than double the average number of fires on all other days. There is an average of 2,300 house fires that occur on Thanksgiving alone, causing $26 million in property loss as well as injuries and fatalities.

Many house fires on Thanksgiving are caused by deep frying accidents. Fryers offer a delicious alternative to the traditional roasting of a turkey. However, additional safety risks come into play when deep frying is involved.

“Every year, cooking fires remain a persistent cause of home fires, peaking in their effect around the Thanksgiving holiday,” said State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook. “Turkey fryers and inattentive cooking are consistently listed as the leading causes of these fires, and the life-changing result of a home fire is all the more tragic knowing that they are entirely avoidable.  Taking the appropriate safety precautions can and will protect the lives and property of you and your loved ones.”

As quoted in the release, here are some tips to keep families, guests, and property safe:

  • Read the turkey fryer owner’s manual thoroughly for proper setup and safety tips
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying (hot oil and ice/water do not mix)
  • Use the correct amount of oil; overfilled fryers increase the likelihood of oil spilling out of the pot and hitting the burner causing flames to engulf the entire unit
  • Never leave the fryer unattended; many fryers lack thermostats to prevent overheating
  • Do not deep fry your turkey inside your garage, on your porch or deck, or inside your home
  • Have an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby; never use water to extinguish an oil fire
  • Keep children and pets away from all cooking surfaces
  • Use proper hand protection; lids and handles of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards
  • Ensure full attention is dedicated to cooking; do not consume alcohol while cooking.

In addition to safe cooking tips, the Pennsylvania Department of Health also is advising residents to use food safety best practices when dealing with raw ingredients while preparing holiday meals. Some of these best practices include the following, which was quoted in the release:

  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood from dripping or leaking onto other foods by keeping them in containers or sealed plastic bags. Store eggs in their original carton in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
  • Cook foods thoroughly and use a food thermometer to ensure foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill germs.
  • Keep food out of the danger zone which is between 40°F and 140°F because bacteria can grow rapidly between these temperatures.
  • Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs.
  • Do not eat raw dough or batter, because they can contain harmful germs such as E. coli and Salmonella.
  • Thaw your turkey safely in a sink of cold water or in the microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.

“It is important to use proper food safety practices as people prepare their holiday meals. Unfortunately, foodborne illnesses are common around the holidays, but they are preventable,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. Debra L. Bogengen. “I encourage residents to clean, separate, cook, and chill their food properly to prevent themselves and others from getting sick.”