Thanksgiving: A time to focus on… safety?

Jason Van Steenwyk
| 4 min. read

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection and of gratitude for all of life’s blessings. It’s a time of giving, of sharing, and of family togetherness.

Unfortunately, it’s also a time of residential fires. And it’s imperative that property managers are proactive about reducing the risk of fires during the holiday weekend.

Some facts to consider:

  • According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System and the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the risk of fire on Thanksgiving is 2.1 times greater than on all other days of the year.
  • Between 2011 and 2013, there were an estimated 2,100 residential building fires reported to fire departments each year.
  • Altogether, these fires resulted in an estimated 50 injuries, $28 million in damages, and worst of all, 10 deaths. The average dollar loss per fire over Thanksgiving Day weekend was $11,360.

And a third of these fires occurred in multi-family dwellings, and cooking–related fires made up the vast majority of them (71.6%). The rest of the year, cooking causes only 48 percent of all reported residential fires. Risk peaks around midday, AKA prime Turkey-cooking hours. In contrast, on other days of the year, the residential fire risk peaks between 5 and 8 p.m., when families are cooking dinner.

So why is Thanksgiving so dangerous? There are a number of reasons, but more commonly these days: fried turkeys.

Many chefs swear by the fried bird. But, people using them on Thanksgiving aren’t usually professional chefs, and are prone to errors like filling the fryer with too much oil, trying to fry a frozen turkey, or frying it in the garage or too close to the building.

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Take action now by emailing residents. Remind them how dangerous turkey fryers can be when not used safely. Send them these cooking and fire safety outreach materials developed by FEMA and these safety tips from State Farm. You can also print and post this terrific poster to help educate residents about preventing turkey fryer fires.

Foodborne illnesses are incredibly common this time of year too. Share the following food safety tips with them to help keep them healthy through the Holiday season!

  • Keep young children away from the kitchen and deep fryers.
  • Don’t cross contaminate: segregate everything that came into contact with uncooked turkey, thoroughly wash all plates and utensils that come into contact with raw turkey immediately. Do not leave them lying around the counter.
  • Do not re-use uncooked marinades.
  • Store turkeys at or below 40 degrees F.
  • Thaw the turkey thoroughly. If you thaw it in a sink of cool water, change the water out every 30 minutes so bacteria does not get a chance to grow and spread.
  • Do not wash the turkey. This can spread salmonella, clostridium perfringens and other foodborne pathogens to other dishes and food prep areas. Simply cooking the turkey properly will be enough to kill any bacteria.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that the interior of the cooked turkey reaches 165 degrees F before you take it out of the oven. Check the stuffing temperature, as well. Ensure the stuffing reaches 165 degrees or higher before you remove the turkey from the oven.
  • Use a cooking temperature of 325 degrees or higher. Use time, rather than temperature, to adjust to the size of the bird.
  • Ensure leftovers are refrigerated within two hours.
  • Store leftovers in shallow pans or trays. If you leave them in larger trays it will take longer for them to cool in the refrigerator, increasing the possibility of foodborne illness.
  • Don’t store stuffing in leftover turkey carcass. Remove the stuffing when you serve the turkey, and store leftovers in a separate container away from the leftover turkey.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees F.
  • Throw away or freeze any Thanksgiving Day leftovers by Tuesday.
  • Sending leftovers home with someone? If they live over two hours away, send it in cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.

In addition, you can print and distribute this handy poster from FoodSafety.gov. Post in the elevators and common areas, and slip it under the doors.

How do you keep your residents safe during the holiday season? Get the conversation started in the comments below!

Read more on Resident Management

Jason Van Steenwyk

Jason is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an avid fiddler. His articles have been published in a number of real estate publications including Wealth and Retirement Planner and Bankrate.com. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.

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