“This is Us” got smoke alarm messaging right, but slow cookers wrong; slow cookers are not a significant fire safety hazard and can be used safely!
If you're one of the few people who doesn't watch “This is Us”, here's an update on what's been happening with the show and fire safety. "This is Us" is a highly popular, one-hour program on NBC that's brought quite a bit of attention to two fire safety issues. In a recent episode, viewers learned that a lead character died in home fire as a result of smoke alarms with missing batteries. In the latest episode, it was revealed that the cause of said fire involved a slow cooker.
Showing that smoke alarms need to have working batteries in order to protect you, and more pointedly, dramatizing the deadly consequence that can result when batteries are missing, is an incredibly powerful message. The show was able to reinforce the potentially life-saving importance of making sure smoke alarms are always equipped with batteries, which has immeasurable impact on the show's millions of viewers.
Unfortunately, the show missed the mark in representing a realistic cause of home fires. While cooking is, in fact, the leading cause of U.S. home fires, slow cookers do not play a significant role in them. Between 2011 and 2015, an annual average of 70 cooking fires involving slow cookers resulted in two civilian injuries, no deaths and $3.3 million in direct property damage. This data shows that slow cookers are a statistically insignificant factor in the home cooking fire equation and can be used safely.
So the next time you're planning to use your slow cooker or small appliance in the kitchen, consider the following action steps:
- Inspect plugs and cords to make sure they are not frayed or broken (and replace if necessary), which will help keep electrical fires at bay
- Keep the slow cooker (or other small appliance) away from the edge of the counter so hands and elbows don't push it off the edge causing burns or scalds from the hot liquid and food inside
- Follow the manufacturers' instructions for proper and safe use of the appliance
- Follow instructions for recipes carefully using the right amount of liquid and heat when preparing your meal to prevent overheating
For additional cooking fire safety tips and data on cooking fires, visit www.nfpa.org/cooking.