Thanksgiving is a holiday people might not associate with building fires or burn injuries, apart from minor burns from wrestling a turkey out of the oven. But deep-frying turkeys markedly increases burn injury and fire hazards, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
AMR paramedics advise these steps from the Burn Institute (www.burninstitute.org) to help prevent serious injuries and property loss when using a turkey fryer.
- NEVER leave turkey fryers unattended. Due to the risk, it is wise to have two fry cooks.
- ALWAYS keep children and pets away from the fryer. AMR recommends drawing a circle ten feet in diameter around the fryer and declaring it a “kid-free zone.”
- ALWAYS use turkey fryers outdoors. Do not use them in rain or snow, since water and hot oil can splatter and even erupt.
- ALWAYS keep fryers away from flammable materials. Do not use them under eaves, porches or carports or near walls, fences, leaves, bushes or trees. Do not use fryers in garages.
- ALWAYS place fryers on a flat, stable, non-flammable surface such as concrete. Do not fry the bird on a deck.
- ALWAYS thaw the turkey thoroughly. The U.S. Department Agriculture says proper thawing requires 24 hours for every four to five pounds. It is extremely dangerous to put an unthawed turkey into boiling oil. A sudden “flash-over” of burning oil can occur. A flashover is like an eruption. The oil can flow down to the heat source and cause a big fire and critical burns.
- NEVER overfill the fryer. Here’s how to determine the quantity of oil needed for your turkey: Before lighting the fryer, put the turkey in the pot and add water (not oil) until all of the bird is under about a half-inch of water. Be sure there are three to five inches between the top of the water and the top of the pot. If there aren’t three to five inches from the water to the top of the pot, your turkey is too big for your pot. Mark the spot on the pot where the water stopped. Remove the bird and the water. Dry the bird thoroughly inside and out and dry the pot. Then and only then add the oil.
- ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- NEVER heat the oil above the recommended temperature. If you see smoke, turn off the burner immediately because that means the oil is too hot.
- ALWAYS wear long sleeves, flame-retardant gloves and shoes with closed toes.
- ALWAYS use a thermometer to monitor food temperature. Check the oil temperature frequently.
- NEVER move the fryer once it is in operation.
- NEVER let the cooks consume alcohol while tending the fryer.
- ALWAYS lower the turkey slowly into the oil. Nearly all fryers come with a hook that attaches to the bird. Using the hook keeps your hands several inches above the hot oil. Also consider attaching the hook to a bar and using two people to lower and raise the bird, one person on each end of the bar.
- NEVER stand directly over hot oil.
- ALWAYS make sure the oil is completely cooled before removing it from the fryer. Remember, the oil can stay hot for hours after the heat source is turned off.
- ALWAYS keep a fire extinguisher with you when using a turkey fryer.
- NEVER try to extinguish an oil fire with water. Hot oil doused with water can lead to deadly results. If someone is burned or if the fryer catches fire, immediately call 911. Hot oil burns can cause extensive tissue damage. Run cool but not cold water over the burned area for at least five minutes. Apply no ice, creams or gels.
Serving 20 counties, AMR’s companies in Mississippi are the state’s busiest ambulance services. The Mississippi Department of Health has reported AMR companies transported more than 40 percent of ambulance patients statewide in some recent years.