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Safety practices essential during holiday season

With the approaching holidays drawing more people to their stovetops in efforts to prepare different culinary creations, proper kitchen caution is imperative. Specifically, with Thanksgiving approaching, correct turkey preparation is essential. (Courtesy photo)

With the approaching holidays drawing more people to their stovetops in efforts to prepare different culinary creations, proper kitchen caution is imperative. Specifically, with Thanksgiving approaching, correct turkey preparation is essential. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- With the approaching holidays drawing more people to their stovetops in efforts to prepare different culinary creations, proper kitchen caution is imperative.

Specifically, with Thanksgiving approaching, correct turkey preparation is essential.

"Properly defrost your turkey, or buy a fresh one," said Chris Wolfe, 30th Space Wing occupational safety specialist. "If you choose a frozen turkey, allocate 24 hours per five pounds to defrost in the refrigerator. In light of the drought conditions, defrosting the bird using frequently changed cold water might seem wasteful, but it is safe as long as you change the cold water bath every 30 minutes."

Food related safety precautions extend beyond just utilizing proper hygiene in the kitchen, and encompass fire safety concerns as well.

"The biggest concern is unattended cooking," said Jason Haddock, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron risk division chief. "It gets busy with family in town and people tend to walk away while cooking.  Unattended cooking is the leading contributor to cooking fires and fire deaths. This time of year allows people to come together and celebrate with family and friends. The last thing anyone would want is to have an emergency that could be fatal."

With deep fryers contributing to a significant number of home fire statistics, safety office personnel urge users to take extra precaution this holiday season.

"Every year deep fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association," said Wolfe. "If you plan to deep fry your holiday bird, be sure you know how to safely use the fryer, and take the extra time to read the instruction guide to familiarize yourself with the precautions to protect yourself, your guests and your home."

Members from both the base safety office and fire department hope to accomplish their primary mission of ensuring Vandenberg Airmen, and their families, return safely from the holidays.

"Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove," said Haddock. "Be cognizant of children in the kitchen and ensure they do not get too close to the stove. Follow manufacturer's guidelines when using turkey fryers. We are here to assist whenever there is an emergency, but our primary mission is to ensure that the community is aware of fire safety and to assist with educating everyone."

In addition to kitchen safety, sound travel preparation is imperative during the holiday season - as there is a significant increase in commuter traffic.

"Driving is a primary safety concern over the holidays," said Wolfe. "By taking some basic precautions and planning ahead, you can ensure your whole family remains safe and injury free throughout the season. Never drink and drive, plan ahead, and ensure a designated driver is available. If you are traveling during the holidays, thoroughly plan your route. Ensure you are aware of the weather and road conditions -- and include routine breaks."