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Five Steps to a Safer Kitchen

Your kitchen is a hub for family life, but it's also a place with risks. Although you can't foresee every hazard, you can make the room safer with five simple steps.

1. Pay attention to food on the stove.

Cooking is the top cause of home fires and home fire injuries, according to Underwriters Laboratories. If you must leave the kitchen while food is cooking, carry a wooden spoon or oven mitt as a reminder that something is on the stove. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for emergencies.

2. Don't use cook tops as work surfaces.

Placing anything flammable on a hot burner could start a fire. Don't use your microwave oven as storage space, either. This is especially true for paper bags, which could catch fire if you accidentally start the oven.

3. Be careful with knives.

Knives are useful tools, but they should always be treated with care. Cut food away from your body, on a non-slip surface, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keep knife blades sharp and clean. Store knives in knife holders, not loose in a drawer, and keep knives away from young children.

4. Keep poisons away from children.

Store cleaning supplies, insecticides and medications out of children's reach, the CDC says. To avoid accidental poisonings, store only food in food containers. Keep substances in their original containers with their original labels. Don't set insecticide in cupboards near open foods or on the floor, where toddlers can ingest it. Don't leave your purse around young children if it contains medications.

Call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 if you suspect poisoning. You'll be routed to your closest regional center. Never wait to see if symptoms occur. If the poison victim has collapsed or isn't breathing, call 911.

5. Avoid dangling appliance cords.

Hanging cords could catch on something, causing the appliance to tip over.