CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea - The call of a loved one, the allure of a nap, or an unexpected disturbance can all spell disaster and danger for Soldiers, civilians and community members across Humphreys while they are making their favorite meal, dramatically increasing the chances of a fire incident from unattended cooking.
The United States Army Garrison Humphreys Fire Department prioritizes informing the community about these dangers, ensuring that community members from every aspect of Humphreys remain vigilant and safe while they cook.
“Fire safety is very important for our personnel and us on post, but we can’t prevent fire with just the protection systems,” said Mr. Yi, Sang-Chol, the Fire Inspector Supervisor at the USAG Humphreys Fire Department. “Unattended cooking is the perfect example because people can have their attention distracted while cooking. They are supposed to watch their cooking in the kitchen area, but they can be distracted by someone calling them or being sleepy. They could go outside without noticing that they totally forgot that they put food on the range tops.”
According to National Fire Protection Association reports, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 172,900 home structure fires per year started with cooking incidents from 2014-2018. Additionally, more than one-fourth of those killed by cooking fires were asleep at the time, demonstrating the severe effects of tiredness and inattention. Factors such as alcohol and cold medicine also play a significant role in causing unattended cooking fires across the United States and international military posts.
“Daily, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 470 fires caused by unattended cooking and cooking fires,” said Yi. “This year, we have had nine unattended cooking incidents here. For those, our fire department responded to the barracks seven times and to family housing twice, just this year. Thankfully, with our automatic sprinkler systems and fire alarm systems, there have been no injuries, just property damage. But, people need to take extra care when they are cooking something.”
To help prevent unattended cooking fires, community members are encouraged to stay and watch what they cook and to keep items such as oven mittens and towels away from the heat. Leadership from across Humphreys are also encouraged to help support the community's everlasting commitment to preventing fire incidents.
“We do inspect all the facilities on the installation,” said Yi. “But, without others' help, we cannot watch all other facilities at all times. So we need help. People need to be educated by their supervisors and management, and leadership can help tell them to take extra care and basic precautions. Fire prevention is the best way to put out the fire and be fire safe, all the time.”
It is also vital to make sure that the most vulnerable of our community can remain safe in the case of unattended fires.
“The children and elderly are at a higher risk from unattended cooking,” said Yi. “Soldiers and civilians have to take into consideration that when they practice for evacuation drills, that they need to take the elderly and children to the outside gathering point in a safe manner, in the case of an emergency.”
Cooking precaution is an integral part of fire safety. Following appropriate and safe practices can limit property damage and injury risk for Soldiers, civilians and community members. In the event of a fire, community members are urged to get out of the home and call 031-690-7911 from a Korean phone or 911 from a DSN phone, to contact emergency services.