UHN's Fire & Life Safety Department reports that since 2019 unattended cooking, incorrect cooking times and faulty or unapproved appliances have led to dozens of Code Red calls for fire, each costing more than $1500. (Photo: iStock)

It's a force of habit.

On another busy day at work, you realize if lunch is going to get eaten at all, it will need to be while on the go. So, as last night's leftovers reheat in the microwave, there's a perfect opportunity for a quick trip to the washroom or to pop back to your desk and check email.

But as you multi-task, that unattended chicken and rice, which is cooking on high for six minutes after you absent-mindedly pressed the wrong automatic setting, is burning, setting off a fire alarm on your floor, triggering a Code Red for fire and beckoning the Toronto Fire Department.

That scenario, and ones similar to it, plays out across UHN on a regular basis.

According to the latest statistics from the UHN Fire & Life Safety Department, unattended cooking, incorrect cooking times and faulty or unapproved appliances have led to dozens of Code Red calls since 2019. At a cost of more than $1500 per code call, they have a direct financial impact on UHN and its departments.

Oct. 8 to 14 is Fire Prevention Week. This year's focus is on cooking safety, with a campaign aimed at educating everyone on the actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe – at work and at home.

"Cooking safety starts with YOU," says Vito D'Amico, UHN's Fire & Life Safety Manager. "A cooking fire can grow quickly and injure people, and so many of those fires could easily be prevented."

In addition to always keeping an eye on what you cook, Vito says TeamUHN members at work should only use designated areas – such as kitchenettes – to reheat meals in a microwave, make tea or coffee or use a toaster because if something happens the room can be sealed off to prevent the spread of smoke and fire. That's difficult, he notes, with, say, a kettle in a working area.

Click the image to see Sparky the Fire Dog and UHN's Fire & Life Safety team offer some tips for cooking safely. (Video: UHN)

Among other tips Vito and his team offer for cooking safety at work and home:

  • Only commercial-grade appliances should be used across UHN. Have Facilities Management or Fire & Life Safety inspect and clear new appliances before use.
  • Use only microwave-safe food containers or dishes, never use aluminum foil or metal in a microwave;
  • Set a timer to remind you that you are cooking;
  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Always keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner;
  • Have a "kid- and pet-free zone" of at least one metre (three feet) around the stove or grill and anywhere else hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

As part of this year's recognition of Fire Safety Week, UHN Fire & Life Safety's popular trivia contest for TeamUHN members is returning, featuring grand prize giveaways consisting of an escape ladder, a fire extinguisher, a smoke/carbon monoxide detector, as well as a host of other prizes.​

Members of the Fire & Life Safety team will also be visiting sites across UHN next week promoting Fire Prevention Week with information, games and prizes. The schedule includes:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 10, Toronto Western, Atrium, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.;
  • Wednesday, Oct. 11, Princess Margaret, near 620 University Ave., 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.;
  • Thursday, Oct. 12, Toronto General, Eaton Lobby, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.;
  • Friday, Oct. 13, Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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