During the holidays, friends and family seem to gather in the kitchen. While this can be lots of fun, it should also be safe.

Keep the following in mind when preparing any meal, but especially when distractions abound.

Hot pans. Always keep an oven mitt or pot holder nearby when cooking. When you remove a hot pan from the stove, leave a pot holder on it – this will remind you and others that this pan could be hot.

Especially during the holidays, there are lots of things cooking at the same time. Don’t let pan handles on the stove stick out over the edge of the stove. Not only is this dangerous if kids are around, but a handle can also get caught on clothing of those walking by.

Turn handles to the side and make sure they are not over other burners as well.

Pay attention. Most kitchen fires start because someone has left their cooking unattended. This is especially dangerous when you are cooking with grease or oil.

Remember that oil becomes hotter and hotter, smokes a bit and then will eventually burst into flames. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid or cookie sheet over the pan and turn off the heat. Make sure you are wearing an oven mitt!

Never pour water on a grease fire.

Oven fires. If you have an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.

Burn prevention. If you have young children, use the back burners of the stove whenever possible. Children and pets should stay at least 3 feet away from the stove.

Countertop safety. Use only one heat-producing appliance on the same electrical circuit at a time. Replace cracked or frayed appliance cords. If an appliance feels too hot, smokes or give off an unusual odor, unplug it immediately and have it serviced or replaced.

Microwaves. Never use an extension cord for a microwave – it can overload the circuit and cause a fire. Use only microwave safe containers to heat food.

Never use aluminum foil, metal objects or even dinnerware with metallic paint in a microwave, as they can cause a fire as well as damage to the microwave.

If you have a fire in your microwave, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Do not open the door until the fire is completely out.

Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue.