In many circumstances, the kitchen can act as the heart of the home — a hub of activity for friendly get-togethers, family feasts, and even festive celebrations. Unfortunately, the kitchen is also brimming with potential dangers, from sharp knives, to pans of spitting grease, pots of boiling water, and a host of fire hazards. With so many risk factors to think about, it's no surprise that each year thousands of Americans are injured in their own kitchens. In fact, according to the NFPA, cooking equipment was responsible for 1.1 billion dollars in property damage, and 5,400 civilian injuries between 2009-2013. Since you should be able to feel safe and secure in any part of your home, we've put together some of the most important kitchen safety tips that you need to follow, in order to keep yourself, and your family protected while you cook.

1. Don't Leave Food Unattended

Unattended cooking represents the leading factor when it comes to injuries and death caused by home kitchen fires. In other words, it's crucial to remain in the kitchen at all times when food is baking or cooking — unless you're using a slow cooker. Even if you are using a slow cooker, it's worth putting the appliance on a heatproof surface to avoid potential dangers. Remember, food can quickly go from gently browning to burning, and if there are pets or children in your household, accidents become even more likely. Watch over your food, and it's less likely to injure you.

2. Safeguard Against Slipping Hazards

Reduce the threat of slippery floors by keeping your kitchen clutter-free and clean. Wayward wires, children's toys, and other items can present a tripping hazard in an already dangerous environment — everything has its place, from important documents in your safe, to the bleach stored under your sink. Something as small as a quick splash of water can be enough to create a serious slipping problem. Before you begin to cook, clear the area, and remember to clean spills straight away.

3. Check Your Smoke Detector

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, homes that don't have smoke detectors are twice as likely to experience a fire - and the majority of those fires do start in the kitchen. If you want to reduce the damage of a house fire, and improve your chances of survival, then remember that early detection is crucial. Make sure that your home is fully equipped with smoke detectors, and check them regularly to ensure that they're working as they should be.

4. Know How to Respond to Fires

As careful as you may be, fire is always a possible danger within a kitchen environment, so make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy, and that you know how to handle fires before a problem arises. Remember, each fire is different, for instance, you should never attempt to extinguish electric or grease fires with water - baking soda or pan covers are better suited to this problem. In most cases, smothering a fire is the best way to put it out, but if you can't douse the flames within a few seconds, or don’t have a fire extinguisher, you'll need to call the fire department - fires spread very quickly and can get out of control in minutes.

5. Keep Pets and Kids at Bay

Though most children love helping their parents bake cookies and cook dinner, it's important for adults to introduce youngsters to the rules of the kitchen slowly. Unless your kids are helping you cook, it's a good idea to keep them out of the area, as not only can they be a distraction, but pets and kids can easily injure themselves by grabbing hot pots and pans, tripping you, or getting into raw foods. When you do want to teach your kids about cooking, start with small and simple recipes that don't require much heat, cutting, or the use of complex appliances. Children need to learn to respect the kitchen in small doses.

6. Use Knives Properly

Learn to use your knives and treat them with the respect they deserve. Knives should always be sharp, as a dull knife can easily slip and cut you. What's more, you should learn to cut as chefs do, using techniques that keep you out of harm's way, and going slow until you're confident with each stroke. It's also a good idea to keep a first aid kit in the kitchen, just in case. Make sure it's stocked with up-to-date equipment, including burn salve, gauze, Band-Aids, and bandages.

Stay Safe and Sanitary

Finally, remember to use your common sense. For instance, there's more bacteria thriving in your kitchen than in anywhere else throughout your home. Banish bacteria by cleaning the kitchen as often as possible, and remove dishrags or sponges that can easily house dangerous microbes. The cleaner your kitchen is, the less likely you and your family are to fall victim to common causes of food poisoning.