Small appliances make our jobs in the kitchen much easier than they were years ago, but these same appliances can be a hazard in the kitchen if they aren’t cared for and used properly.

With summertime approaching, when quick meals are a popular choice, make sure your small appliances are in good shape for use.

• Always read the manufacturer’s directions before using an electrical appliance for the first time.

• Always check appliance cords before using. If they are broken, frayed or damaged in any way, do not use them. Damaged cords can cause fires.

• If the cord can be detached, always unplug the cord from the wall before removing it from the appliance. Cords should have a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label on them.

• Keep small appliances away from water! This sounds obvious, but do pay attention. Do not even try to use an appliance while your hands are wet.

• Be sure to keep all cords and outlets dry.

• Remember that electrical appliances are “live” when plugged in, even when the switch is off. If an applianc falls into water, you could be electrocuted if you touch it.

• Do not plug an appliance into the same outlet as several other electrical appliances.

• Do not use an appliance if it has food or grease build-up.

• When finished using an appliance, never wrap the power cord around an appliance too tightly, nor around a hot appliance.

Toasters: Never reach into a toaster with a knife, fork or anything else while it is plugged in. If a bagel or piece of toast gets stuck in a toaster, unplug the toaster first before trying to get the piece out.

Microwaves: When cooking covered foods, make sure a small section is vented or uncovered so steam doesn’t build up and burn you when you take the food out of the microwave. Don’t use metal in a microwave; this can cause a fire to start.

Clothes dryers: Make sure the lint screen or filter is cleaned each time you use the dryer. Clean behind your dryer where lint can build up. Keep the area around a dryer free of clutter.

While keeping a small appliance plugged in isn’t necessarily a safety issue, unplugging them will help conserve energy. Small appliances often include LED indicators, clocks and other energy-consuming features while in standby mode.

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