Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Additional Word About Urns

In the comments on the urn posting preceding this one a few people mentioned the type of urn that was known in my youth as a samovar. Today these urns are electric but they share with their ancestor the pour spout near the bottom of the urn.

There are a few safety issues with these types of urns, UL certification or not. The pour spout, being low down on the pot, is easily accessible to "short" people--children. There is no way to lock this pour spout, as there is on the pots with the push tops. Therefore, it is imperative that urns of this type not be left near the edge of a table or counter top. Also, if you push too hard on the pour handle, particularly if the urn is not completely full, it can cause the urn to tilt forward. The "taller" the urn in relationship to its base width, the more danger of this happening. Some of these types of urns are way older models, perhaps being hand me downs from parents, and many people have the "custom" of covering these urns with towels to make sure that the heat stays in. Not only is there a danger of the material's catching on fire, but when the towel is unwrapped there is also the real danger of tippage as the towel catches on the urn. Checking a whole bunch of specs on these types of urns brought to light that some of them are not certified to run for more than 2-4 hours at a time. Some do not automatically turn off if there is no water left in the pot.

Additionally, the covers on these types of urns represent a problem. Many of them have no mechanism to lock the cover onto the urn. Any sudden movement or tilting of the urn can cause hot water to spill out on the user. Some have a twist top lock which can be jarred loose if the urn is overturned. A few, mostly the very expensive models, have a locking mechanism that folds down under the side handles and will keep the cover on the urn should the urn be overturned.

It seems that only the really expensive urns of this type have all the safety features necessary on them. But I saw not one where the pour spout could be locked. If you have young children or frail older adults in your family I wouldn't recommend this type of urn unless it's put somewhere truly safe and care is taken in using it. And as with all urns, it's imperative to make sure that the cord stays well behind the urn.

Why harp on urns? There has not been one single year that the regional NY burn centers have not had to treat victims of hot water urn scalding. Yes, they are a convenience, but a convenience that can turn deadly if you don't exercise care when using them. A number of years ago we had personal experience with this when a friend from Brooklyn's two year old pulled over an urn using the pour spout, burning himself extensively. No convenience was worth the agonizing months they spent with this child in a burn center


A Living Nadneyda said...

I'm really glad you added this safety information.

In Israel this is still a HUGE issue.

I have worked with way too many children who were victims of third-degree burns in the shape of water dripping down their backs. It's horrific.

I have a couple crucial things to add:

1. Your advice about attaching the lid to the urn is exceedingly important. I highly recommend attaching the urn itself to the back wall of the counter, using two screws (with dibbles) and a metal band around the body of the urn.

2. I highly recommend buying an urn which needs to be "pumped," as opposed to one with a spigot that allows for a fast, free flow of water.

3. If possible, check the maximum water temperature the urn reaches. Some do not get as hot as others, and it's worth the trade-off of slighter cooler coffee, rather than hotter water which would cause a more serious (higher degree) burn.

4. The household rules need to be extremely clear: No one under bat/bar mitzvah age touches the urn for any reason. No one. A large number of Israel's burn victims are little kids (even 9-10 years old) trying to do a "mitzvah" by preparing a hot drink for Ima or Abba, only to end up hospitalized with a horribly painful, life-threatening, and permanently debilitating condition. Another type of accident is a child pulling the urn or trying to tie something to the urn, and then, since he is shorter than the countertop, pulling the urn down over his head and torso.

Did I scare anyone? Good. I'd rather have that, than the regret I've seen in the eyes of way too many parents of burned children, and the pain of the children themselves.

ProfK said...

Thank you for the additional information. If even only one child is spared the agony of a burn through someone's reading these urn postings then a year of blogging will have been more than worthwhile. And if more are spared, well that is chizuk for another year.

Have I told you yet that I'm awfully happy that you took up blogging? I am!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these two articles. We had purchased one of those urns with the spout on the bottom for a shower we are giving but I'm taking it back now and buying one with the push top that has the certification of the UL. I'H the kallah will have children and better that she shouldn't have a problem urn in the house.

Anonymous said...

If you are discussing the danger of hot water and burns then someone should also talk about those boiling water taps that some people have by their sinks. At a friend's house my 10 year old was helping to clear off the dinner dishes and rinse them in the sink. She accidentally turned on that boiling water (we don't have one and she didn't know what it was. She thought it was for soap.)and scalded herself. She was lucky that it wasn't worse then it was but it was still a painful thing that took a good few months to heal and that left a scar.

A Living Nadneyda said...

ProK - Thank you!

So am I.... if only I could increase my readership now. It's been difficult getting things off the ground in that area.

Anonymous said...

I read an article that was targetted for grandparents on safety proofing your house before the grandkids come over to visit. But in a frum house there is even more to have to worry about. We've been using one of those pour spout urns for years and I think it's time to replace it with a safer one now that little people are again in the house. I didn't even think of the boiling water pump by the sink and I'm so sorry that Kayla's daughter found out about the danger of this the very hard way. Any ideas on how to protect little ones from this pump? Telling them not to go near the sink is not enough of a protection.

Anonymous said...

I am I"YH getting married soon, and I received an urn with a spout and I would like to exchange it for one with a pump that will turn off if there is no water left. I have been searching online and am not able to find one like this. Does anyone know where I can get one like this?

Anonymous said...

My urn died and I need a new one. Any specific product recomendation? Anyone?

Note: I do not live in NY.

Anonymous said...

to, -> Tom

A Living Nadneyda said...

Re: How to make a hot-water spigot safer.

If there's a thermostat, turn it down so the water coming out of it isn't near boiling. Otherwise, just turn it off completely and heat water in an electric kettle.

Boiling water does a lot more damage than water that is merely hot, because it heats the skin and then continues to do damage for as long as the skin has not cooled down. You can speed up the cooling process by applying cool or cold water immediately -- not ice itself, but water cooled with ice.

ProfK said...

The "Innovative Consumer" urn mentioned by Mike (and the one I have as well) meets all your qualifications. Hubby will be in the store where we got the last one this week so I'll publish the contact info after he goes. They may even ship.

Batya said...

My newest is much safer than the previous ones. Plastic lockable cover, more solid bottom instead of a couple of "legs," and I set it up by the sink, so the spout is aimed there, not over the floor.