As it gets warmer outside, there’s no better time to dust off the grill and invite friends and family over for some mouth-watering meals. However, flipping burgers and sizzling steaks can be risky if you don’t take the proper safety measures. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), grills accounted for an average of 8,900 home fires, 10 civilian deaths, 160 reported civilian injuries, and $118 million in direct property damage per year from 2009-2013. The next time you’re having a barbecue, follow these grilling safety tips!
To ensure that your grill doesn’t become a fire hazard, follow these essential tips for barbecue fire safety:
- Follow the 10-foot rule. Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from structures, such as carports, garages, porches, and overhanging tree branches. Move any decorations, such as hanging baskets, wind chimes, and umbrellas, outside the 10-foot perimeter to prevent flare-ups.
- Put the grill on a stable surface. Set up your grill on a flat, durable surface so it doesn’t tip over.
- Clean your grill. See any residue on your grill from the last time you used it? Grease and fat buildup are major sources of flare-ups, so be sure to clean your grill. Use a stainless steel brush to clean the grate and wipe with a damp rag afterward. Not only will this reduce the fire risk, but it will also help your barbecue cook to perfection.
- Maintain your grill. Check all fittings, tubes, and connections to ensure they’re in proper condition before lighting up for the year’s first barbecue. The boxes should also be free of food grease, insects, and other debris. Clear any blockages inside the lines using a pipe cleaner or small awl.
- Check for leaks on your gas grill. While you can often smell a gas odor, the smell isn’t always apparent for small leaks. Periodically check for small leaks on your gas hose by creating a light soap and water solution, applying it to the hose using a brush or spray bottle, and then turning on the propane tank. You should see bubbles around the hose if there’s a gas leak. In case of a leak, immediately turn off the tank and have your grill serviced.
- Be ready to extinguish a fire. Keep a spray bottle of water or baking soda nearby to put out minor flare-ups. For larger fires, use a fire extinguisher. Never pour water onto a grease fire; the grease may splash and cause severe burns.
- Don’t turn on the gas with the lid closed. A closed lid causes gas to build up inside the grill, and when you light it and open it, the built-up gas turns into a fireball. Always leave the lid open when igniting the grill to avoid such incidents.
Barbecuing can be fun, so as long as you take safety precautions!
- Supervise your grill. Fires double in size every minute, so check on it frequently. Don’t allow kids and pets to play near it. Do all your food prep chores beforehand, so you can focus on grilling and keeping your kids and pets safe.
- Never use a grill indoors. All gas and charcoal grills are designed for outdoor use. Grilling indoors presents a fire threat and produces carbon monoxide (CO), a deadly, colorless, and odorless gas. Fire and CO poisoning risks are serious, even with a small grill.
- Don’t cook too much food at once. Piling on the steaks, hot dogs, and burgers all at once might seem like a time-saving effort, but overloading the grill can backfire. Excess fat can drip down onto the bottom, causing a fire. Cook small amounts at a time.
- Wear the proper clothing. Dress appropriately while handling the grill, and avoid loose garments that can easily catch fire. Use protective gear, such as fireproof oven mitts and long-handled utensils, when cooking on the barbecue.
- Be careful with charcoal starter fluid. Exercise caution when using charcoal starter fluid. If you have a charcoal grill, you can use charcoal chimney starters, which utilize newspapers as fuel or starter fluid, but no other flammable liquids. Alternatively, electric charcoal starters are available, but ensure that you use an extension cord intended for outdoor use.
- Ensure charcoal embers are out. Check that charcoal embers are entirely extinguished after grilling and allow the charcoal, wood chips, and wood lumps to cool down completely before discarding them in a metal container. Charcoal embers may still be hot even if they appear as ash.
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