Grilling Summer Safety
Summer is synonymous with barbecues, swimming, and fireworks. Today we will cover Grilling safety.
Seven out of every 10 adults in the U.S. have a grill or smoker*, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there is an increased risk of home fires.
In 2014-2018, fire departments went to an annual average of 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year, including 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outside or unclassified fires.
Grilling fire facts
July is the peak month for grill fires (18%), including both structures, outdoor or unclassified fires, followed by June (15%), May (13%) and August (12%).
In 2014-2018, an average of 19,700 patients per year went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.** Nearly half (9,500 or 48%) of the injuries were thermal burns, including both burns from fire and from contact with hot objects; 5,200 thermal burns, per year, were caused by such contact or other non-fire events.
Children under five accounted for an average of 2,000 or 39%, of the contact-type burns per year. These burns typically occurred when someone, often a child, bumped into, touched or fell on the grill, grill part or hot coals.
Gas grills were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year, including 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires annually. Leaks or breaks were primarily a problem with gas grills. Ten percent of gas grill structure fires and 22% of outside gas grill fires were caused by leaks or breaks.
Charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in 1,300 home fires per year, including 600 structure fires and 600 outside fires annually.
Here are 10 Do’s and Don’t Tips
- Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house. Farther is even better. This includes portions attached to your house like carports, garages and porches. Grills should not be used underneath wooden overhangs either, as the fire could flare up into the structure above. This applies to both charcoal and gas grills.
- Clean your grill regularly. If you allow grease and fat to build up on your grill, they provide more fuel for a fire. Grease is a major source of flare ups.
- Check for gas leaks. You can make sure no gas is leaking from your gas grill by making a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water and rubbing it on the hoses and connections. Then, turn the gas on (with the grill lid open.) If the soap forms large bubbles, that's a sign that the hoses have tiny holes or that the connections are not tight enough. Turn the main gas valve off after each use.
- Keep decorations away from your grill. Decorations like hanging baskets, pillows and umbrellas look pretty AND provide fuel for a fire. To make matters worse, today's decor is mostly made of artificial fibers that burn fast and hot, making this tip even more important.
- Keep a spray bottle of water handy. That way, if you have a minor flare-up, you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it. The bonus of this tip is that water won't harm your food, so dinner won't be ruined!
- Keep a fire extinguisher within a couple steps of your grill. And KNOW HOW TO USE IT. If you are unsure how to use the extinguisher, don't waste time fiddling with it before calling 911. Firefighters say many fire deaths occur when people try to fight a fire themselves instead of calling for expert help and letting the fire department do its job.
- Turn on the gas while your grill lid is closed. NEVER do this. It causes gas to build up inside your grill, and when you do light it and open it, a fireball can explode in your face.
- Leave a grill unattended. Fires double in size every minute. Plan so that all of your other food prep chores are done and you can focus on grilling.
- Overload your grill with food. This applies especially fatty meats. The basic reason for this tip is that if too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up that could light nearby things on fire.
- Use a grill indoors. People often think it will be safe to use a grill, especially a small one, indoors. NOT TRUE. In addition to the fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide, the deadly colorless, odorless gas. That gas needs to vent in fresh air, or it can kill you, your family and pets.
For more information on fire or grill safety, visit www.nfpa.org
Source: NFPA's Applied Research. * Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA). **Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, queried in April 2016
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