When you think back to your favorite memories about the summer, there is a good chance you celebrated summer by sharing a meal. Maybe it was a family picnic with ripe watermelon on the fourth of July, or it could have been an end-of-school-year BBQ with hot dogs and mustard. All parents want injury-free summer festivities, so our team has shared best practices to create a safe cooking environment. For part two of our safe summer celebrations series, our next blog will provide essential steps your family can take during picnics and cookouts to prepare food safely and prevent foodborne illnesses.
Grilling can be dangerous
Grill Fires: The National Fire Protection Association reports an average 8,900 of BBQ grill fires every year. These dangerous fires are primarily during the summer months, with May through August making up nearly 60% of all annual grill fires.
Grill Injuries: An average of 19,700 patients per year went to the emergency room due to injuries involving grills. About 39% of those injured are children under 5 years old.
How to avoid grilling injuries
1. Pick the Right Spot to Get Cooking
Always use the grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
Keep your grill away from structures: If you’re grilling at home, the grill should be at least ten feet away from your house (or any structure, including a garage or deck). Grill flare-ups can be unexpected, so it is also best to place your grill in the open, away from overhead objects, such as tree branches or wooden overhangs. Remember to move away from umbrellas, hanging lights, and decorations as well. These items are usually made from synthetic material and burn quickly if they catch fire.
Place grills a safe distance from play areas and foot traffic: It can be easy for excited children to wander or accidentally play too close to the hot BBQ. Most grill injuries are not caused by exposure to grill flames, they are caused by children bumping into the hot metal surface outside the grill. In addition to setting the grill away from the house, the BBQ should also be out of the way of any activity.
Remind your family to keep their distance. Actively keep children, pets, and anything that can burn, including food wrappers, towels, and oven mitts at least three feet away from open flames and the grill. If a family member gets seriously burned, you should seek medical attention. You can learn about how to identify and respond to burns here.
2. Use Your Equipment Properly
At the start of each summer and after long periods of unuse, be sure to check your equipment for rust and unsafe damage.
If you use a gas grill, don’t forget to check all hoses for abrasions or leaks before each use. You can apply a soap and water mixture or children’s bubbles to test for gas leaks. Simply apply a light layer of soapy water to the hose. A propane leak will create bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, turn off both the gas tank and the grill, tighten or replace the hose, or get the grill serviced. Never use a flame to check for gas leaks. Learn more about how to detect leaks in this video.
Always be certain to open the grill before lighting it. This will prevent flammable gas from building up before you light it. If the flame goes out while you are grilling, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before re-lighting it.
If you use a charcoal grill, do not light your BBQ until after the lighter fluid has soaked into the charcoal or wood chunks and the fluid is capped and a safe distance from the grill. Never add lighter fluid to coals that are already hot or warm, and never use gasoline or kerosene because they can explode.
Before disposing of ashes, allow coals to burn out entirely and let ashes cool for at least 48 hours. Then, wrap cold ashes in heavy-duty aluminum foil and place them in a non-combustible container. If you must dispose of ashes before they are entirely cooled, place them in heavy-duty foil and soak with water completely before placing them in a non-combustible container.
3. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Even the most experienced grill masters can make a mistake. A grill fire can happen in just seconds.
Know your fire extinguisher
You can instantly calm minor grill flare-ups by spraying water on the grill. Be sure to keep a spray bottle of water at arm’s length, but also keep a fire extinguisher a few steps away from your grill as well.
If possible, you should have at least one A-B-C- rated fire extinguisher in your home. A-B-C fire extinguishers are multipurpose and work on different types of fires, including ordinary combustibles such as wood and paper, flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, and oil, and electrically energized fires.
Check your fire extinguisher periodically for dents, rust, or damaged hoses.
Some fire extinguishers are single-use, but others need to be refilled or recharged. Read the instructions for your extinguisher so you’re familiar with how it works before a fire breaks out. You can also contact your local fire department for information about fire extinguisher training.
Don’t lose precious moments trying to figure out how your extinguisher works. Always remember to PASS.
Pull the pin. Point the extinguisher nozzle away from you and release the lock.
Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
If you try to use a fire extinguisher on a fire and the fire does not immediately die down, drop the extinguisher, get away from the flames, and call 911. Most portable extinguishers empty in eight seconds.
As your family enjoys your cookout, remember that these tips are only one part of a safe summer celebration. Be sure to also prepare food safely, and wear plenty of sunscreen.