As Memorial Day Weekend approaches kicking off the unofficial start of summer, backyard chefs everywhere are dusting off their grills, eager to spring into the long-awaited barbeque season. This summer, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that grillers pay particular attention to safety, especially in June and July, when home fires involving grilling accidents occur most often.
According to a 2013 NFPA report on cooking equipment fires, gas grills were involved in an annual average of 7,200 home fires in 2007-2011, while charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were responsible for an annual average of 1,400 home fires. While gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires overall than their charcoal counterparts, NFPA reminds everyone that all types of grills pose a risk for fires and burn injuries. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of home structure grill fires started on a courtyard, terrace or patio, while 29 percent started on an exterior balcony or open porch, and six percent began in the kitchen, according to the report.
“Grilling season is a great time of year for friends and families to have cookouts and tailgate, but before starting the season, be sure your grill is working properly and review safety tips,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “Propane gas hose leaks or breaks were the leading factors contributing to gas grill fires. It is good practice to check for damage before using it for the first time each year, and to clean and check the entire grill regularly.”
Last year, Hannah Storm, ESPN SportsCenter anchor, was severely burned in a grill fire at her home. She has since worked with NFPA to record several videos to share her story and raise awareness for grilling safety in hopes that others will avoid similar incidents.
When grilling, NFPA suggests the following:
- Stay alert when grilling. Do not grill if you are sleepy or when you are drinking alcohol.
- Don’t leave your cooking/grill area unattended.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area. Remove flammable materials from around the grill.
Additional grilling safety tips to consider:
- Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
- Grills should be placed well away from the home and deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. NOTE: A light soap and water solution applied to the hose is a great way to check for leaks. You can often smell a propane leak but propane will also release bubbles when the soap and water solution is applied. If you detect a leak, turn the gas tank and grill off. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
- Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before igniting.
- If you smell gas while cooking, immediately move away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
- If the flames go out for any reason, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it.
- Keep your grill clean by regularly removing grease or fat buildup from the grates and trays below.
Charcoal grill safety tips to consider:
- There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
- If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquid to the flames.
- Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- Electric charcoal starters do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
- When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container with a lid.