Millions of Americans love to barbecue in the summer and safety is a must to avoid accidents. Uncle Wayne encourage everyone to have a trouble-free summer cooking experience by maintaining your grill, using it safely and knowing what to do in case of emergency.
When the warmer weather hits, there’s nothing better than the smell of food on the grill.
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’s 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.
This is Hot Stuff
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 189,300 grill fires take place on residential property every year, most caused by malfunctioning gas grills. These fires cause an annual average of $443 million in property loss, 3,300 injuries and 170 fatalities. In addition, thousands more people visit emergency rooms every year because they have burned themselves while barbecuing. Cooking was, by far, the leading cause of all residential building fires and injuries.
What happens if a grill fire spreading to your property, your homeowner’s insurance provides financial protection, as fire is a covered peril. A standard policy covers:
- Damage to the house itself
- Damage to personal possessions, such as lawn furniture
- Damage to insured structures on your property, such as a shed or gazebo
- Injuries to a guest, under the liability portion of the policy
Of course, the best way to enjoy a summer of outdoor barbecues is to take steps to prevent accidents, and take fast action should any occur.
Properly maintain and store your grill
Gas grills are generally safe if they are properly designed and constructed, properly maintained and regularly checked for leaks. Follow these safety tips when setting up at the start of each grilling season:
- Search the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure there has not been a recall on your model grill.
- Check grill hoses for cracks, holes and brittleness.
- Check for blockages, especially in the Venturi tube that runs to the burners. These can be caused by food drippings, spiders or insects. Clear any blockages with a wire or pipe cleaner.
- Check for leaks by running a solution of one part liquid soap, one part water along hoses and on connections. Open the valve at your tank and check to make sure that gas isn’t escaping, which will be indicated by bubbles at the leaking points.
- Adjust hoses away from hot areas or where grease might drip on them.
- Cover your grill when cooled and not in use to help protect its parts from inclement weather, falling leaves, and insect activity.
- Store propane tanks outside, away from your house. Always check to make sure valves are firmly turned off.
- Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
- The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
- Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
- Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
- 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 liquids to the fire.
- Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- There are also electric charcoal starters, which 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.
- Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
- Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose.
- A propane leak will release bubbles.
- If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill.
- 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. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department.
- Do not move the grill.
- If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before re-lighting it.
- Generally safer than charcoal or propane grills.
- Electric grills can pose fire risk if an extension cord is used that is not suitable for outdoor use.
- Fire risk exists for all types of grills, but the risk is even greater when they are used on a balcony or deck.
Calming a Grill fire
- Throw salt, baking soda, or sand onto the fire to smother the flames.
- Close the lid. Make sure all grill vents are closed to further starve the fire of oxygen
Causes of Grill fire
The primary causes of gas grill fires involving structures included the following:
- a failure to clean the grill(24 percent);
- the grill being too close to combustibles (15 percent);
- leaving the equipment unattended (15 percent);
- a leak or break in a gas line (14 percent);
- and using the grill for warming (7 percent).
Practice safe barbeque habits
When barbecuing, use common sense:
- Operate your barbecue on a level surface, away from your house, garage and landscaping.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and let everyone know where it is and how to operate it.
- Don’t move the grill once it is lit.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill.
- Protect yourself—or whoever is doing the grilling—with a heavy apron and oven mitts that reach high on the forearm. Use very long-handled utensils designed for barbecuing.
- Use only lighter fluid designed for grilling when charcoal grilling. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids, and never add more lighter fluid once the fire has started.
- Never grill indoors or in enclosed areas. Charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide (CO) fumes, which can be fatal in unventilated areas.
- Wait until the grill is cooled before storing or covering. When you’re done cooking, remember that the grill will remain hot for a while.
- Soak charcoal briquettes with water to ensure they are cool and inactive before throwing them away.
Know what to do in case of an accident
Despite all good efforts to prevent them, accidents do happen. Which is why they're called accidents—and why people have insurance! Here are steps to take if the worst should happen:
- In case of fire get out the trusty fire extinguisher and, if the situation warrants, call 911. Fire spreads quickly and it's better to be safe with professional help than sorry.
- Address injuries immediately. Run cool water over minor burns, but do not cover injured areas with bandages, butter or salve. In the case of serious burns, take victims to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Again, if needed or when in doubt, call 911.
- Assess your property damage. Once you have dealt with any injuries and the smoke clears, assess your property damage. If the situation calls for it, contact your insurance professional to discuss filing a claim.
- More information can be found at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/grilling_fire_safety_flyer.pdf or https://www.nfpa.org/grilling