Barbecue grills are the #10 leading cause of home fires in the United States. With summer upon us, now is the time to check your grill and review BBQ grilling safety. Grilling steaks and burgers with your family will make a great summer time gathering. A home fire will make your summer commencement barbecue unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that there were 3,800 grill injuries reported annually requiring medical care.
Before grilling check your equipment, review safety procedures with your party and children, and ensure you have proper clearance from combustible material. Have your home fire extinguisher or garden hose in a handy location. Keep children and pets away from the grill area and never leave your grill unattended.
- 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 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.
- Grill maintenance, check thoroughly for leaks, cracking or brittleness before using it. Propane grills clean out the tubes that lead into the burner.
- Make sure the grill is at least 10 feet away from your house, garage, or trees.
- Store and use your grill on a large flat surface that cannot burn (i.e. - concrete or asphalt).
- Grills should not be placed in a garage, porch, deck or on top of anything that can catch fire.
- Establish a safety zone around the grill area. Keep children away from fires and grills. Instruct children to remain outside the zone. A chalk line works great for this purpose.
- Have a fire extinguisher, a garden hose attached to a water supply, or at least 4 gallons of water close by in case of a fire.
- Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire.
- Use long handled barbecue tools and/or flame resistant mitts.
- Never use any flammable liquid other than a barbecue starter fluid to start a fire.
- Never pour or spray starter fluid onto an open flame. The flames can easily flashback along the fluid's path to the container in your hands.
- Alcoholic beverages are flammable. Keep them away from the grill.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- Always follow the manufacturer's cleaning and storing instructions for the grill.
- Keep your grill clean and free of grease buildup that may lead to a fire.
- Never store liquid or pressurized fuels inside your home and/or near any possible sources of flame.
IN CASE OF A BARBECUE FIRE
- PROPANE Grills - turn off the burners. If you can safely reach the tank valve, shut it off. If the fire involves the tank, leave it alone, evacuate the area and call the fire department (911).
- CHARCOAL Grills - close the grill lid. ELECTRIC Grills - disconnect the power.
- DIAL 911 - If there is any type of fire that either threatens your personal safety or endangers property.
- Grease fires - NEVER attempt to extinguish with water. It will only cause the flames to flare up. Use an approved portable fire extinguisher.
The CPSC reports that more than 500 fires and 20 injuries occur every year from gas grill fires and explosions of grills that have not been used for several months.
- Check the tubes leading to the burner regularly for blockages. Check with your specific grill manufacturer's instructions.
- Check for leaks EVERY TIME you replace the cylinder. Pour soapy solution over the connections and if bubbles begin to form, there is a leak. Placing the soapy solution into a spray bottle makes it much easier to apply. If there is a leak, turn off the grill IMMEDIATELY and have it fixed. Do NOT use the grill until the leak is fixed.
- Make sure all the connections are secure BEFORE turning on the gas.
- Never start a propane grill with the lid closed. Gas can accumulate and when the grill is ignited may cause an explosion.
- Only get propane from approved compressed gas suppliers.
- Before getting a propane cylinder filled, check for any damages to it.
- Never store propane cylinders indoors or near any heat source.
- Never transport or store propane cylinders in the trunk of your automobile.
- ALWAYS shut off the propane fuel at the grill and at the bottle after you have finished barbecuing. Otherwise, this will lead to fire hazards, such as leaks and faulty regulators.
Twenty deaths and 400 injuries are treated resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills according to the CPSC.
- Due to the production of carbon monoxide when charcoal is burned, charcoal grills should not be used inside homes, vehicles, tents, or campers, even if ventilation is provided. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless; you will not be alerted to the danger until it is too late.
- Never use any flammable liquid other than barbecue starter fluid to start a charcoal barbecue.
- Use the starter fluid sparingly and never put it on an open flame.
- Never add fire starter after you have started your barbecue to speed a slow fire or rekindle a dying fire. The flames can easily flashback along the fluid's path to the container in your hands.
- Remove the charcoal ashes from the grill and place them into a metal container with a tight-fitting metal lid. Add and mix in water with the ashes, and set aside for several days. Dispose of the mixture in accordance with the Department of Sanitation's guidelines.
- Remove the ashes only after they are completely cooled and no warm embers remain.
- Always soak coals with water after cooking; they retain their heat for long periods of time.
- Keep damp or wet coals in a well-ventilated area. During the drying process, spontaneous combustion can occur in confined areas.
- Keep the grill at least 10 feet away from any combustible material.
- Do NOT use any flammable liquid to start an electric grill.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions in the use of an electric grill.
- When using an electrical extension cord, make sure it is properly rated for the amperage required for the electric grill. Route extension cords out of the line of foot traffic to avoid trip hazards.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), deep fryer fires cause an average of 5 deaths, 60 injuries, and more than $15 million in property damage each year.
Basic safety principles when using deep fryers:
- Oil Level - If the cooking pot is overfilled, the oil may spill out of the pot when the turkey is lowered in. Oil can hit the burner and cause a significant fire. Follow the owner's manual and make sure the oil level is at the proper level.
- Frozen or Partially Thawed Meat in Oil - Frozen or partially frozen fowl placed into the fryer can cause the oil to spill over the pot and may result in a significant fire or burn injury. Do not use water to thaw your turkey. Make sure your fowl is properly thawed and slowly lower it into the pot to prevent the oil from splashing.
- Placement of Deep Fryer - Cook outdoors and on a level, firm, and non-combustible surface. Home fires involving fryers can start in a garage or on a patio or deck. Maintain a safe distance from any buildings and keep the fryer off of any wooden structures.
- Don't Use Water or Ice - When ice or water comes into contact with hot oil, the water vaporizes, causing steam bubbles to pop and spray hot oil. Do not use ice or water to cool down oil or extinguish an oil fire. Keep an extinguisher approved for cooking or grease fires nearby and immediately call 911 for help.
- Don't Leave Your Fryer Unattended - Frying involves cooking with a combustible cooking oil or grease. Many frying units do not have thermostat controls and if not watched, the oil will continue to heat until the oil ignites.
- Level Surfaces - Many fryers are very top-heavy and can be unstable if not used on a level surface. Fryers not on level surfaces can tip over causing a significant fire or burn injury.
- Never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof.
- Never use a charcoal or propane grill inside your home or garage, or on a covered patio or porch.
- Propane tanks - no more than two (2) 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the grounds of a one or two-family home, but be sure to follow the fire safety precautions above.
- Only use a charcoal barbecue on a balcony or terrace if there is a ten foot clearance from the building and there is an immediate source of water (garden hose or four (4) gallon pail of water).
Frank Carr is the Owner / Inspector at First Choice Home Inspections in Deltona, FL serving Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Lake Counties. Formerly in the building trades, Frank’s focus is a safe home and building FCHI. We believe that consumers have the right to expect the highest standards of thoroughness, fairness and effectiveness from their home inspector and that is exactly what we provide.
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