Summertime is grilling time, and July is the peak month for grilling fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Seventy percent of U.S. households own at least one outdoor barbecue, grill, or smoker. Gas grills contribute to a higher number of fires than charcoal grills.
According to NFPA, about 10,200 grill fires happen on residential property every year, most caused by malfunctioning gas grills. These fires annually cause about $37 million in damages and send over 19,000 patients to the ER. Roughly half of injuries involving grills are thermal burns.
NFPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offer these tips for safe grilling.
- Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors.
- The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and hanging branches. Operate your barbecue on a level surface.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and call 911 if the situation warrants.
- Do not move the grill once it is lit.
- Protect yourself with a heavy apron and oven mitts that reach high on the forearm. Use very long-handled utensils designed for barbecuing.
- 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.
- When using an electric charcoal starter, be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
- When finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container. Soak charcoal briquettes with water to ensure they are cool and inactive before throwing them away.
- Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. The NFPA recommends applying a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill services by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call 911.
- Make sure there are no lighted cigarettes, matches, or open flames near a leaking grill.
- Always follow the instructions that come with your grill.
- If the grill’s flame goes out, turn off the gas supply at the propane tank. Propane gas can build up under the gas grill racks and create a dangerous explosion hazard. Open the grill lid and wait at least 5 to 10 minutes for the gas to dissipate before starting the grill.
- If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call 911. Do not move the grill.
- When connecting a gas grill, remove the container valve plug from the container valve; thread the connect connector securely into the container valve outlet (turn counterclockwise); tighten but do not use excessive force; and after connected, check for leaks.
- When disconnecting a gas grill first turn off the grill’s burner and container valve; disconnect the container valve (turn clockwise); and place the container valve plug securely into the container valve outlet.
- When storing an LP gas container, always keep the container upright; never store under or near the grill; and never use or store an LP gas container indoors.
- Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.
- Always transport the container in a secure, upright position. Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk.