How to Stay Safe While Grilling

According to data from the National Fire Protection Association, grilling is responsible for 9,000 house fires each year and nearly 7,000 injuries.

Most fires can be traced back to a gas grill, but charcoal and solid-fuel options are not off the hook. Whichever grilling method you choose, keep these tips in mind as you barbecue at home.

1. Keep Your Distance

A safe distance for grilling outdoors is at least 10 feet away from your home’s exterior, including any porches, carports and sheds around the property.

Keep in mind, just because you’re away from a wall or railing, that doesn’t mean you should grill under an overhang or awning, as flames and embers may travel above.

Additionally, your home and its surrounding structures are not the only factors you have to think about. Nearby tree limbs are also at risk for catching fire, as well as any backyard decorations, like umbrellas and trim.

2. Regularly Clean Your Grill

When grilling meats like steak, fats can drip onto the hot coals. If you allow these drippings to accumulate, you could experience a grease fire the next time you turn on the grill.

As a rule of thumb, wait for the grill and coals to cool off. Then, dispose of the coals in a metal container before you clean out all buildup and deposits from within.

3. Schedule Routine Maintenance

A poorly maintained grill is a safety hazard. Get in the habit of regularly checking for leaks.

As a quick method, make a solution from dish soap and water, coating the hoses and around connection points. Then, remove the lid and turn the gas on. If you see bubbles in the soap, the connections or hoses may have a leak or need to be tightened. Additionally, your gas grill may have a leak if it won’t light or you smell propane once it starts.

Aside from these aspects, always make sure your grill has stable footing, so it can’t be tipped over during use.

Also check for rust, especially if you use a charcoal grill. Rust damage can become so severe that pieces of charcoal may fall onto the ground below and start a fire.

4. Have a Plan

Fires are always a risk when grilling, so remain aware of the possibility. However, not all fires are the same and your strategy should factor in the range of potential instances.

For charcoal and foods that get too hot, a spray bottle with water may be sufficient to control these minor flareups. As a word of caution, water should never be used for a grease fire. Instead, baking soda, sand and a fire extinguisher should always be a quick grab away.

Also keep a bucket of sand nearby, ready to dump when you notice a grease fire. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher designed specifically for grease fires and understand its operation before you start up the grill.

At the same time, make sure you have a phone available to dial 9-1-1. Never attempt to fight an out-of-control fire yourself.

5. Understand Basic Grill Safety

No matter your skill level, you should know the do’s and don’ts of using a grill:

  • Never turn the gas on when the grill’s lid is closed. Gas can build up underneath, leading to a fireball when you take the top off.
  • Always have a skilled adult attending to the grill. A grill should never be left alone, especially with kids nearby.
  • Avoid overloading your grill, especially if you’re cooking meat. This can lead to a rapid accumulation of fat that increases the risk of a grease fire.
  • Never use a grill indoors, due to carbon monoxide and fire hazards.
  • Pay attention to starter fluids, as they are not all the same. Only charcoal starter fluid should be used with a charcoal grill. Even then, if you’ve already added kindling and the coals have started to heat up, starter fluid is too much and could cause a fire.
  • Tuck clothing in and never lean over a grill to prevent material from catching fire.
  • If you smell gas, step away and contact the fire department.
  • To avoid gas leaks, fully close the valve after you’re done cooking and store both the grill and propane tank outdoors, away from your home.

Due to the inherent risks of grilling, make sure your homeowner’s insurance lists fire as a covered peril. To discuss your policy and ensure you’re properly insured for grilling season, contact us today.