When the weather breaks, the grills come out. Yet, many fail to exercise safety when using their grills. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), grill-related fires cause an average of 10,200 homes fires annually.
Prevent gas grill danger
Believe it or not, gas grills cause more fires than charcoal grills. NFPA states that five of every six grills involved in home fires were fueled by gas (84 percent), while 12 percent used charcoal or another solid fuel. Gas grills were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year. Here’s the most common safety mistake, according to experts: People turn on the gas, cover the grill, and then light the ignitor, resulting in an explosion, said James Novak, a fire investigator for St. Paul, Minnesota’s fire department. The explosion results from a build-up of gas.” To prevent this from happening to you, turn on the gas and light it right away. “Don’t wait and let it build up gas,” he said. “And then you don’t want to lean over the top so you singe your face off or worse.”
You can also ensure that your gas tank isn’t leaking—another cause of explosions—by doing the “soapy water test.” Before grilling, spray your tank’s hose and connections with soapy water. If you notice the soapy water begin to bubble, then there’s a gas leak. “You either need to tighten that up or you need to replace it if it can’t be tightened up,” he said.
Always make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbecue season.
Beware of charcoal grill dangers
Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard.
Word to the wise!
The stuff coming off your grill isn’t just from residual food debris; it likely also contains things like carbon monoxide and cancer-causing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). When possible, wear a mask—or just stay away from the grill during the times when you don’t need to be babysitting a piece of meat.
Before you start
Make sure to keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby. Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable! Yes, this means keep your bottle of beer on a nearby table instead!
Move away from structures
Use gas or charcoal grills outside ONLY! Make sure there are no overhanging branches that can catch fire. While each grill manufacturer has their own guidelines, the general consensus is that your grill should be at least 3 feet away from any house walls. Additionally, your grill should also be placed at least 10 feet away from any objects that are easily flammable or could catch fire from an ignition.
Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
Make sure your grill is not on shakey ground
Place your grill on a surface that is completely stable so that it cannot be tipped over accidentally. Try placing a grill pad or splatter mat underneath it to protect your deck or patio surface.
If your gas grill flame goes out, WAIT!
If you’re using a gas grill and the flame goes out, do not re-light it until you turn off the grill. Wait at least five minutes before you attempt to re-light it.
Watch that barbeque starter fluid
Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal starter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
Start a charcoal grill the right way
Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it. Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
Keep grilling area clear
Keep your grandchildren and pets away from the grill as well. Bear in mind that even after you grill, it will remain hot for at least a couple of hours.
Watch your clothing
Clothing items with flared or loose sleeves, or if you wear an apron, make sure the strings do not hang over the grill where they could catch fire.
Keep a watchful eye
Never ever leave a grill unattended while it is on or while food is cooking. Stay near your grill at all times.
Use the right grilling utensils
Purchase long handed utensils like tongs or forks to help you cook meat. Long handed utensils can help you avoid splatters and burns when you are grilling. Avoid using all metal, as metal heats up quickly which can burn your hands.
Sear marks can be dangerous
You all are guilty of this so take heed! Yes, sear marks are nice, BUT pressing down on meats with a spatula while they are cooking may cause flare-ups that can get out-of-control.
End your gas and charcoal grilling right
Turn off your propane tank first before turning off the knob on your grill when you are finished cooking. Make sure to completely turn off the gas even when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
When cleaning the charcoal grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
Clean your grill after every use to remove debris that could cause a fire.
Lastly and most importabtly, many people end up in the emergency room every year after swallowing metal bristles from grill brushes. Instead, use brushes without bristles. Alternatively, just ball up some aluminum foil to scrub your grill.
Never smoke near your grill because you don’t want to tempt fate.