Backyard barbecues are synonymous with warm weather. And why wouldn’t they be? Grilling over an open flame when the weather is warm embodies the relaxing spirit of spring and summer, prompting many people to leave their oven ranges behind in favor of charcoal and gas grills. As relaxing as backyard barbecues can be, they can quickly take a turn for the worse if cooks don’t emphasize safety when grilling out. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 9,600 home fires are started by grills each year. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes that, between 2012 and 2016, an average of 16,600 patients went to the emergency room each year because of injuries involving grills. Such statistics only highlight the need to balance the fun of grilling with safety when hosting a backyard barbecue or cooking for the family.
The following are some steps people can take to ensure their backyard barbecues are safe.
• Recognize that gas grills pose a threat as well. It’s easy to assume gas grills don’t pose as great a threat as charcoal grills, which produce soaring flames once the charcoal is lit. But the NFPA notes that gas grills are involved in 7,900 home fires per year. No grill is completely safe, and cooks must emphasize safety whether they’re using gas grills, charcoal grills or smokers.
• Only use grills outdoors. Grills should never be used indoors. Even if rain unexpectedly arrives during a backyard barbecue, keep the grill outside. If unexpected rain is accompanied by lightning and thunder, extinguish the fire in the grill and go indoors.
• Place the grill in a safe location. Grills should be placed well away from the home. Avoid locating grills near deck railings or beneath eaves and overhanging branches. Cut overgrown branches before lighting a grill fire if they are in close proximity to the grill.
• Keep your grill clean. The buildup of grease and fat, both on the grill grate and in trays below the grill, increases the risk of fire. Clean the grill routinely.
• Properly light the grill. Lighting gas and charcoal grills require caution. Before lighting a gas grill, make sure the lid is open. If you must use starter fluid to light a charcoal grill, the NFPA advises using only charcoal starter fluid. Never add any fluids to the fire after it has been lit.
• Do not leave a grill unattended. Cooks should never leave a lit grill unattended. If you must leave the grill, only do so if another adult can stand in your stead. Lit grills pose a threat to children and pets, and unattended grills can be blown over by gusts of wind or tipped by wild animals, such as squirrels. Standing by a lit grill at all times can protect against such accidents and injuries.
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