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National BBQ Month – How to Grill Safely and Avoid Getting Burned

Happy group of young adult friends doing a barbecue outdoors. Closeup to the grill with corn and meat.

You take pride in your grilling skills and with May being National Barbecue Month, the BBQ season has officially arrived. While the summer is a great time to get the grill fired up for those long awaited cookouts, there are a few safety tips you should consider so no one in your party gets burned.

Start by reviewing state, city and HOA regulations

In fact, you may want to start off by consulting state, city or homeowners association (HOA) regulations. This is especially true if you live in an apartment or a condominium. That’s because, California state fire code for apartments, condos and townhouses forbids charcoal grills on combustible balconies or decks or within 10 feet of combustible construction, unless the building is outfitted with an automatic sprinkler system.

This is also the case for gas grills with fuel tanks of more than 1-pound capacity. HOA rules can be even more restrictive than local codes, by forbidding the use of anything but electric grills. Should your residence be part of an HOA, it’s advisable to check your bylaws or with the HOA directly before throwing on the hot dogs and burgers.

  • Perform a Safety check

For gas grills that haven’t been used for several months, check for gas leaks. Performing a simple safety check by rubbing a solution of dish soap and water on the hoses and connections can expose a potential hazard. Without lighting the grill and with the lid open, turn on the gas and watch for bubbles or loose connections. Tiny bubbles typically mean there are minute holes in the gas line, and it should be replaced immediately.

  • Before you light it

If your municipal laws permit a charcoal grill or you use one at the park, use caution before you light it. Don’t be heavy-handed with the lighter fluid. Many a singed eyebrow and serious burns have resulted from over doing it with lighter fluid, so control the urge to add more than necessary. Also, never squirt any fluid directly on a fire or onto coals that are already hot and glowing.

For gas grills – keep the lid open when lighting to reduce the potential of gas buildup. In the event a burner won’t light, first shut off the gas, and then wait five minutes to allow the gas to dissipate before attempting to light it again. If the burner is defective, don’t try to light it.

  • Make sure you have enough room

Many would-be grillers, whether using charcoal or gas, fail to consider the close proximity of their house, low-hanging tree branches, shrubs or patio decorations with tragic results. Anything that is flammable can quickly turn a fun time into a disaster. Rule of thumb is to set up at least 10 feet away from the house and out from under fabric awnings and wooden overhangs.

In addition, avoid loose clothing on breezy days, never leave the grill unattended, and always keep an eye on children and pets to make sure they don’t get too close. And, remember – outdoor grills are not for indoor use.

  • Clean it before you grill it

Clean the grates of your grill after every use. That goes for under the grates as well. Not only does accumulated fat and grease collect dirt that can be transferred to your steak or burgers, but the buildup can be a major cause of dangerous flare-ups. So, clean it before you grill it.

Just in case

While it has nothing to do with your ability as a grill master, having a fire extinguisher on hand is a good idea – just in case. Small flare-ups are easily controlled with a spray bottle filled with water. But, sometimes the unexpected can happen and being prepared with an extinguisher can save the day.

The National Fire Protection Association can provide you with more barbecue safety tips. In the meantime, review your homeowners insurance or renters insurance policies, so you know what’s covered – just in case.

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