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Grilling Safety Tips

This Memorial Day weekend people across Pennsylvania will be gathering at cookouts and barbecues to come together with friends and loved ones.  Whether in the backyard or at a tailgate, grilling is one of summer's greatest pleasures.  Unfortunately, cooking with an open flame naturally comes with some degree of risk. 

Gas or Charcoal? Follow these rules regardless.

No matter where you stand on the gas versus charcoal debate, the fact remains that each presents its own set of unique dangers and challenges.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 9,000 home fires per year involve grills in some capacity.  Whether you argue passionately for the flavor of charcoal or the handiness of gas, it is important to understand the risks associated with each:

Gas

According to the National Fire Protection Association, a gas leak or line break was the leading factor contributing to gas grill-related fires.  Routine maintenance is key to keeping your gas grill working properly.

1. Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks at the start of the season.

2. Check for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose.  Bubbles indicate the presence of escaping gas.

3. Never turn on the gas when the lid is closed.  The lid can blow off when ignited.

4. If you smell gas while cooking, turn the grill off immediately and call the fire department.

5. After cooking, make sure the gas valve is completely closed.

6. Always store propane tanks and gas grills outside.

Charcoal

While the danger from gas grills typically comes from faulty valves or broken lines, the danger posed by charcoal is much different.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading cause of fire from charcoal grills results from leaving a flammable object too close to the grill.

1. Charcoal grills can remain hot for many hours after the flames are put out.  Avoid placing flammable objects near the grill and avoid moving the grill while the coals are hot. Keep lightweight flammable objects that can be carried by the wind a safe distance away as well.

2. Routinely inspect metal grills for rust damage. Burning charcoal could potentially fall through a rust-damaged grill on to the surface below, presenting a fire hazard.

3. Always use an appropriate starter fluid.

4. Rekindle a low flame using more charcoal or dry kindling if necessary.  Do not add additional fluid as a flash fire may result.

5. Dispose of used charcoal by soaking the coals in water and placing them in a metal container.

Additional Tips

1. Never leave a grill unattended.

2. Routinely clean grease and fat build-up.

3. Never place the grill too close to the home.  Combustible siding specifically carries the unique potential for severe injury or property damage.

4. Grill outside only.  Even seemingly well-ventilated areas such as a garage or tent present the danger of carbon monoxide build-up.

6. Keep children away from the grill.  37% of burns seen in emergency rooms for children under 5 were attributable to grill contact.

Don't Be Afraid of Flavor!

Accidents happen but an ounce of prevention goes a long way. The dangers posed by grilling can be minimized with some common sense.  By grilling responsibly, you can rest assured that your cookout will result in nothing worse than a well-done steak.   

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