Livingston Fire Chief Christopher Mullin advises “With the hot summer weather upon us it is especially important to be mindful of some of the dangers associated with outdoor cooking. Safety should be paramount when dealing with fuels like propane, natural gas, and charcoal and other issues should be considered when you fire-up that grill”. Avoid the recipe for disaster by taking some simple safety precautions.
Location: Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use only. Never barbecue in a trailer, tent, house, garage, or any enclosed area because of the danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is a colorless odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments due to the lack of proper ventilation. Make sure the grill is placed in a clear area, away from buildings (15' minimum), trees, dry leaves or brush. Choose a location that is away from high traffic areas, children playing nearby, and pets. And place the grill on a stable surface so that it can't be tipped over by accident.
Barbecue Safety: Inspect your gas-fired barbecue grill periodically. Check for a build-up of "spider-webs" that inhibit the flow of gas to controls or for rodent nests in the area of the hoses/controls. Bugs and other critters can climb into little places causing gas to flow where it shouldn't. This can cause propane to leak and ignite when the grill is lit. Also check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing which will restrict the flow of gas causing the unit to malfunction.
Propane Safety: Store propane bottles/tanks away from potential sources of heat/flame such as furnaces, water heaters or any appliance with a pilot light. Keep them in a well-ventilated shed away from the house or any habitable structure. Always keep propane gas bottles/tanks upright, and in a cool area away from direct sunlight. Heat will cause the internal gas pressure to increase which may open the relief valve and allow gas to escape. Be cautious to not store a propane tank in an area that is susceptible to vehicle traffic such as on a garage floor. A vehicle coming into contact with a propane tank could cause a leak in the tank and/or explosion. Keep gas supply lines as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. You should never start a gas grill with the lid of the grill closed as gas can accumulate inside,and when ignited, could blow the lid off, causing injury.
Charcoal Safety: If you are using a charcoal grill, always use approved starter fluid. Never use other flammables such as gasoline as a starter fluid or accelerant as this could cause an explosive fire. Since burning charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO), never store the grill away until you are sure that the coals are no longer hot or burning. Dispose of hot coals properly by dousing them with plenty of water, and stirring the coals to make sure that the fire is out. Store coals in a metal container only, never place coals in plastic, paper or wooden containers. As a safe practice, used coals should be stored a minimum of 15’ from any structure.
Grease: A build-up of grease can lead to a fire in the grill as the grill heats up and the "excess grease" ignites. Always keep your grill clean, whether it is gas or charcoal. A clean grill is a safe grill because grease can build up over time, and it's easy to accumulate several pounds of grease at the bottom of the grill after only a few cookouts. Place a container or "grease-trap" beneath your grill to collect the grease run-off and replace the container periodically to prevent a grease fire.
Safety First: Avoid loose clothing while grilling especially long sleeves, or apron strings. Use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents, and use barbecue utensils with long handles (forks, tongs etc) to avoid burns and splatters. Keep a fire extinguisher close at hand in case of emergencies, and never leave the grill when it is lit. Always have one person in charge of the fire to avoid any accidents or injuries.
“At the first sign of trouble turn off the gas supply at the controls (if not involved in fire),” advised Fire Chief Chris Mullin. “If the controls are on fire, turn off the gas supply (if this can be done without risk of injury), or at the supply (propane tank, gas supply valve from residence if a natural gas grill). Call 9-1-1- to report the incident, and the Fire Department will respond to ensure that the fire is out and the gas is properly turned off.”
“Gas grills can produce a great deal of heat which can melt through hoses, knobs and other parts, so please make sure your grill is operating properly. When using a grill, always assume everything is hot,” Mullin added. “Never attempt to change the location of a hot grill. It’s easy to stumble or drop it and could result in serious burns.” For more information on fire safety and prevention, go to the Township website: www.livingstonnj.org. Click on “fire” in the left hand column for the Livingston Fire Department information page.