Summer gives us all a chance to lighten up and relax some of our usual standards. The perfect seasonal meal comes served on a paper plate: a char-grilled hamburger patty on a soft bun, potato chips, baked beans, watermelon, pasta salad and strawberry shortcake. Or perhaps you’re more of a bratwurst person. Or a connoisseur of cooking baby back ribs. Or an expert at perfectly roasting corn on the cob for the resident vegetarians. No matter your preferences, your favorite summertime chow likely comes courtesy of your trusty grill.
Barbecuing is such a commonplace activity that it’s easy to forget that it can be dangerous. After all, you’re literally wielding fire to make your food. You want your cookout to be fun for the whole family, and that doesn’t involve a frantic call to your local fire station.
Here are five backyard BBQ safety tips to keep you, your loved ones, your pets and your home safe this summer.
Maintain a Safe Distance
Grilling safely is all about location, location, location. You might feel like you’ve dragged your grill out far enough from any nearby structures, but it’s important to scan the area for all possible flammable objects before you settle on a spot. Oftentimes, your grill manual will have minimum distances that you should follow.
As the National Fire Protection Association advises, you should place your grill “well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.”
Double Check Gas Lines
If you’re using a gas grill, you should check every component of your gas fitting before firing up your grill. Doing so is relatively simple. According to Weber, you can make a soapy solution and brush it onto your gas fittings while the burners are turned off but the propane or natural gas supply is turned on. If bubbles form, you have a leak and your grill is not currently safe to use.
Keep an Eye on the Grill
The last thing you want to do is turn your back on the grill, even for a minute, only for an accident to occur. If you’re on barbecue duty, make sure you’re attentive and keep the grill in your sights at all times.
Part of keeping an eye on the grill means watching for flare-ups. You can reduce the chances of one of these events by cleaning your grill before you use it. If the flames do flare, you’ll take different courses of action depending on your grill type. On a charcoal grill, safely spread out the coals. On a gas grill, turn the dial to reduce the heat.
Use the Right Equipment
You can’t find your long-handled spatula. You can just use any other from your kitchen. No big deal, right? Wrong! Using grilling equipment is an important part of the process. There’s a reason that they tend to help you maintain a safe distance between your skin and the heat. You’ll also want to invest in a solid pair of gloves while you’re at it.
Prepare for the Worst
Nobody starts barbecuing thinking that the day will end in disaster. But, as the Insurance Information Institute reports based on information from the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 5,700 residential grill fires occur yearly, causing $37 million in annual damage (not to mention 100 injuries and 10 deaths). Compare homeowners insurance quotes online before your next cookout and make sure your policy is up to the task of covering potential damage to your home, personal property and guests.
You’re the best line of defense against an accident. Make sure you have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby. Keep a close eye on the flames, keep children and pets away from the barbecue area, make sure your grill is in proper working order and use the right equipment. Then you can prop your feet up and enjoy bite after delicious, smoky bite.