Grilling Safety Tips

Welcome to Florida in July! Not only is it the height of summer with off-the-chart humidity levels, but kids are out and about for the summer, July Fourth fireworks and cookouts are happening, and we’re well into regular afternoon thunderstorm season. All of which is to say, there is a lot of fun to be had – and a lot of potential accidents to avoid.

To help keep you and yours safe the next time you’re cooking outdoors, here are some important grilling safety tips to keep in mind:

Make Space

Grill at least 10’ away from the house, other outdoor structures, or any combustible material. If you’re on an outside deck, make sure the grill is at least 3’ away from the deck railing, umbrellas, furniture, or any type of overhang, including tree branches or anything potentially flammable. Grill on a flat and stable surface. Maintain a 3’ pet-free and child-free perimeter around the grill to avoid accidental run-ins, which could spread flames outside the grill.

Be Prepared to Put Out a Fire

June and July are peak months for grilling fires. There were an average of nearly 11,500 grilling fires each year requiring a Fire Department response in 2017-2021, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Grease fires are a very real threat when grilling. A grease fire occurs when oil or fat dripping off food on the grill gets hot enough to catch fire. It most often flares up not long after food is placed on the grill or as food is flipped over.

If it’s breezy out, flames from a grease fire might jump 3’ or farther away from the grill – which is why keeping a safe distance around the grill is so important. So is being able to put out these flames quickly and without any unnecessary drama.

What NOT to Do

Never use water to put out a grill fire! Doing so may spread the fire because water simply moves the grease (along with the flames) to a new location. Also, don’t take food already on fire off the grill; this may simply spread the fire and could cause burns. Do not use flour or baking powder to douse flames, as these products are likely to explode in the flames and may cause a fireball.

What to Use & When to Use It

For very small flare-ups, no action may be needed. The oil or fat – both of which are highly flammable – may momentarily ignite without even touching the food being cooked, and just as quickly go out. However, should the flames surround the food or shoot upward, you may need to act fast.

If it is safe to do so, move food to an area of the grill without flames.

Your aim when confronted with runaway flames is twofold: (1) eliminate the oxygen feeding the flames; and (2) reduce or remove the heat source – typically, this means turning off the burner and the gas when using a gas grill. Closing the vents on a charcoal grill does both: reduces oxygen to the coals, which essentially turns down the heat.

Smothering a grill fire can be done in a few different ways, such as:

  • Metal lid: Close the grill lid to cut off air getting to the fire. If using a gas grill, also shut off the burners and the gas. If using a charcoal grill, close the vents. Wait 5 minutes before checking to see if the flames have subsided.
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or salt: Remove food from the grill, then sprinkle plenty of baking soda or salt over the area of the grill on fire. Baking soda releases carbon dioxide when burned, which drowns out any oxygen near the fire. And salt creates a barrier keeping air away from the fire. This is most effective on small grease fires, not large ones.
  • Bucket of sand: Use this instead of baking soda or salt for medium or large grease fires on the grill.
  • Fire extinguisher: Use only Class K or Class B fire extinguishers, which are designed to put out flammable liquids (like grease fires).

If the gas tank for your gas grill is burning, move away from the area and call 911.

After successfully smothering a grill fire, you should wait until the grill cools down before cleaning up. A combination of baking soda and vinegar can help melt away the buildup of grease on grill grates.

Grilling Safety Is Key to Enjoying Your Next Cookout

If you’re going to grill, it’s important to do so safely. This will ensure everyone enjoys the barbecue and the company without getting burned or having to deal with out-of-control flames, which pose a threat to you, your loved ones, and nearby property.

Do you have enough insurance to adequately protect your home and other treasures in case of a grill fire gone awry? Call your Edison agent to find out. If you’re not already an Edison policyholder, find out more about becoming one by getting a quote now.

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