Nice weather, cookouts and gatherings are the perfect recipe for summer good times. The State Fire Marshal’s Office wants to remind Tennesseans that cooking safety is important, whether indoors or outdoors.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), gas and charcoal grills cause an average of 900 home structure fires and 3,500 home outdoor fires each year. "By all means, enjoy the weather and the cookouts,” says State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman, “but keep fire safety on your mind as you grill.”
Be sure to practice the following safety guidelines:
• Position the grill away from siding, deck railings, overhanging eaves and overhanging branches. Half of all gas and charcoal grill fires begin on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch.
• Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
• Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three-foot "safe zone" around the grill.
• Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when handling food.
• Periodically remove grease buildup in trays, to prevent ignition by a hot grill.
• Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal grills. Leaks and breaks in the gas cylinder or hose are the leading cause of gas grill fires. Placing combustibles too close to heat and leaving cooking unattended are two other leading causes.
• Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Applying a light soap-and-water solution to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by bubbling.
• If you determine your grill has a gas leak, turn off the valve on the tank and have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
• If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
• Use only gas cylinders with an overfill protection device (OPD). OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel. OPDs shut off the flow of gas before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up.
• Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
• Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
• When using charcoal grills, avoid using starter fluid – use a chimney starter instead. This is a cylindrical metal tube that uses paper to start the coals. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid.
“Outdoor grilling is a big part of Tennesseans’ summertime activities,” said Newman. “Make safety your No. 1 priority by using common sense and following these tips.”
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