Summer Barbecue Safety

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With summer here, many people will begin hosting backyard barbecues and using their grill for the first time in many months. The Nassau County Firefighters Museum & Education Center reminds Long Islanders to make this favorite summertime activity a safe one by following some important fire safety tips.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, grill fires spike in the warm summer months. From 2007-11, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,800 home structure fires and outdoor fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues each year, including an average of 3,800 structure fires and 5,000 outside fires. These 8,800 fires caused an annual average of 10 civilian deaths, 140 reported civilian injuries and $96 million in direct property damage.

“We’d like to remind Long Islanders to take some basic precautions to make sure that accidents don’t ruin what should be a fun gathering for family and friends,” said Nassau County Firefighters Museum Chief Fire Safety Instructor, Chief John V. Murray. “Keep an approved portable fire extinguisher nearby and do not attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water—some people don’t realize this, but water on grease only causes the flames to flare up.”

“Also, establish a kid-free zone around the grill of at least three feet and never leave the grill unattended,” he added. “And, of course, if there is any type of fire that threatens your safety or property, always call the fire department.”

Before barbecuing:

Check your grill thoroughly for leaks, cracking or brittleness before using it.

Check the tubes leading to the burner regularly for blockages. Check your specific grill manufacturer’s instructions.

Make sure the grill is at least 10 feet away from your house, garage or trees.

Store and use your grill on a large flat surface that cannot burn (e.g. concrete or asphalt).

Don’t use grills in a garage, on a porch, deck or on top of anything that can catch fire. Never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof; it is both dangerous and illegal.

Keep children away from fires and grills. Establish a safety zone around the grill and monitor children to remain outside the zone.

• Before getting a propane cylinder filled, check for any damages to it.
• Never transport or store propane cylinders in the trunk of your automobile.

During barbecuing:

• Keep children away from the grill.
• Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire.
• Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant mitts
• Never use any flammable liquid other than a barbecue starter fluid to start or freshen a fire.

Never pour or squirt starter fluid onto an open flame. The flames can easily flash back along the fluid’s path, to the container in your hands.

Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable.

Never leave the grill unattended.

Barbecue safely:

When lighting your propane barbecue, make sure all the connections are secure and open the lid and strike your match or lighter before turning on the gas.

Always shut off the propane fuel at the grill and at the bottle after you have finished barbecuing. Otherwise, this will lead to fire hazards, such as leaks and faulty regulators.
Store your BBQ grill and propane cylinder outdoors.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the safe use, cleaning and maintenance of your grill.

Test your cylinder for leaks on a regular basis. When testing for leaks, never use matches or an open flame. Use soapy water or a leak detector.

Store your cylinder away from heat and insert a safety plug on the valve.

After barbecuing:

Always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and storing instructions that accompany the grill.

• Keep your grill clean and free of grease buildup that may lead to a fire.

Never store liquid or pressurized fuels inside your home and/or near any possible sources of flame.

In case of a barbecue fire:

For propane grills, turn off the burners. For charcoal grills, close the grill lid. Disconnect the power to electric grills.

For propane grills, if you can safely reach the tank valve, shut it off.

If the fire involves the tank, leave it alone, evacuate the area and call the fire department.
If there is any type of fire that either threatens your personal safety or endangers property, always call the fire department.

Never attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water. It will only cause the flames to flare up. Use an approved portable fire extinguisher.

The Francis X. Pendl Nassau County Firefighters Museum & Education Center is a teaching facility that features live demonstrations on fire prevention and fire safety techniques, hands-on displays and historical fire equipment. Since opening in 2006, visitors of all ages have been taken step-by-step through a working fire, from alarm activation and emergency call to the “knocking down” of flames at the scene. The center’s exhibits also trace the evolution of fire service equipment, gear and apparatus and pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of volunteer firefighters.

For more information, visit www.ncfiremuseum.org.

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