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Summer Grilling Safety Tips: Don't Let Your BBQ Go Up in Flames!

Firing up a new grill this season? Faulty connections, gas leaks, and even curious family pets can make your cook-off memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Keep your summer barbecue safe by following these tips for gas and charcoal grills.

A lit charcoal grill.

Before Using a Gas (Propane) Grill

Start by checking your surroundings. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends choosing a flat site that is away from deck railings, overhanging branches or eaves. Next, check to be sure the grill is clean; remove any old grease or fat buildup from the grill and the tray below it prior to turning on the gas.

Finally, check the major connections between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder. The NFPA also suggests tightening any loose connections and testing for leaks. Use a spray bottle or brush to apply a light soap and water solution to the hose to test for a gas leak. If there is a leak, the propane will create visible bubbles around the hose. If there are no visible bubbles, then the grill is safe to use. If you notice any bubbles, discontinue use immediately and turn off your grill. Should the bubbles persist even after the grill is turned off, immediately call 911.

During Gas Grill Use

Always keep small children and family pets away from the grill when it is in use. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it. If you smell gas while the grill is in use, this is a sign of a potential leak. Turn of the gas tank and burners and check your connection. If the smell continues after the grill has been turned off, move away from the grill and call the fire department. NFPA cautions owners against moving the grill and advises staying as far away as possible while waiting for the fire department.

Using a Charcoal Grill

The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, (HPBA) is a great resource for all grillers when it comes to cooking safely this summer. HPBA recommends when using a charcoal grill, be sure the grill's service is free from grease and fat build up. Next, build a pyramid with the charcoal briquettes or wood chunks. Douse the pyramid with lighter fluid and wait a few minutes for the fluid to soak in before lighting. Keep lighter fluid capped and at a safe distance from the grill at all times. Never use gasoline or kerosene as lighter fluid; these fluids are highly volatile and can easily explode. You can also use an electric or metal chimney starter made specifically for use with wood chunks or charcoal briquettes. Never use an eclectic starter in the rain or when standing on wet ground. Cool starter completely before storing.

Once the grill is lit, keep it uncovered until you're ready to cook. Be sure to keep the vents open while cooking; charcoal and wood need oxygen to burn.

How to Dispose of Charcoal Ashes

Always follow safe ash disposal practices as outlined by the NFPA and allow coals to burn out completely. As a general rule of thumb according to the HPBA, ashes should cool for at least 48 hours prior to disposal. Dispose of fully cooled ashes by wrapping them in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the ashes in a non-combustible container. If you cannot wait until ashes are fully cooled for disposal, place the ashes in heavy-duty foil and fully submerge them in water before placing in a non-combustible container.

The NFPA urges you to remember that gas and charcoal grills should ONLY be used outdoors. Even with proper safety precautions, accidents happen. If you've recently upgraded your backyard with a new built-in outdoor kitchen, expanded patio or deck, or a pool, talk to your independent agent to confirm you have adequate coverage for these outdoor entertaining areas. And never, ever leave a grill unattended!

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